Disney Cruise “Insider Tips” for Onboard Experiences and Spa Appointments

Onboard experiences are offered for kids and adults alike. My agent was fabulous and was able to snag us some special reservations before boarding the ship. But don’t be discouraged. If you are headed on a Disney Cruise and haven’t booked your on board experiences or the experiences you have hoped for are “sold out” you be surprised and relieved to know you get a second chance to book when you board. You can also change or cancel any reservations at this time as well.

Insider tip #1: Head first to guest services and find out where they are booking experiences.

It’s definitely an “in the know” thing. There aren’t signs publicizing this is where you book onboard experiences book here…so the best thing to do is head to guest services and start there. They will tell you availability but I would have in mind some of the things you would like to do. There are the Disney frozen princess meeting, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the dinner or brunch reservations at Remy or dinner at Palo, Martini tastings, the Tequila tastings, wine tastings, and tea time, to name a few. Many have openings that have been held back and are booked on a first come first served basis when you board the boat but spaces are limited so get that taken care of when you board.

Insider tip #2: Book your spa appointments when you arrive.

Spa appointments fill up fast. If you are thinking you want to book a spa appointment do this after you board the ship. When you arrive the spa is open and booking appointments. You can call from your stateroom to book or visit the . There is an option when you dial O from your stateroom phone that will connect you with the spa. Have an idea of your days activities by looking at your Disney Cruise line app and have some times in mind of what will work best for you and your family. You can view the full menu in the spa so if you can swing by they will show you the book of services and answer all your questions.

My kids for instance are early risers. I mean 6:30 a.m. ready to go. So I booked a 7:30 a.m. appointment and had room service scheduled to bring breakfast between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. so the kids would be eating and relaxing while I took care of my spa service.

If you know you need a specific time and if they don’t have that appointment time available continue to press the matter and ask if they can squeeze you in fifteen minutes earlier then when you are asking. The attendant two times in a row said they weren’t available for the 7:30 time slot I needed and finally caved in on the third request when I didn’t think I could make any other time work for my schedule and then they booked me. They are trying to fill the later morning and afternoon spots for port days since early morning and evening are prime times as people are at port and want to fit in services before or after their port excursions.

Insider tip #3: Spa services for Port Days offer a Port Day Special often grouping multiple spa treatments for a reduced package price. This is a great time to make an early morning or late night appointment time. There are also treatments they offer that are not listed on their spa menu.

I received a $50 birthday certificate from the Disney Cruise Line in my stateroom since my birthday was the day after we boarded. The coupon could only be used on a port day. So if you receive a certificate always read the fine print.

When I went to the spa I looked at the listed treatments. The price ranges were from $165 to $195. The nice attendant was trying to guide me into treatments and I still was having a hard time wanting a bamboo shoot massage or a hot stone massage that weren’t going to fit into my budget. So I asked if they did a standard Swedish massage. And to my delight it was offered and a valid service for my certificate. Before my verticals it was $118 and after $68. I felt more comfortable with that price and style of massage. This is not on their menu and is by request only but I loved it! And just a reminder they do add a 15% gratuity automatically to any spa service.

Insider tip #4 Men do not need a sport coat for brunch at Remy but do need one for dinner.

If you and your significant other are going to dine at one of the premier restaurants on board looking at the dress code is a must. Luckily, our Remy reservation was for brunch, where a collared shirt and dress shoes were the dress code, since we forgot my husbands sport coat. A dress or skirt is fine for women.

When we were looking over our official Disney Cruise Line book with the cruise information cruise information on our way to the port we found the information to be different from that of the online Disney Cruise Line information. Of course, we started messaging back and forth with our agent Kristi, since the written material and online information seemed to not be congruent. She quickly clarified brunch attire and set us at ease.

Insider tip #5: There are experiences that need reservations but aren’t an additional cost.

For instance there are several events including the meet the princess events on the boat that are by reservation only. These experiences do not have an additional cost but there will be physical tickets delivered to your state room that you will need to be admitted.

Insider tip #6: Participate in your tastings.

Whether you choose to meet a princess or do a tasting the staff loves asking for participants and it will only enrich your experience and give you more of a hands on experience. Alex and Rosa here had lots of extra tips and tricks for me. I was surprised that out of the twenty people or so the amount of volunteers were few. So much that I was able to help three different times. Disney makes it easy to get out of your comfort zone on a cruise ship and make it worth it.

A cruise without onboard experiences is still a great cruise. But it does enrich your experience to have the insider information that will add even more fun!

[I have to give the credit of finding and booking my experiences to my agent Kristi with Polka Dots ‘n’ Travel who actually booked them all for me aside from the spa. I had no idea what they offered and knew we wanted extra experiences. Having a great travel agent makes it easy and hassle-free. You can find her on Instagram @kristi.r.travels https://www.instagram.com/kristi.r.travels]

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Boarding your Disney Cruise Ship: Getting familiar day one

Traveling on a magical family vacation sometimes feels unimaginable. I know when we were deciding on our cruise line I thought how could the Disney Cruise line be that much better than other cruise lines? Well the answer is “it’s the magic”.

I was expecting wait times and dead time that I was going to entertain my kids prior to boarding like most cruise lines. We did a quick Target run and grabbed some lol dolls and hot wheels cars and coloring books and crayons for the kiddos. But little did I know how magically quick our boarding would be.

We arrived for our early boarding time to the terminal where our parking shuttle delivered us with our luggage. A porter immediately checked our bags straight through to the ship and left us with our carry on bags. You know the bags you have your electronics, swimming suits, medications, toys, snacks and boarding documents and of course your carry on bottles of water.

Minnie Mouse was there to greet the arriving passengers until 1:15pm, as they entered from security and approached checkin. She was standing in front of a model ship that was a replica of the cruise ship we were boarding. Our family was directed into a checkin line almost immediately where they looked at our documents and took one family picture where they used face recognition to assign the “Key to the World” cards (room key cards) with the appropriate person. It was one snap and they handed us our cards and we were finished. Magic! They didn’t have to make each child stand independently and hope to catch them looking at the camera.

We didn’t have to entertain our kids and wait in the terminal but rather we were shown to a Mickey Mouse archway that welcomed us to the gangway to board the ship. We showed our key to the world cards and they took a family picture to start our cruise and without a wait we boarded our boat.

The crew asked our children for our family name immediately winning them over. We proceeded to our room and tried to familiarize ourself with the days activities. Most times you would board the boat and hit the pool deck and take advantage of short lines for the water slides and sip a cruise beverage poolside while soaking up some early cruise rays. In our case it was raining so the planned activity of poolside wasn’t an option.

The kids were excited to explore the ship to find our room and leave our carry on luggage. The veranda room was a lot roomier than I expected. Our queen sized bed could be draped off from the kids beds for privacy at bedtime. When we found the room there was a couch and a flat screen television and a large counter/vanity area with plenty of drawers and cabinetry and that hid the refrigerator and whatever else you wanted in the room and then luggage could be stored under the queen sized bed. There was one door with a sink and a toilet followed by another door with a sink and a shower/tub all in one.

The balcony was enclosed up about four feet. It is important to watch children at all times on the balcony and not allow them to stand on the chairs for the risk of falling in and to watch that they don’t crawl under the gaps into your neighbors verandah.

It was a rainy day so we headed to check out the kids club. The Oceaneers club, the on board kids club, was having an open house for the kids and were giving the kids their wristbands and checking them all in. During open house all children of all ages and their parents are welcome to come play but if not in open house mode only the registered age appropriate child could participate and was checked in with their wrist band and checked out with your key to the world card, their wristband and your secret word. There is a magic play floor, a Star Wars flying simulations, movie rooms, and an animators area where kids could draw various pictures. There are scheduled events like sloppy science where our oldest made flubber one day and other Oceneers Club events that are scheduled. If you had a dining reservation or if your child didn’t want to attend dining with you, children could eat meals in the club but only during designated times. During the open house all our kids even the two year old wanted to stay and play after they were assigned their wrist bands.

Next we proceeded to the it’s a small world nursery. Our 2 1/2 year old ran right in. The nursery can be reserved before the cruise or the first day they have plenty of extra hours you can schedule for your cruise. Nursery runs $9 an hour and they will feed them, play with them, change them, and they have beds if they feel like napping. Our little one absolutely loved her two hours she spent with “her friends” the third day of the cruise while we did an on board experience. On board experiences are open to reserve a month or so before your trip but there are many that will see “sold out” on the experiences you might want. Good news for you! They hold back spots so you can sign up the first day when you board just don’t delay and head to the guest services to ask about them.

Since it was raining we were looking for entertaining boat activities. We found a onboard ship detective station much like the Perry the platypus Epcot detective experience but customized to the boat with a choose your own adventure from three different case files. You will find moving picture frames and other secret clues on the boat. A great on board activity that is a fun way to explore the ship. I will say our kids were initially excited but lost interest when they decided they wanted a snack. Lunch is served right when you board the ship at Cabanas, the buffet on the pool deck, but don’t miss it they close it at 3 pm. We helped ourselves to shrimp and crab and chips and hamburgers.

And then… we found the unlimited soft serve station.

Maybe it was the full tummies or the ice cream but the Muster Station Drill seemed to be more bearable as well. Maybe it was the Disney magic, or the good company around us or the staff that was trying to help us wrap it up as efficiently as possible so we could go to the cast away party as we leave the port. We attended the Cast away party as we were all funneled into the main areas with the closed staircases so as to not give you a choice but that you would have to participate. You can navigate over near the opposite side elevators for a fabulous view. The show introduced the entertainment staff, including the cruise director and all of the characters. Mickey, Minnie and their friends came down the grand staircase and welcomed us aboard.

Onboard the ship the Disney cruise navigator app is your quick reference for the days activities. You can see your reservations and your daily activities and shows you have hearted. The app also immediately links you with the people on your reservation but you can add others on the boat with their chat ID and allows a chat between you and whoever else is on the boat with fun Disney emojis, and runs on the ships basic free WiFi. The first day you are given 100 mb, per stateroom, of data for free other than the app. Additional days can be purchased through their WiFi plans. We opted to use the first day free 100 mb and then only use the navigator app and this worked well. We were notified of all the activities that including which dining room for dinner.

The Dinner staff welcomed us with a beautifully set table with lids on the kids drinks with their names. We had table mates that we would be seated with the whole cruise. It happened to be a couple with a 17 month old and lived in our same state but across the city from us. This was also the time the servers introduced themselves and showed me the items marked on the menu with the GF were Gluten-Free. Speciality smoothies are available at dinner for a small additional charge but our kids loved them.

We left dinner at the Royal Palace to head to the onboard live show that was in Walt Disney’s Theater and there were little princesses and princes getting down to a live musical performer right outside of dinner. Our kids got their jam on for a little bit and it still left time to make the show.

The show is open seating so find a seat that works for those in your party. They sell popcorn and other snacks as you enter so if your little ones want to munch on popcorn opting for the bucket is a good idea. Refills are $1.49 and there are plenty of opportunities to eat popcorn.

I wasn’t sure if the broadway like musical show was going to keep my kids’ attention for an hour but it did and they loved the dancing, songs and costumes. The show was a hit and ended in about an hour which for our little people it was perfect timing for bed.

Magically our room transformed for bedtime and everyone was happy to find chocolates and a towel origami crab wishing them goodnight. The kids beds, a Murphy bed, a top bunk (that dropped from the ceiling) and the lower bunk (the couch back folded forward and the mattress was on the back), were prepared and ready for the kids to climb into bed. They were prepared during turn down service while we were at dinner.

Disney made our first day easy and magical. The staff was warm and friendly and the room and the ship were beautiful.

Wondering where to start? We planned our Disney Cruise with Kristi Russell with polka dots ‘n’ travel on instagram @kristi.r.travels https://www.instagram.com/kristi.r.travels

Deciding on a Disney Cruise with little kids

To cruise or not to cruise with the kids? That is the question. Late last year we discussed the possibility of taking a family cruise. We looked at a few cruise lines but we soon realized not all cruises are created equal. We happen to love Disney World and have braved multiple park visits with zero, one, two, then three children. That’s a post for another day. So considering a Disney Cruise was a natural decision.

We revisited the cruise idea around January and February. We discussed with the kids what they thought as we watched YouTube videos and Disney released marketing material. They were sold. As we browsed the sailing dates and ships I knew although we could plan this trip by ourselves, if we used a travel agent we may be able to learn some inside tips and have less stress in the process and we could see if this could really be possibly for our family of five to travel.

I contacted Polka Dots ‘n’ Travel’s Kristi Russell @kristi.r.travels on instagram and the excitement continued. We discussed sailing dates and cost. As we looked at dates we noticed that the pricing fluctuated quite a bit. I quickly found out that as soon as my 2 yr old turns 3 in July her cruise rate would be more. Also, July was prime cruise season. I know most people plan Disney cruises a year or two out but with our life, a few months before is how we roll. Kristi searched dates, cruises and pricing for us for three weeks until we could decide on a date and rate that would work around work travel and school commitments and testing schedules.

There are benefits to planning a year in advance. First, there are more stateroom options available. Second, you have a longer time to pay for your cruise. Third, you can shop every Disney sale for birthdays, graduations and Christmas to collect garb over a year for your Disney trip.

Every step of planning Kristi was helpful and spent the time I didn’t have to look things up and schedule activities for our cruise. She also shared that the you can schedule a Disney call about the cruise from Mickey and Minnie for the kids. As I’m driving to Florida she’s still there for me as I come up with more questions before we board.

With a 2 year old, 5 year old and 8 year old it may cross your mind they are too young to cruise or you want to wait until your kids are older. If you are thinking about cursing as a family make it happen! You wouldn’t be considering it if you didn’t want to do it. As far as their age, disney is made for all ages and especially for kids. I will say their clothes, luggage and attitudes are smaller and they are easily amused at younger ages. Sure, we will have crying and fighting but you get that at any age just less sassy attitude that comes in the preteen age.

The kids clubs and nurseries are made and designed for a Disney experience. Interacting in activities and character meet and greets makes this attractive to the younger kids. Disney caters to all types of families and guests. I don’t know what next year will be like I don’t know what 5 years will be like but I did know there are plenty of things in life we are going to do later. There will never be a perfect time to take your kids on a Disney Cruise, but just deciding to go will give you a shot at a great time.

Jam on mom like no one is watching

This morning I’m rocking out to the New Kids on the Block on the Amazon Alexa while sipping my frothy cappuccino and eating my delicious quick egg and bagel breakfast. There’s already a load of laundry in, the kids already ate breakfast, cleaned up, got dressed, ready and left for school. You would say I’ve already had a typical busy morning, which is true. So here I am taking a few minutes, having a fun silly time, and letting loose to some old time favorites.

As moms, we have a lot of tasks and chores and expectations for ourselves and for others. We can get caught up and forget to have fun in our day or even let loose and relax and recenter. This morning for me, day three after being home from a week long beach vacation, I’m jamming to “hanging tough” with my o’Doughs gluten free bagel, eggs and tasty nespresso ristretto in my concert mug.

It’s the little things that make us happy. We we work so hard to help those around us be happy it’s important to take advantage of the little moments here and there we get to ourselves, even if it’s only sleepy hairbrush singing in your pj’s to one song from a childhood favorite band. Maybe your style is more of a rock out session on the way to carpool to a favorite song or reading or listening to a new book. Find your happy moments and have more of them and it will only enrich your life and those around you. Take care of yourself, have some fun in the small moments and be kind to yourself. Rock on mom!

Tips for an awesome North Myrtle Beach family vacation

I’m riding shotgun, listening to the Trolls movie for the third time through and looking back at all my pictures and posts over the last week of our Spring Break Beach vacation with friends and wanted to share three things that made our trip awesome.

1. Choose wisely and Plan early

Choose your travel companions wisely. We like to travel with people who travel well. You know what I mean…pick the friends that you know you have fun with who can relax and enjoy each other’s company and whose kids you like. Luckily we have some fabulous friends and everyone’s kids play well together.

A couple of months ago our three families decided on our second beach trip for spring break. Last time we had separate accommodations and we decided to plan to bunk together this time. We made a list from all the families of what amenities were a “must”. We set a price point and then we hit the internet and looked at places that would accommodate 14 people and have an indoor pool and outdoor pool and of course beach access from the place. We ended up using vrbo and selected an Elliot Realty managed Property. We were able to get more bang for our buck by planning and splitting a place together. Not to mention, carrying kids to bed late at night after they fell asleep on a bed or a couch was less complicated.

2. Decide if it’s a Beach Trip

If you want a beach trip then it’s a Beach trip but if your stalking of the weather app shows a chance of rain don’t ditch the beach toys at home but have a plan b. If you see the sun peaking through get yourselves out there even if it’s just for an hour. Make a sand castle or just dig a hole. Our weather report showed multiple days of possible showers but we only ended up having rain the second half of one of the days. North Myrtle beach and Myrtle beach have many rainy day activities. From the dinner shows, to the movies, to bowling alleys, arcades Game Center’s and the aquarium. There will be plenty to choose from and with the coupon books available everywhere you can save a little bit on almost anything. Monster coupon book from any of the stands is a great one. Also, if you are in a shopping area with a map check their information desk for coupons.

3. Have a food plan

With 14 people with only 6 being adults having a plan for food and snacks is a must. A grocery trip in the beginning of the week and some discussion on what meals we wanted to eat (either out or eat in or eat left overs) made our life easier. Sandy hands will undoubtedly make it into a big bag of chips so small individual bags for beach going is something to think about. Knowing your audience’s likes and dislikes in food can help you narrow down your options. Most restaurants have about a 45 minute wait but we got into a Mexican place right away. It may be because everyone is searching for seafood . There are many undiscovered gems in the foodie scene but with 14 people we made appearances at larger seafood places that could accommodate our party. I do have to say my 5 year old’s favorite meal of the whole trip was a “eat in” night where we did frozen pizzas and hot dogs.

When you choose wisely, plan early, decide on what type of trip you are taking and what you will do for food your north myrtle beach vacation will be close to what you all want it to be. Remember it doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun.

The Toy Takeover

Life gets away from us more times than We can count. I remember being a newlywed and moving from a two bedroom apartment to a three bedroom house, thinking this place is huge. I also remember thinking my life was ahead of me, that my future awaited.

Fast forward more than a decade later and I have three kids ages 7 and under and we are now in our second house that we have been in for 5 years. I can say we have filled it with stuff over the years after moving from a small and this year is the year of decluttering?! Well let’s say an attempt…with three different ages and three different groups of age appropriate toys.

There are some amazing books and blogs and podcasts to read, watch, and listen to and devise a plan. The first step that seems to be consistent is to acknowledge that you need to do something! As for me this was clear, I was tired of cleaning up toys. The second step is to decide what genres of toys you are going to group and keep. I kept themes, anything that wasn’t a hot wheel, magnatile, building blocks or costumes went in the other piles. For my daughters we kept to American girl doll stuff, Barbie stuff, kitchen stuff, the little princess castles and of course the baby doll and stroller. The most important step is to enlist a friend to help you. They aren’t attached to tour things like you are and a outside view is priceless when it comes to tossing and donating. I definitely needed a friend to come sit with me and go through the toys and group, sort, throw out, and donate.

The scheduled day of the cleanup was during school hours so we could get in and thin out the mess without little people wanting to hang onto “their things”. She showed up with garbage bags and we went to town. We took two hours and the playroom was finished! Now everything has somewhat of a place and it’s easy cleanup for the kids and me.

The hardest part of the toy cleanup was thinking about it doing it. Three kids and a crazy schedule not to mention all the regular mom chores we have to take time away and do a “special project” was not my idea of easy. But with the help of my friend it wasn’t a chore it was fun and we got to hang out. Everyone’s version of organized is obviously different but I’m so happy it’s not Wall to Wall toys and at least we have room to ply with what we have.

Deck of Scarlet Review

After being targeted by Facebook and Instagram marketing I started seeing the deck of scarlet in my face multiple times a day I decided to shock it out…I’m not receiving anything for this review btw. I’m just a mom who is leery of any subscription and especially makeup since we all know we run around all day with kids that are constantly wiping stuff on us and kissing us with their messy faces.

I went on eBay and purchased a deck of scarlet pallet. I needed to try this out without the subscription since I have sensitive skin. Within a week I had it in my hot little hands and last night I popped that baby open and tried it out.

The deck of scarlet didn’t come with your foundation, concealer or brushes. But it did come with 3 shadow pigments, a blush/bronzer and a highlighter, 2 lip shades, a twist up eye liner and a twist up lip liner. Everything except the liners were packaged in a cute compact that I get like I could color if I had a doodling itch. I have individual MAC pots with eyeshadows running around and when I’m doing my makeup my two year old thinks it hilarious to take my makeup. The one compact idea solved me reaching for my shadow that wasn’t there anymore or the tears from prying it from her fingers…I’m using it the whole time and it doesn’t give her a chance to grab and run. So space saving, easy to use and a magnetic closure. I’m a fan of the packaging.

The pigment options in the shadow were highly concentrated. A little bit went a long way and you can layer the color to make it as deep or light as you want. Normally after a couple hours of wear my shadows crease or my eye liner has transferred to my crease (I know totally weird but it happens all the time and it drives me nuts) but after my application everything stayed where I put it!

The lip colors seemed a little iffy and I wasn’t sure about the practical wearability of them. Im picky about lip products. I don’t like a cheap greasy feel or if they are really sticky. In addition I always have a problem with lip color or gloss staying on my lips. All those kisses I’m giving to my kids and constant water drinking makes my lip colors go bye bye. But this lip color didn’t disappear, even after a hands on meal with a cocktail, two regular beverages, super buttery corn on the cob and roasted chicken leg and thigh on the bone. Not to mention it didn’t transfer to my kids when I kissed their cute little cheeks.

A lot of makeup these days in made in China. But I did take notice that this line I received was made in Germany. Being aware of Fair Trade and fair wages for those that make the things I use if I can I like to use those from areas where there are safe working conditions.

So as a mini van driving diva who loves to save money and time I’m a fan of the Deck of Scarlet. I’m running from this school activity to this after school activity to making dinner, potty training, wiping buggers off the wall, playing Minecraft, braiding hair and everything else. This is a great way to make your makeup ritual more efficient and fun with the different combinations. As women and moms we are beautiful we don’t really need makeup but it is fun and Deck of Scarlet helps by maybe pushing us out of our normal go to eyeshadow and to really make it fun. Here was my look. (I am not an affiliate nor do I receive any compensation for my review and purchased my product myself. All the opinions mentioned are my personal opinions)