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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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.

DIY Outside baby playard

Living in Georgia our weather has been crazy this year. It’s hot then it’s cold then it’s yes then it’s no…needless to say when we get a warm sunny day we are headed outside to take advantage of our pre-pollen season . Pollen will soon be upon us. Not familiar, well it’s pretty incredible how there can be so much yellow pollen that attracts itself to your car in the matter of an hour. 

Yesterday Daddy and I took our 8 month old outside with my almost 6 year old and my 3 year old. Everyone wanted to play something different on the front yard and daddy was riding his bike in the culdasac. After holding the baby for 15 minutes I realized that I needed some non holding baby time too.

I looked in the garage and saw our lovely blue plastic hard sized kids pool. It’s just big enough to move with one hand. I grabbed that baby put a sheet in the bottom for a little padding and some baby friendly inside toys and sat my little non mobile 8 month old right in the middle. She loved it! She had her toys, she could sit and she could see 365 degrees around her. This was a mommy win for sure. 

  
What you will need:

A baby that sits

A hard sided plastic pool NOT filled with water

Baby toys

A blanket or sheet for padding
Make sure to place the pool on a flat surface. You will thank me later.

Share your Baby tricks and tips below. 

5 Awkward New Mom Moments 

 5 awkward moments 
As a mom of three I recently was reminded of a few social situations every new mom should be prepared for with the knowledge and understanding that comes with experience and repetition. Here are 5 common awkward new mom moments mothers currently or in the future will relate to.

1. Incorrect baby gender guessing.

Rarely is someone intentionally trying to incorrectly guess the gender of your baby. There is a 1 in 2 chance they will get it right which is better odds than winning the publishers clearinghouse.

Today while at a warehouse store I had a couple tell me how beautiful my baby boy was and asked old he was. Notice the picture for the blog was taken right before we left with a pink hat and a pink and red flowered onsie…

Most people are so busy they haven’t paid any attention that you went out of your way to put that huge pink bow on your baby’s tiny head, or the hat in my case, to help the new baby ambiguity. Not to mention the hot pink and black car seat cover or blanket you have her snuggled in.

People will always be so excited to speak with you (and at your baby in what they consider acceptable baby talk). So excited that they get all mixed up, and can’t relate pink with girl and blue with boy. Just be kind and move it along and realize it’s not you it’s them and even if you say something like I have her and a son and another daughter they will still continue to call the baby girl a boy. These individuals are in every store, church, baseball crowd, pizza carry out line… So of course I just answered the question of “his” age and didn’t even clarify. They were the sweetest couple of about 50 years old and helped me load my groceries on the belt and then happened to park next to me and helped when I was at the car again.

Until age two or three a young baby to toddler’s physical appearance can be tough for people to associate with a gender for some reason. You may even resort to telling them the baby’s name. There is no help just go with the mentality of “bless their heart” and you will get through it.

 I’m happy to say at age two and a half or three years of age this misidentification will decrease significantly although it may still occur especially if your son wears the fashionable shag hairdo.

2. Post pregnancy people will ask you when you are due or if you are pregnant.

You have grown a human inside your body. Your organs have moved, your body has added the fat necessary to prepare your body to provide nutrition to that new bouncing baby. Your uterus is on the shrink but girl, it took ten months for your body to morph it will not change back overnight or sometimes ever. All women who have born children deal with the comments and you are now part of a very elite club of women.

Don’t take it personal! That person would most likely not walk up to someone and say “you look fat, when are you going to start working out.” There is this social curiosity that exists when it comes to pregnancy and babies. People feel the need to “ask questions” and “engage in conversation” everywhere. They are just trying to strike up a conversation and aren’t sure how and what’s appropriate.

Complete strangers care about the wellbeing of mothers and when their little bundles will be joining them. Letting them know how old your baby only help initiate the regret, their embarrassment sets in and apologies flow out of their mouth. Realize you are beautiful because you are a miracle bearing woman who birthed a beautiful baby and one day you can get back to feeling sexy in your own skin whatever changes may have occurred.

It doesn’t even matter if your new bundle of joy is secured in the cart, the inquisitor totally misses that thing in the cart is a baby.

Of course as a brand new mom of a one week old you feel like you look like your three to five months pregnant.  No one told you it would take “time” for everything to return or move and you are tired like no other. If you are like me, I’m additionally a little irritable for the first three months. Just hang in there and keep your cool. If not for you then for their sake. No one wants to unleash the wrath of the new momma.

3. The baby spitting up in your shoulder in public WILL be brought toyour attention by a stranger.

As a mother of three I accept that I will have spitup, buggers, tears, food and possibly poop on me depending on the day and maybe all at once. I chose this when I chose to be a mother and I know that my days of Banana Republic dry clean only clothes are lost. With baby one the frequency was a surprise, baby 2 it was just inconvenient and now with baby 3 it’s expected and I embrace it. I now just say “yep isn’t it awesome” with a smile and I move it along.

I chose to be a mother. I wanted to be a mother. I waited patiently for that day to come. I knew it would be filled with days of vomit, poop and crying but also days of happiness, smiles, cuddles and the cutest little people ever. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to have a plan in place.

I have found that wearing a cardigan and traveling with an extra shirt is helpful for a quick change and dressing in layers is easy. I have two of my favorite cardigans because one will always be washing while I wear the other. 

So thank you stranger for staying the obvious, that yes, I have a babyand that baby is spitting up and yes that baby missed the tiny Burpcloth or lack thereof (it is the third, I’m lucky if I have one onhand) so just flash them a kind smile and a “thank you” to them and keep it moving. No need to waste time talking about the obvious for I am amother and so many don’t have those blessed days.

4. Anywhere you go and anyone you see or speak to will have the urge to  offer unsolicited advice.

Take it all with a grain of salt and remember the less you encourage the person to continue talking by asking them questions the faster it will be over.
Every kid is different. Every baby is different. Have a trusted group of mommas that you can ask your question and get advice from people who know you and the situation.

Be specific if you are asking for advice to minimize irrelevant information. Always consult with your pediatrician if you are unsure, they are baby professionals and have seen the spectrum of severe to more minor things they will tell you not to worry about.

Be cautious of leading questions. You know what I’m talking about. The stranger asks, “is your baby sleeping through the night?” Or “does your baby always cry like that?” The curious person will then vomit advice regardless of the answer or share a personal story to connect. 

We are all experts on something and mothers on everything mother so the “with my baby…” Will happen. I like to always answer positively and withthe mentality once again of “bless their heart” because they just want to feel like their experience can “help” another. You may be surprised when it actually does. So stay open minded and keep that beautiful smile on your face. Undoubtedly we all are guilty of this on some level. 

5. Your child will break down and cry in a public place and someone will point it out. 

Actually you just might break down crying too. Having a baby is an emotional roller coaster. You aren’t alone although you may feel like it. Not every comment is meant to come out as rude. Rude comments may actually leave someone’s mouth but my laugh it off response is “yep, we were all babies once too. It’s a hard life being x years old”.  More often than not people are not being intentionally rude. 

There will be others there to help and lift you up. I have the outlook that we are all just trying to do our best. My best might look different than your best and vice versa. We should try to be patient with one another. 

I remember having my second baby and having to go to a fabric store with my then 2 1/2 year old little girl and eight week old boy.

Waiting to get fabric cut seemed like an eternity with a screaming baby in my cart and an active two and a half year old beside me. (Don’t let this fool you I am amateur at sewing) I was on the verge of tears. I felt like everyone was looking at me and I told myself that they were thinking, “she just can’t handle that baby and toddler” and “why would she be in a fabric store with a newborn anyway?”. I told myself what I thought they were thinking.

First of all refrain from that internal conversation. I had no idea what they were thinking and thinking about it was stressing me even more. As I was on the verge of crying and water already starting to enter my eyes, A lady came to my aid and offered to console my screaming newborn. My immediate response was “Are you sick?” While already unbuckling him from the seat to hand him over. She wasn’t and the handoff occurred. The other 6 ladies (all sweet as can be) somegrandmas some with children who were out of the house chimed in how lucky this lady was to hold the baby and they had wanted to help too.

They weren’t criticizing me at all. They understood and probably were just too scared to say anything. Now I also knew that if the stranger took off with my baby the other 6 women would chase her down and take care of it.

We don’t have to do this alone. I could have said, “no thank, you I’m fine” but I wasn’t fine. I needed help and those ladies could see it. God knew I needed an angel and he sent me one. It felt so good to have an extra pair of hands. 

The lady wouldn’t stop thanking me when she returned the baby. She said she had wanted to hold a little baby for the last five years. Her kids were in high school and she didn’t know anyone with a baby. She told me it made her year and that she was so happy to help. 

Regardless of what comments are made, or not made and the looks you might get, you are an amazing rocking mom. You are not alone and you can do this. The time of your child’s littleness passes so quickly there isn’t enough time to get hung up on everybody else. Do you. Be there and present for your baby and children. They won’t remember the mixed up gender comments or the looks of people who are staring while they are screaming for whatever reason. They will remember their loving sweet kind mother. 

The 5 best baby products

Every year baby companies try to come out with their latest and greatest to remarket to previous and acquire new moms as their customers. With baby number one I was a working momma and I told you about my favorite things for a Working momma in one of my very first blog posts ever. 

Now I’ve been a stay at home mom since baby number 2 and now on baby number three and the last.  My new favorite gadgets or baby “things” are awesome! Don’t believe me check them out. 

1. The WubaNub Pacifier ($12.95 Amazon.com)

This incredible invention is not new by any means but invented 17 years ago by a desperate momma.  (www.wubbanub.com) Forget that lost tiny pacifier that fell between the seat back of the rocking her chair and you couldn’t find. This little stuffed animal makes it a lot easier for you and others helping you, because you know you have told everyone to drop what they are doing and help you find that pacifier. 

So why is this on my new list? They come out with different stuffed animals of course. I was not a participant in the Beanie Baby craze but the retired and new animals are hot commodities. I mean look at their newest addition the “baby lion”. It’s adorable and those cute little two month hands can hold it and squeeze it and when you put the pacifier into your baby’s mouth it doesn’t falL right away to the side when they spit it out but rather the weighted feet keep it put.

  (Image compliments of WubaNub.com)
2. Carter’s Mix & Match Fresh Air Crib Liner ($59.99  Buybuybaby.com)

I know we have all thought about how terribly ugly the breathable mesh crib bumpers are and have owned one out of the feeling of duty and responsibility to our child’s safety. Well Carter’s (and a few other manufacturers) have developed a wonderful little thing called a crib liner. Decorated adorably to match the color theme of your room it provides a breathable mesh but with adorable fabric accents. 

The best part is that the bumper is  part of the liner. Instead of putting your mattress on your crib springs, the springs are covered by the   an attachmesh bottom that is attached. When you secure the liner like a normal crib number you set the mattress in and when you change a sheet there is no need to remove the number since it stays in place. 

  (Picture courtesy of buybuybaby.com)
3. Bright Starts Take Along Toy Carrier ($5.79 Target.com)

We have a Chicco keyfit30 car seat and this little guy has been amazing. Now equipped with Velcro on the sides to attatch the toy to the car seat for the perfect fit, it can be moved to the right height for the baby to reach. 

I put this on her seat last month (she was 2 months old) Mainly so her brother and sister could entertain her in the car. As soon as she turned 3 months she was rattling the zebra by herself and as if this week she is now pushing the Tigers nose to hear the music. 
4. Baby bunners cream by Homemade Addiction ($35.95 In the baby organic gift set Etsy.com )

My doctor said that diaper rash is inevitable. Dr. Aurora proceeded to explain that when urine and feces mix in a diaper it creates a chemical reaction and a irritant to the skin hence diaper rash. I try to be careful what I put on my baby’s behind. When I found the Homemade Addiction Baby Bunners Cream I was hooked. 

This awesome cream has zinc oxide to protect those cute cheeks and is really easy to apply. It’s not sticky or pasty and actually doesn’t appear white once it’s applied. I can read all the ingredients and know what they are. It’s great for sensitive skin. My daughters bum is protected and just as perfect as the day she was born. 

  
Picture compliments of etsy.com and homemade addiction 

5. Angelcare Baby bath support ($19.99 Target.com)

We have all battled the kitchen sink and lost at least once with the baby bathers that supposedly fit any size sink for those delicate little ones. The bathtub in our bathroom was made for bathing. I don’t know about you but I found that I could bath my baby quicker in the tub than the sink. This contoured bath support is made of perforated formed soft plastic. It dries quickly and is soft for the baby. It is easy to use and makes bath time a breeze. 

   Photo compliments of target.com
What’s your favorite baby product? Comment below.