Archives for January 2014

Disney Jr Play & Dine Update

At Disney World, there is only one restaurant that hosts a Disney Jr. character dining experience for all the “smaller” fans. This is the Disney Jr. Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Starting January 26th, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins will be joining the characters for breakfast and lunch. The other Disney Jr. characters are Handy Manny and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. This is a great addition to this fun character dining experience. Reservations are highly recommended for this restaurant.


If you aren’t able to do the character dining, you can also get pictures with Sofia and Doc near the Disney Jr. Live show at Hollywood Studios. Don’t miss the Disney Jr Live on Stage show as well, that features Sofia, Doc, Jake and Mickey and friends!

Disneyland or Disney World

My posts from last year, How To Plan a Disney Trip Series, were very popular for many readers. One of the questions we hear all the time for first time Disney travelers, is should they go to Disneyland or Disney World? In the How To series, our first post laid out the positives and negatives for each park so depending on what your family was looking for, you could make an informed decision. This year, I wanted to make a fun infographic comparing Disneyland or Disney World to help families choose which park to visit. (Click on image to see a larger pdf of the graphic) I hope you enjoy this fun graphic and that it helps you chose which Disney resort to visit on your next vacation! Feel free to share it on Pinterest or Facebook if you love it! (Buttons at the bottom of the post)


Disney Cruise 101


Are you considering a Disney Cruise? Is it all a little confusing or overwhelming? Preschoolears has just posted their newest page dedicated to Disney Cruises, including ratings and reviews from families who have cruised before and are sharing their wisdom with you. But if you want a little more basic info to get you started, here is our Disney Cruise Line 101. This will give you the basics and facts so you can start planning and book that fabulous family cruise!

Disney Cruise Ships

There are currently 4 Disney cruise ships: Wonder, Magic, Dream and Fantasy (in order by size). Disney is currently working on two more cruise ships that will be larger that the Wonder and Magic but smaller than the Dream and Fantasy. They are set to launch in 2016 and 2017.

Disney Cruise Terminology

While these aren’t all the cruise terms, here are some common words or phrases that will help you understand what the descriptions are talking about:

Aboard – anything that is onboard the ship
Bow – the front of the ship
Castaway Cay – Disney’s private island in the Bahamas
Debark OR Disembark – To go ashore
Excursion – A tour or guided activity in which guests participate while ashore at one of the ports
First Seating or Main Seating – The earlier seating time for Main Dining on the ship
Inside Cabin – A stateroom that does not have a porthole, window or balcony
Main Dining – Restaurants that typically serve dinner each night of the cruise
Oceanview Cabin – A stateroom that either has a porthole window or a verandah
Open seating – A dinner seating in which tables are not assigned
Pitch – the forward and backward ride of the ship as it moves
Porthole – A round window on a ship
Port of Destination – A port at which the ship anchors and the passengers are allowed to disembark
Roll – The side-to-side movement of the ship
Second Seating – The later of two dinner seatings in a Main Dining restaurant; also called the Late Seating
Staterooms – These are the different rooms and accommodations onboard the ship. They vary based on level of ship, views, veranda or window, and inside rooms.
Stern – the back end of the ship
Transfer – Transportation from the airport or a hotel to the ship, and vice versa
Upper Berth – A bed like a bunk bed that is often folded or recessed into the wall
Veranda – A private balcony off your stateroom



All Disney Cruises have similar offerings for rooms, although the larger ships have a few more options. Your choice of room will depend on size of your family and what you are comfortable paying. Costs will vary according to these criteria:

  • Oceanview or inside room
  • Location on ship by floor level
  • Size of room
  • Veranda or window
  • Concierge level

Here are the different kinds of rooms available on Disney Cruises:

Concierge Level:
Royal Suite with Veranda
2-bedroom Suite with Veranda
1-bedroom Suite with Veranda
Family Oceanview with Veranda

Oceanview Rooms:
Deluxe Family with Veranda
Deluxe with Veranda
Deluxe with Navigator’s Veranda
Deluxe Family


Inside Rooms:



Castaway Cay Island in the Bahamas

Disney Cruise Line currently has 7 ports that ships depart and arrive into, and these are the ports you will plan on arriving at to begin your cruise. You can book airfare into any of these ports for your cruise, or you can drive. Transfers will need to be arranged when booking your cruise. If you are driving to the port, there are additional parking charges for your car.

Barcelona, Spain
Galveston, Texas
Port Canaveral, Florida
Miami, Florida
San Diego, California
Venice, Italy
Vancouver, Canada

To see a complete map of all ports and port destinations, click on the images below to take you to our larger maps. Click on the “Port Destination” button on the website. While there are many destinations in each region, not all cruises will visit all ports during every cruise.


For 2015, every Disney Cruise departing from January to April will include a stop at Castaway Cay.

What is Included in Your Disney Cruise

  • Stateroom
  • All dining on the ship
  • All activities and entertainment on the ship
  • Character greetings throughout the ship and Castaway Cay (if the cruise is stopping there)
  • Themed deck party, some cruises include nighttime fireworks
  • Kid’s Clubs for ages 3-12
  • Tween Clubs for ages 11-14
  • Teen Clubs for ages 14-17
  • Adult only lounges
  • Fitness Centers

What is NOT Included in Your Disney Cruise

  • Nursery for ages 3 months-3 years
  • Excursions at ports
  • Spa and salon treatments
  • Souvenirs
  • Palo dining (additional charge for dining at Palo)
  • Alcohol drinks
  • Airfare to and from port (unless booked at time of cruise)
  • Gratuity for servers, hostess, housekeeping, porters…
  • Arcades
  • Photos

Disney Cruise Activities, Dining & Entertainment


All Disney Cruises offer similar dining, activities and entertainment. For dining, each ship has three Main Dining restaurants as well as several casual and quick-serve locations. All dining is included in the price, including in-cabin room service. Most staterooms can order a continental breakfast.

How Oceaneer Club Works


All cruises have on-board kid’s clubs called the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, which is for ages 3-12. Each ship has different themes and offerings at their kids clubs. They are included in the price of the cruise. Each ship also has a nursery for ages 3 months to 3 years. This childcare is an additional price. You can register your child for Oceaneer Club before you embark, but you will also check them in when you check-in on the ship. Kids will receive a wristband with all their necessary information encoded on a microchip. This wristband also keeps track of them while they are in the club. Staterooms are equiped with Wave Phones – two in each room. These phones are meant for families to use to keep in contact with each other on the ship as well as Castaway Cay. While your kids are in Oceaneer Club/Lab, they ask that you keep your Wave Phone so they can contact you if you are needed. If you will be dining while your kids are in Oceaneer Club, the kids will be offered lunch or dinner. Kids must be checked in at least 15 minutes prior to dining times in order to participate in kid’s meals. Kids 8 and older are allowed to check themselves out of Oceaneer Club using their wristbands. Also, there are no snacks or drinks offered at the Oceaneer Club or Lab except for water fountains or in cooking classes where they may make cupcakes or cookies.

If you have a tween or teen, there are clubs exclusive to their age group as well. Edge and Vibe clubs are equip with plenty of entertainment and enjoyment for ages 11-17. Family lounges are also available for everyone to have fun together. Disney’s Fantasy offers the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for aspiring princesses.


Cruises offer on-board swimming pools and water play areas for kids. The Dream and Fantasy feature a fantastic water slide called the Aquaduck and the newly redesigned Magic now has the Aquadunk. Every ship has a pool for families as well as an adult-only pool for some quiet relaxation.


Other activities that the ships offer are fitness centers, sports simulators, spa, family lounges, adult-only lounges, games and activities as well as deck parties. All ships have a big-screen movie theater for Disney movies as well as 1-2 theaters for wonderful Disney stage shows. Daily schedule of activities and events on the ship are delivered to your stateroom every day.


Rotation Dining

Disney Cruises use a rotation dining system for dinner dining on the ships. There are three dining choices on each ship for dinner and families are scheduled for meals at these locations throughout their cruise. You will stay with the same tablemates and servers at each dining restaurant. Each day, a Personal Navigator is delivered to your room with the daily schedule for the ship as well as your dining rotation. While you can’t make reservations for specific evenings, you can request either the Main Seating (the first seating time which is typically 5:30-6:00 pm) or the Second Seating (usually from 7:30-8:00 pm). Breakfasts and lunches are served at the other casual dining and quick-serve dining options on the ship. Each location has specific dining times. Complimentary 24-hour room service is available at no extra charge. There are many snack locations on the ship as well that also include dessert treats.



Each port has different excursions available for you and your family to experience, including Castaway Cay. These excursions are run by another company onshore but are booked through Disney Cruise Lines. These packages are not included in your cruise price and can only be booked once your cruise has been paid in full.

Travel Insurance and Travel Documents

It is highly recommended to purchase the additional travel insurance, Disney Cruise Vacations Protection Plan. This travel insurance will cover baggage, travel cancellation/interruption and medical expense coverage. All travel documents required throughout your vacation are the responsibility of the guest, not Disney. U.S. Citizens will need a passport. Allow ample time before your cruise to apply for passports as there is a long waiting time for processing. Non U.S. Citizens will need a passport and necessary visas to ensure passage back into the US upon arrival.

Money Onboard and Onshore

All Disney Cruise Lines are a “cash-free” system. When you board, you will link a credit card with your account. Throughout your cruise, any charges will be sent to your account and at the end of your trip, you can either pay cash, check or charge to your credit card. Gratuities for servers, hosts and porters are not included in your cruise price but are highly recommended. You are encouraged to pay for gratuities at the beginning of your cruise when you check-in. Certain destinations do accept US dollars and major credit cards – these include the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico. Cruises to Europe and the Mediterranean are encouraged to have travelers checks to exchange at the ports for local currency. If you wish to mail a postcard or letter from Castaway Cay, their post office only takes cash.

Pre-Booking Dining, Excursions and Kid’s Clubs

It is highly recommended to pre-book special dining, excursions and kid’s clubs before your cruise. Pre-booking is done on a priority basis called Castaway Club Privilege. If this is your first Disney cruise, you can make advanced reservations 75 days in advance. On your next cruise, you are part of the Castaway Club-Silver Level which means you can book 90 days in advance. There is the Gold Level and Platinum Level, depending on how many Disney Cruises you have been on and each level allows you an advanced window to pre-book along with other perks.


While there will be limited space in the staterooms, you should have plenty of space to bring everything you will need for the cruise. There will be some special dress-up events you may want to pack for as well as nice, dinner attire for dining. Here are some general tips for packing:

  • Cruise Casual is the policy on the ship, although they ask for no tank tops, swimwear or shorts in the dining room.
  • Palo dress code is dress pants and shirt or jacket for men, and dress or pantsuit for women
  • Remy dress code is tuxedo or jacket (required) with dress pants for men, and cocktail dress, pantsuit or skirt/blouse for women
  • Summer month clothes for Caribbean or Bahamas: lightweight shorts and pants, sundresses, jeans and tops
  • Winter month clothes: Light jacket, sweater, socks & sneakers
  • Bring comfortable shoes (sandals, sneakers, deck shoes)
  • Sun wear: swimwear, sunglasses, visor or hat, sunscreen
  • Most cruises host a tropical deck party for everyone to wear tropical themed clothing
  • Ask if there will be a theme dining night that everyone will dress-up for; some cruises have a pirate-themed party on deck
  • Prescription drugs need to be in their original containers if brought on board
  • Appropriate clothing for excursions (i.e. if hiking, make sure to bring clothes and shoes for hikes)
  • Some dining nights will be require fancier dressing so ask when booking

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Will we have internet and phone service on the ship?

On each ship, there are WiFi hot spots you can use as well as Internet Cafes. Internet connection on ships is slower than on shore. There is an additional charge for internet and computer services. Cameras cannot be connected with the computers. For phone calls, Wave Phones are great for calling and texting others on the ship. Cell phone service ship-to-shore is available inside staterooms. Usage rates and international roaming charges will be applicable through your personal carrier. Disney advises turning wireless devices off while on the cruise to avoid unwanted charges for data download.

What are the times for boarding?

Boarding for most ships begins at 11:00 am. The cutoff time for boarding is 4:00 pm. If you arrive past 4:00 pm, expect to not board and have to travel to the next port to get onboard. Make travel arrangements to arrive as early as possible to board the ship.

Can I make special dietary requests?

If you or someone in your family has a special restricted diet, you will need to make that request at the time of booking and Disney should be able to accommodate your restrictions.

Can I bring my own food onboard?

Food coolers with personal snacks and drinks may not be brought onto the ship. They are only permitted if needed for medications, baby food or food related to special dietary restrictions.

Is there a laundry service?

There is on-board laundry and dry cleaning services. These are additional charges. There is also a self-serve Guest Laundry with coin-operated washer and dryers.

Is there a doctor onboard?

There is a physician and nurse onboard and on-call 24 hours. Physician and nurse will charge their standard fees for visits.

Where can we see Characters?

Characters will have meet-and-greet locations throughout the ship as well as visit the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab. They are also around for certain dining and on Castaway Cay. This information is available on your daily Personal Navigator.

While cruises for 2015 has already begun to book, there are still available cruises for 2014 if this is the year your family hits the seas with Disney! Disney is always offering specials and deals for cruises so keep up with our Disney Deals posts for the most recent updates on Disney Cruise. As always, for more information on Disney Cruise, visit the Disney Cruise website.

Universal Orlando Goodies Giveaway


This year is big at Universal Studios Orlando! The expansion of Harry Potter will be opening this year, and all the muggles out there that love Harry Potter will be racing to see it! Even though preschoolears loves Disney, we are secret Harry Potter fans (shhhh!). In anticipation of this big event this year, we have a fun giveaway of some Universal Studios goodies. Souvenirs provided by Jennifer Greene at Destinations in Florida. If you are interested in planning a trip to Universal and Disney World this year, click here to get a free quote! It’s really that easy!


Enter to win these fun Universal souvenirs by entering the giveaway below. Giveaway begins at 1:00 pm (eastern time) and end TOMORROW, January 10th at 11:59 pm (eastern time). So quickly enter to win! Time is short! (Continental US only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get a quote on a Universal Orlando Vacation Package

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