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Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, USA

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me
A must-see on a road trip through the Keys, the Marathon Turtle Hospital is a small, non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles.

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me

The Turtle Hospital is home to over 50 sick and injured turtles who are undergoing various stages of treatment, rehabilitation, or have been deemed unsuitable to be released into the wild and so have become permanent residents.

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me
In order to meet the turtles you must book in for a tour of the facilities. The tour lasts around 90 minutes and includes a presentation on the various turtle breeds and the threats they face in the wild, a tour of the hospital facilities, and, what everyone had been waiting for, meeting the turtle patients. The majority of the turtles end up in the hospital after bodily trauma (such as being hit by a propeller blade) or sickness such as infections or tumours.

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me

Several of the turtles have what’s called “bubble butt” where an accident, such as a boating incident, has damaged their shell, letting air in underneath it, giving them the appearance of a “bubble butt”, which causes the turtle to float.

Turtles with bubble butt have weights affixed to them to help them balance out and give them the ability to swim underneath the water once more.

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me

Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me
Marathon Turtle Hospital, Florida Keys, via christineknight.me

At the end of each program guests are invited to feed the permanent residents – not touch them, mind you, but throw their favourite pellets to them as they swim happily in the pool underneath.

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Because they are a working hospital, you must be part of one of the guided educational programs in order to visit the turtles. Reservations are highly recommended.

The Turtle Hospital
2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL
Prices: Adults: $22, kids 4-12 years old: $11, under 4 free

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Meeting Anna and Elsa at Epcot’s Royal Sommerhus

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

The brand new Royal Sommerhus has opened at Epcot in Walt Disney World as a permanent home for the Anna and Elsa meet and greet.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

We visited the Royal Sommerhus five days after it opened, and perhaps because it hadn’t been advertised or promoted anywhere that we saw, it was really quiet, especially compared to the Mickey and Friends character meet and greet, which had a very long line and a 25 minute wait.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

Expecting a long line like we found in Disneyland on our last visit, we bolted to the Royal Sommerhus as soon as the gates opened, and found … a 10 minute wait at 9:15 am. We walked past the house several times during the day and the wait time was never over 10 minutes, making it officially the fastest place to meet Anna and Elsa out of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disney Cruises.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

The Royal Sommerhus is located between Mexico and Norway in the World Showcase section at Epcot in WDW, just before the new ride, Frozen Ever After. The house is set up to appear like Anna and Elsa’s home. The queue to meet the characters winds through the house, past their bookshelves, lounge, fireplace and staircase. The attention to detail is amazing.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

The meet and greet takes place at the end of the walk through the house, with seperate sections to meet each character.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

Anna was first when we visited, and then Elsa.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

Each character spoke with Cheese briefly and then posted for pictures, both for the Disney official photographer, and also for me. While there is no pressure to buy the photos and you can absolutely take your own, I like to take photos on my own camera and also have the photographer take a few, so at the end of the day if mine don’t work out I have a back up in the Disney photographer’s images so I always get a great pic.

Meeting Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhus Epcot via christineknight.me

At the end of the meet and greet guests are ushered into the very well stocked gift shop, filled with Frozen merchandise.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Our time at Disneyland was magical! My almost five-year-old and I spent a wonderful day-and-a-half at the park and it just wasn’t enough time. While we loved pretty much everything about the experience, we had to have our favourite rides and experiences, right? Here they are, through a mix of photos from our last trip as well as our time at Disneyland in 2014:

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland ride: Mad Tea Party
So much fun we went on it over and over and over again.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Kind Arthur’s Carousel
It’s a gorgeous carousel and rarely has a queue.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Dumbo The Flying Elephant
This is just fun. Best to visit in the morning when the lines are short.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Character meet and greets
Ask at guest services for a schedule of character meet and greets so you’re always the first one there.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Tomorrow land: Jedi training: The Trials of the Temple
My daughter still talks about defeating Darth Vader. Read about our experience here.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Tomorrow land: Buzz Lightyear ride
We went on this ride so many times. My daughter loved the laser gun that you use to shoot targets.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Absolutely favourite of my daughter’s. Read about our experience here.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Mickey’s Toontown photo opps
While there are cool rides in Toontown, my daughter loved all of the pretend “toon” things she could climb on.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Cinderella’s castle
Enchanting – an absolute must to walk through.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Tomorrowland rides: Star Tours and Space Mountain
A bit scary for little ones perhaps, but we did them anyway and survived to tell the tale.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Frontierland: Jungle Cruise & Tarzan’s Tree House
Easy fun for little ones.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Minnie & Friends Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn
The only place to meet characters like Winnie The Pooh, Chip & Dale and Eeyore. Book in advance.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Meet princesses at the Royal Hall
A must for any princess-lovers! Meet four princess in the one hall.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Must-see – Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
See all your fave Disney characters.

The Best Bits of Disneyland with Little Kids via christineknight.me

Fantasyland: Meet Tinkerbell in Pixie Hollow
Walk through a replica of Pixie Hollow, meeting Tinkerbell and friends.

Get tips on planning the perfect Disneyland trip here.

What are your Disneyland highlights?

 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

The hot ticket at Disney California Adventure Park this year is the brand new stage show, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion.

The show is exactly what you would imagine it to be: a very closely followed adaptation of the movie Frozen, performed live on stage by excellent performers on some seriously stunning staging.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

The show is one hour in duration (the movie is 1 hr 49 minutes) and as a result there are small cuts in places – a few minor characters are either missing or have their parts shortened significantly, but the changes I noticed the most were to take away anything remotely “scary”.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

As a result, the show is billed as “suitable for all ages” – and I have to agree, it was extremely mild and even my scaredy cat Cheese who refuses to see the movie at the moment because she deems it “too scary”, didn’t find a single moment of the show anything other than thoroughly entertaining.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

As per all of Disney’s productions, Frozen – Live At The Hyperion is of the highest standard. I was particularly impressed with their Elsa, considering the difficulty of the song Let It Go, (which she nailed, by the way).

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

The set design for the show is incredibly impressive, particularly the scenes from the sisters’ childhood, where the props are made larger than usual to make the “child” Anna and Elsa really look small, even though they are played by adults.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

Even with the show significantly shortened from the original movie, it seemed a perfect length, with all the major songs and moments covered beautifully. It was also a great length for all of the small children in the audience, who were happily belting out the lyrics to each number and wiggling joyfully throughout the show.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

Tips on how to see the show:

 

As the show is so popular, I advise getting tickets using the Disney FASTPASS Service, which provides first-come, first-served tickets to same day Frozen – Live at the Hyperion shows.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me
Tickets are available when the park opens at the Disney FASTPASS Service machines located to the left of the Hyperion Theater. Tickets are distributed for the first show of the day via the machine until all the tickets run out. After the first show is sold out, tickets for the second show are made available, and so forth. Guests are not able to choose a specific time show.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

At the FASTPASS machine, insert your park admission ticket and you will be given a Disney FASTPASS ticket printed with your Frozen – Live at the Hyperion showtime and recommended arrival time. Pay attention to the suggested time and turn up as early as possible. My ticket suggested I arrive 40 minutes before the show started. We arrived 30 minutes before showtime and we were among the last people seated at the end of the queue.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

If you have a stroller with you, be very aware of where it is parked when you go into the show. Our stroller was taken from us and parked by a Disney cast member and we didn’t see where it was taken. As a result, at the end of the show it took us a very long time to search for our stroller among a sea of about a hundred or so.

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure Park via christineknight.me

Get more information on Frozen – Live At The Hyperion and the latest show times here

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Meet Anna & Elsa at Disney California Adventure Park

Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park

The Frozen sisters have found a permanent home in California Adventure Park’s Hollywood Land. The meet and greet isn’t anywhere near as crazy popular as it was when we visited two years ago. Back then, if you didn’t get to the link as soon as the park opened you were in for an all-day wait.

This time, we did the rounds in the morning to get FastPasses for our fave rides and then came back to meet the sisters. Anna and Elsa’s Royal Welcome is located deep inside the Animation Academy within the Disney California Adventure Park.

From the outside, it’s unclear that this is even the place to meed the Frozen duo as there are no clear signs that say so.  We asked a helpful Disney cast member outside who confirmed that this was the place and pointed where to go.

The Animation Academy has several experiences inside, just one of which is the Anna and Elsa Royal Welcome. it’s a huge space with Disney films playing all over the walls, which makes waiting to meet the sisters much more palatable. The queue wasn’t too bad – maybe 10 people before us, and we waited in total about 30 minutes to meet the pair.

Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park

Anna and Elsa share an Arandelle-themed room in the Animation Academy for meeting their royal guests. I really think the pair are best as a dual act – they play off each other, make witty jokes, and in general are so much fun when they’re experienced together.

Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park

The princess and queen really took their time talking to Cheese. They wanted to know all about her kingdom and commented on her beautiful hair.

Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park

Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park Meet Anna & Elsa | Disney California Adventure Park

After the meet and greet, with Frozen stars in our eyes, we head off to the new show, Frozen – Live that is now playing at the Hyperion Theatre next door. If you have an avid artist on your hands, drop by the Royal Academy (it’s tucked inside the Animation Academy) where a real-life artist is on hand to teach you how to sketch characters like Olaf and Marshmallow.

Get more information about Frozen experiences at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park here.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil’s Bay On Virgin Gorda

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

The beautiful Virgin Gorda, second-largest of the British Virgin islands, is a popular day trip for cruise ships stopping in Tortola. The “plump” shape of the island reminded Christopher Columbus of a reclining woman, or a “Fat Virgin,” which inspired the rather interesting name.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

Virgin Gorda has a population of around 3000 people, including celebrities like Morgan Freeman and Richard Branson. A glimpse at the pristine beauty of the island and it’s easy to see why. White sand beaches, crystal blue ocean and a slow way of life are draw cards for those wanting a relaxing vacation or a complete sea change.

A Tour of The Baths is a popular way to see one of the area’s must-see sights – The Baths. Many cruise ships, including the Disney Cruise Line’s 7-Night Eastern Caribbean include this as a port of call option for an additional fee.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

To get to The Baths from Tortola, the main port of call where cruise ships dock, it’s possible to go on the cheap and take the local ferry, but I would advise to just pay the bit extra to have the entire trip organised for you so there is zero stress involved. It’s quite a way from where the ferry lands on Virgin Gorda to The Baths and not much in the way of public or private transport options.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

The half-day tour to Virgin Gorda begins with a scenic 40-minute cruise along the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. Open-air safari buses await the cruise boat, ready to take its passengers on the short 20-minute drive through Spanish Town to an outlook over Savannah Bay for a photo stop.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

It’s only a short drive further to the Top of the Baths, where a local tour guide meets the group and leads us down to The Baths. The path is somewhat rocky but doesn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes, and is easy enough for my 4.5 year old to walk on her own.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

The spectacularly beautiful Baths lies at the bottom of the path. There are waves to swim, boulders to climb and beaches to laze on. Paradise.

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We journey further through narrow caves and water-filled grottos to find the pristine waters of Devil’s Bay on the other side.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

This stunning beach is perfect for families with its gentle waves and soft sand.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

The tour ends with a retracing of our steps. Back up to the car park, back on the safari buses, back onto the cruise boat, which speeds us back to our ship, just in time for lunch.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

Tour To Virgin Gorda Tips
*Wear comfortable walking shoes as the path to The Baths is rough and uneven.
*Recommended age for the tour is 5 and up. Our 4.5 year old had no problem with the walk or the climb through the caves.
*Take plenty of drink bottles with water. Food from the ship is not allowed off the boat (such as fruit) so eat a hearty breakfast. We did take packaged crackers that we had taken aboard with us and were very grateful we did when our daughter badly needed food and there was nowhere to buy any.
*While our tour notes said a beverage (water, soda or fruit juice) is included, we were served the beverage on the cruise boat back to the ship at the very end of the tour, so taking lots of water is crucial.
*Additional food and drinks can be purchased at the Top of The Baths restaurant.
*Bathrooms/changing facilities and lockers are available at the beach; however, Guests are encouraged to wear a swimsuit underneath their clothes if wishing to swim at the beach as there are limited bathrooms and a long line to use them.
*Bring credit cards or cash for optional extras such as souvenirs.
*Pack a swim suit, sunscreen, sunglasses, additional clothing, hats, cameras, backpacks and towels.
*After swimming in the salty beach water you’ll want to rinse off – which was a problem when we visited as there was no running tap to use and we had to use the rest of our drinking water.

British Virgin Islands: The Baths & Devil's Bay On Virgin Gorda via christineknight.me

More info on the Tour to Virgin Gorda here

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Disney Cruise Port of Call: Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me Castaway Cay is a private island in the Bahamas reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line (DCL) guests on Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.

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Because the island is only used by guests debarking from the Disney boats, it’s possible to enjoy a fun-filled day without spending an extra cent.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

Many of the amenities on the island are FOC for DCL guests, such as tram transport to the different parts of the island, a full buffet lunch and beverage station, several gorgeous beaches, character meet and greets, child care for kids aged 3-12 at Scuttle’s Cove and the two water play areas, Pelican Plunge (more below) and Spring-a-leak, which we didn’t find on our day at Castaway Cove. Don’t have kids? Adults can enjoy Serenity Cove, the 18+ area on the island.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

There is so much to do on this island, particularly for families, that many guests say it’s their fave place to stop even on repeat cruises.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

Castaway Cay Stingray Adventure

On our Castaway Cay day we booked into the Castaway Cay Stingray Adventure, suitable for guests aged 5 and up. Despite Cheese being not quite 5, it was fine for her to join us.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

We checked into Ray’s Stingray Hut straight off the boat and were given a very quick run down by the crew on how to put on our gear (lifejackets and snorkel equipment) and told the rules of how to handle the stingrays during the feeding, which was the first part of the adventure.

Into the water, we gathered around platforms thigh-deep in water and held pieces of slimy fish in our fingers for the stingrays to eat. While we waited for the rays to approach the platform a few of the more curious of the stingrays rubbed against our legs. Don’t worry – the stingrays here to not have stingers, making them completely harmless.

The stingrays caught the scent of food and slid themselves onto the platform to slurp up the food from our fingers, tickling out palms with their rubbery mouths. After the food supply ran out, we donned our snorkels and went for a swim to watch these amazing creatures underwater.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

See our Castaway Cay adventures in the video below at 1:42.

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Castaway Cay Beaches

The majority of people who visit Castaway Cay are content to just relax on the beach and paddle in the soft waves.

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

We hired a water tube for some serious floating action. There are several beaches to enjoy, all marked clearly on the island’s map, so while the beaches are busy you’d never guess that a few thousand people were there all at the same time.

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The free tram makes it very easy to get between the beaches, and there are also plenty of shaded deck chairs available for lounging.

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Pelican Plunge

After the free buffet lunch we walked to the Pelican Plunge to check out the water play area.

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It looked a bit scary for our little one, so we contented ourselves with squirting the water guns over the side while watching people climb up and slide down the plunge adjacent.

disney-cruise-castway-cay-62 disney-cruise-castway-cay-58 Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

Castaway Cay Tips
*No need to bring a towel – there are plenty of towels available on the island.
*Do bring sunscreen, hat, water shoes/thongs and a refillable water bottle to fill at the free beverage station.
*Head to the buffet either at the beginning or end of service when the queues are shorter.
*Bring some cash if you’re planning on shopping.
*There is occasionally sea lice in the water – you may want to buy some Sea Safe just incase. We didn’t have any problems with the sea lice.
*Head back to the ship early to ride the Aquaduck with zero queues!

Castaway Cay & Stingray Adventure Caribbean via christineknight.me

Get more info on Castaway Cay here.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Disneyland Planning Tips: How To have The Best Disneyland Holiday Ever

Disneyland Planning Tips via christineknight.me

Disneyland is magical for adults and kids alike. It’s such an incredibly designed place that keeps the magic of childhood well and truly alive, through rides, entertainment and live characters. Disneyland is also a place that requires a lot of planning to get the most out of. I hope my tips will help you plan your perfect Disneyland holiday.

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What age is best for Disneyland?
Honestly, any age! Disneyland caters to all ages from 0-100 as long as you love Disney. I’ve been as an adult without kids, with a 2 year old, and most recently with my almost 5-year-old. Each time is different but equally enjoyable.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

What time of year should we go?
Disneyland is gorgeous to visit all-year round. They have special seasonal events around Halloween and Christmas in particular, making these two times of year a really special time to visit. Check out the crowds at the time of year you’re considering visiting at this website – if you can visit during a slower time, I would suggest doing so. We have visited twice in June or July and both times it has been very hot and very busy.

Where should we stay?
There are so many choices! Disneyland have their own hotels that are on the park grounds and give you special benefits – the biggest two being early entry into the parks every day (an hour before general admission) and a special entry to Disney California Adventure Park through Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa so you’ll never have to line up. While the Disneyland hotels also offer other great features that carry the Disney magic to all areas of your stay, they are also the pricey accomodation option – so if you’re on a budget you’ll want to consider staying at a “good neighbor” hotel instead.

All the benefits of staying at a Disneyland hotel

We have stayed at two different “good neighbor” hotels, the Howard Johnson Hotel and Water Park, and the Carousel Inn and Suites. Both were half the price of the Disneyland hotels and had excellent locations – directly across the road from Disneyland, making our commute each morning a mere 5 minutes walk.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

How long should we stay for?
We have stayed for three days both times we visited, and this was the perfect amount for us. We spent one day each at Disneyland and California Adventure park, and one day hopping between the two. If you buy tickets for three or more consecutive days, you get a magic morning included, where you can enter Disneyland an hour early (7am!) on a designated day.

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What’s a “magic morning”?
Magic mornings are the days when you can enter the park at 7am instead of 8am, which is when the parks usually open. You need to have a 3+ day pass to be able to use a magic morning early entry. Magic mornings are held on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays. It’s recommended that you arrive an hour and a quarter before the regular park opening. We didn’t have magic mornings with our trip this time around, and we went to California Adventure park that day instead – which turned out to be a brilliant choice as the park was pretty much empty – everyone was at Disneyland using their magic morning!

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What tickets should we get?
You have a choice between single park passes, which allow you entry into one park per day, or “park hoppers” which let you go back and forth between the parks. If you buy multi day passes (which is the cheapest way to buy tickets), you will have to choose between the two types, you can’t mix and match. With older kids, I’d recommend park hoppers, particularly if you will be there three days. I found a full day at each park was perfect, plus that extra day to jump between the two and finish up a few things we missed or wanted to do again.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

I always advise buying tickets at least a few days in advance. While the queues have always been short to buy tickets when we’ve arrived, it just cuts out one extra step to get into the park. When you buy a ticket online you can choose an eTicket which you then present on your phone (or printed out) at the gates for entry.

More info on ticket types and prices

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What time of day should I arrive?
The parks open at 8am (with the exception of magic mornings when it opens at 7 if you have valid tickets). My best advice on getting the most out of a Disneyland day is to arrive well before the park opens. It can take quite a while to get through security, and also through the gates. When you use your tickets for the first time, you will have a photo taken and linked online to your pass, and you will need to sign the tickets they give you – all making the entry process that much longer.

We enjoyed the early mornings the most as there were the fewest people in the park, so lines were shorter.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

How do I plan a day at Disneyland?
My best advice is to plan to do all the rides first thing in the morning. As soon as the gates open, go straight to the rides you want to do the most that are the most popular rides, and either do the rides immediately, or get a FASTPASS (see more below) to return and do the ride later without having to line up to do so.

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We spent the first three hours just doing all of the rides, then took a break for lunch and spent the afternoons watching shows, meeting characters, shopping, eating ice cream, and watching the parades.

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Find out the height requirement for rides in advance and plan accordingly!

This site gives you the average wait time for each ride, so you can see which ones are the most popular.

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What is a FASTPASS?
A FASTPASS lets you skip the queue for the most popular rides at the park. Look for the FASTPASS Distribution sign near the entrance of an attraction, check the Return Time displayed on the sign, insert your Disneyland Resort admission ticket into the FASTPASS machine and take with you the FASTPASS ticket it spits out, printed with your return time. Then return to the ride during your time window at any time, show your FASTPASS ticket to the Cast Member at the entrance to the ride, and enjoy a minimal wait. Note: You can only have one FASTPASS at a time.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

Attractions that have FASTPASS
Entertainment that has FASTPASS

Find out more about FASTPASS!

Disneyland via christineknight.me

What are some tips for watching the parades?
The parades are incredibly popular, with people staking out their front row spots over 45 minutes before the parade begins. If you watch carefully around the park from an hour before the parades start, Disneyland staff will begin marking out the areas for crowd control. Grab a spot on a bench or on the gutter edge and either all sit with some snacks and wait, or leave one adult there while the rest of the family entertain themselves in other ways while you’re waiting.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

The parades wind their way from the back of the park to the front, so if the start time is 4:30pm, it will reach around the front of the park around 4:45-4:50pm.

Disneyland via christineknight.me Disneyland via christineknight.me

Can we take food and drink into the park?
Yes you can. Take a large refillable water bottle – you can refill with water at any drink station through out the parks. You can also ask for cups of ice water at any restaurant/fast food outlet. You are allowed to take whatever food and snacks you like into the park, which is a great way to cut down on costs. We didn’t take many snacks with us as we were staying at a very basic hotel with nowhere to keep food. We ate park food all day and didn’t find it overly expensive.

Disneyland via christineknight.me Disneyland via christineknight.me Disneyland via christineknight.me Disneyland via christineknight.me Disneyland via christineknight.me

Should I take a stroller?
If your child fits in one, absolutely yes. Many hours of walking will tired even older children. There is stroller parking at every ride, and every restaurant/facility is stroller-accessible. I also like having a stroller to put our stuff in, like water bottles and snacks, and the canopy provides much needed shade during the heat.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

Should I use the Disneyland photographers?
Personally, I always utilise the Disneyland photography service, called PhotoPass. For $39 a day you can download all of the images taken by the Disneyland photographers. The photographers are scattered around both parks all throughout the day and take some really great quality photos – with the entire family in them! I love that I can get out whole family in the same shot with zero effort, and I also like to leave my giant SLR camera at home and just take my point and shoot with me, knowing the Disneyland photographers will have their excellent cameras to snap portraits for me that save me lugging around my behemoth for the day.

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When getting your photo taken, you can either download the Disneyland app to your phone and present the app to the photographer and add the photos to your account, or the photographer will give you a small card with a bar code that you can then add into your account yourself later on.

You can take the cards to a Disneyland PhotoPass store to buy the images at the park, or log into the Disneyland PhotoPass website later to buy and download them.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

How do I keep on top of what’s happening during the day?
This trip I discovered the excellent (free) Disneyland app. It allowed me to see the wait times on every ride, has a map with a compass so you know where you are, and also shows what characters are where for meet and greets, where food outlets and bathrooms are, and times for entertainment such as shows and parades.

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How do I meet characters at Disneyland?
Characters roam around the parks all day. Some have designated spots and times that you can find either on the app or by asking at Guest Services inside the park. The core characters such as Minnie, Mickey and friends and the princesses have designated places where they can be found.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

Others simply roam and you have to be lucky to spot them, such as Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins. If you want an easy way to meet lots of the characters all together, book in for a Character Breakfast. Our faves are Ariel’s Grotto, which has all of the princesses some around to each table, and Plaza Inn, which has Minnie Mouse, plus core Disney faves like Donald Duck, Hook and Chip & Dale, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore.

Princesses at Disneyland via christineknight.me

How do I meet the Disney princesses?
You can meet three princesses at any time of day at the Fantasy Faire inside Fantasyland, Disneyland. The princesses change regularly so you won’t know which ones will be there until you go inside.

Princesses at Disneyland via christineknight.me

The princesses are in seperate rooms and you walk around to meet them one at a time. You can also happen upon princesses outside Cinderella’s Castle – we found Aurora this way. If you want to meet the majority of the princesses in one go, the only way is to book in for a character breakfast at Ariels Grotto. When we visited in 2014, met Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Belle here. If you want to meet Jasmine, Merida or Tiana, look for them roaming around the park.

Anna and Elsa Disneyland meet and greet via christineknight.me

What about Anna and Elsa?
The sisters are located inside the Animation Academy in California Adventure Park, and are the only princesses you meet together. We really enjoyed meeting Anna and Elsa – they have a great repartee together, making the sisters a really fun duo to chat with.

Disneyland via christineknight.me

Is there any thing else “Frozen”?
Yes, there is a fantastic new live “Frozen” show in the Hyperion Theatre in California Adventure Park. the show goes for an hour, and runs several times a day. You can get a FASTPASS to the show – tickets are distributed outside the theatre in Hollywood Lane.

Frozen - Live at the Hyperion Theater California Adventure Park

I would advise returning to line up for the show 40 minutes before start time to guarantee a decent seat. The show is excellent, and does a fantastic job of telling the Frozen story minus the scary bits.

More info on Frozen – Live at the Hyperion Theater

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Disneyland via christineknight.me

What else should I know about that’s awesome at Disneyland?
My almost five-year old particularly enjoyed being turned into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and taking part in jedi training at the Trials of the Temple show.

Jedi training Disneyland via christineknight.me

Do you have any questions about how to plan the perfect Disneyland holiday?

Tips on the best things to do at Disneyland with little kids

How to survive (and enjoy!) Disneyland with a toddler

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

16 Reasons why a Disney cruise is worth the money

16 Reasons why a Disney cruise is worth the money via christineknight.me

I’m going to be upfront and say Disney cruises are REALLY expensive. Crazy expensive – much more so than a lot of other cruise liners, in fact, that offer similar itineraries. So why choose to spend your time and your money that way? Simply because the experience is unparalleled. We just got back from the 7-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy, and can happily say that here are 16 reasons why, for us, a Disney cruise is worth the money.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

1. It’s (almost!) all-inclusive
All your food at the main restaurants and snack joints, entertainment, use of facilities and even room services are included in the price. What’s an extra charge? The spa services, popcorn before the shows, snacks from additional cafes not in the main dining areas and alcohol, and gratuity at the end of the trip (it’s charged to the room at a rate of $12 per person per day).

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

2. The service is impecable
We received some of the best service of our lives on the ship, especially from the servers in the dining rooms. Our head waiter, assistance and dining room head all knew our name and our dining preferences (for example, I’m a fussy vegetarian and my daughter is fussy period), and would be prepared to offer us with alternatives to the menu each evening if they knew we wouldn’t like them. Our amazing servers followed us each night through the dining rotation (there are three restaurants that we rotated between) so we were always greeted with their smiling faces each evening.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

3. Mickey is everywhere
It’s fun to make a game of finding all the hidden Mickeys. From tiny nautical Mickeys made out of ropes in the shower curtains to bigger emblems on the ships decks, there are Mickeys everywhere you look in both discrete and obvious ways, but still pulled together so harmoniously as to present an elegant ship for adults rather than a carnival for children. A masterful design.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

4. Disney magic is all around
Disney is renowned for making the ordinary magical, and they don’t disappoint on a cruise, either. Little touches like magical pictures that guests can interact with, or a steering wheel set up in front of what looks to be an ordinary painting but turns out to be a pirate ship that you can steer in search of treasure really give the illusion of a bit of pixie dust sprinkled liberally over every element of the ship.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

5. See the world with zero effort
One of the big bonuses to taking a cruise is that you get to wake up at exotic destinations without lifting a finger. Everything is so incredibly easy and manageable, which is what we wanted with a young child. On our cruise, we visited Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and Disney’s own island, Castaway Cay. We were offered off-ship excursions at additional costs, or you can also just walk straight off the ship and find your own way around.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

6. Incredible entertainment every day and night
Dazzling shows is what Disney does best, and again they bring this to the cruise. Every night there is a new show to see, the highlight on ours being Aladdin. The performers and staging in these shows is just incredible – it’s a standard of quality that you would happily pay to see under ordinary circumstances.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

If you feel like seeing a movie on the cruise, you can head into one of the two movie theatres playing brand new or recent releases (on our ship we had Finding Dory the same day it was released globally in cinemas, Jungle Book and the new Captain America movie), or lie in luxury on the pool deck and watch the “Funnel Vision” movie screen playing Disney classics above the pool on the top deck during the day and night.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

7. Water play all day
The top desk is all about getting wet! Our number one fave water play activity was the AquaDuck slide, an exhilarating “water coaster” that sends guests clinging to rafts speeding around the ship enclosed in a tube. Kids can also enjoy a more sedate Mickey slide, the Nemo Reef splash area for littlies, the shallow Mickey Pool and AquaLabs for older kids. Adults can sit back and relax in adult-only pools, too.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

8. Everything is super high quality
This is Disney, after all, where nothing but the best is good enough. Every detail about the ship is flawless, and I’d challenge anyone to find a paint chip or a carpet stain on the entire boat. The rooms, the food, the facilities, absolutely everything is top notch, shiny and brand-new looking.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

9. The kids won’t want to leave kids’ club
There are plenty of options for kids to be entertained while adults take some time out to relax. As well as a nursery for babies, there’s the “Oceaneer Lab” and “Oceaneer Club” for kids 3-12, “Edge” for tweens 11-14 and “Vibe” for teenagers 14-17. Cheese was a great age for the Oceaneer Lab/Club and loved going so much she would request to be dropped off when we asked what she’d like to do. In the Oceaneer Lab/Club, as well as various open play areas, kids are also entertained with games and visiting characters such as Lilo and Stich or Tinkerbell.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

10. Activities are endless
Let me put it this way, no one will be bored. Every evening, an activity sheet is released for the next day which is jam packed with options for the whole family. Adults can choose from plenty of 18+ options such as bingo, animation and fitness classes, but the majority of activities are family-focussed, such as character appearances, trivia competitions and even baby racing. Yes, you read that right.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

11. The food is top notch
Dining aboard a boat was a major concern of mine, which thankfully we didn’t need to worry about at all. There were both plenty of options, as well as lots of fresh, healthy food to choose from. Each morning and lunch we dined at Cabanas, the buffet restaurant on the top deck, blown away with the choice of food such as fruit, made-to-order omelettes, yogurts, cereals, toasts, bagels, Mickey waffles and more for breakfast, followed by salads, more fruit, and hot food options such as vegetables, pasta dishes, pizza and so forth for lunch.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

Dinner each night was served in a rotating restaurant – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Court, where we were presented with a three course menu to select what we would like. While there were always vegetarian options made available, if I didn’t particularly fancy that night’s menu, the kitchen staff were more than happy to either send me a dish from another restaurant, or whip me up something specially in the back.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

If we missed our dining rotation or the Cabanas buffet times, there were snack options available on the pool deck most of the day, including burgers, sandwiches, pizza and fruit, plus the 24-hour room service. It was hard exercising off all the food we ate!

12. Free-on demand tv
On a Disney boat, you’d expect a lot of Disney TV, wouldn’t you? In the rooms, Disney TV shows and movies are streamed 24-hours on demand, with a huge variety to appeal to both the kiddies during the day, and adults once the kidlets have gone to bed at night.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

13. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Wittout a doubt my daughter’s favoruite thing abut the ship was her transformation into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. You can read about our experience here.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me
14. Plenty of 18+ only areas

While we loved spending time with our daughter on the Fantasy, we occasionally needed some adult time, so when she was keen to head off to the kids’ clubs we would also happily wander up to the 18+ areas for a drink or just a coffee and would sit happily watching the ocean roll past and chat or read a book without having to listen to other peoples’ children screaming. Bliss!

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me
15. Everything is seamlessly run

The ship is run with what can only be called Disney efficiency. Everything happens exactly when it is supposed to happen, to the very second, and there are no hiccups, no mishaps, no wrinkles in the perfect Disney holiday experience. A Disney cruise is a slickly run machine.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me
16. Countless character interactions

The numerous character interactions were a big plus for our family and our daughter who is at the age where she likes to throw herself with gay abandon at all Disney characters like they’re a long-lost loved one. Luckily the characters are ready for four-year-old missiles and handle all the poking and whacking with swords with good humour.

Disney Fantasy via christineknight.me

I did wonder if, after the first day or so, she’d get bored with seeing the same characters over and over again, but, the geniuses, have outfitted the characters in numerous costumes, so each time we saw them they always looked a bit different (except for Peter Pan, who always looked exactly like Peter Pan in his tights and little green hat). On formal night, for example, the characters appeared in tuxes and sparkling gowns, and needless to say, pirate night was full of eye patches and bandanas.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me Every day the times and locations for where the character meet and greets will occur is printed in the “navigator” that is distributed to the rooms each evening with the following day’s activities so you always know where to find your favourite giant plush or princess. Characters often just roam the ship too, so you never know who might start crowing over the balcony (yes, the crowd favourite, Peter Pan, yet again).

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

The most popular characters have free ticketed events that you can sign up for online before boarding the ship, such as the princess Royal Court, Anna and Elsa from Frozen and the Disney Junior character breakfast.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

Compared to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the characters on the boat spend a lot of time with each guest interacting with them personally, rather than it just being a quick photo op. This does make the wait a bit longer, but the characters and also Disney cast members who are managing the crowds, make the kids each feel so incredibly special that it’s worth it.

Ready to book a Disney cruise? Don’t book before you read my tips and tricks here!

Have you been on a Disney Cruise? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Disney Cruise Planning Tips & Tricks

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

We’ve just gotten back from our first cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy – a 7-night Caribbean cruise. The cruise was incredibly fun, but there was so much to learn beforehand to really get the most out of the experience. When you’re planning your own Disney Cruise, tips and tricks like these will help you plan your own perfect cruise, before you even get on board.

    • Book well in advance. Hard core cruisers book a year in advance when the cruise is released. It’s believed they get the best prices then. Booking three months out is considered last minute but cabins are often still available. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Think hard about what cabin/type do you want. We went for middle ship with a verandah as I was terrified of sea sickness. The cabins to the edges and with a porthole or “magic window” are cheaper.
    • Log onto the Disney Cruise Liner website once your cruise is booked (https://disneycruise.disney.go.com) and input your reservation number to lock in activities.
    • Your advance booking window is determined by your Castaway Club membership level, as follows: First-Time Guests – 75 days prior to sail date; Silver Castaway Club Member – 90 days prior to sail date; Gold Castaway Club Member – 105 days prior to sail date; Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Member – 120 days prior to sail date. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Take note of the day that the activities are released in US time – 12:01 EST and log on during the night to book things like the princess royal court. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Book your activities as soon as you can as the popular ones book up fast. You can easily cancel your activities up to 3 days before departure – including the port activities. Some popular activities, like the Princess afternoon tea, book up as soon as they are released. Others have plenty of spots but you should still book in as soon as possible to get the days and times you want. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Free on-board activities that require booking include the Princess meet and greet, Frozen meet and greet and Disney Junior breakfast (currently only available on 7-night or longer cruises).
    • Join your cruise Facebook group – search for the ship departure date and name in Facebook. Many of the people in the Facebook group will be frequent cruisers so can answer all of your tricky questions.
    • Join a cruising experts Facebook group! This one I’m part of is run by a Disney Travel Agent.
      Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Many frequent cruisers hang decorations on their door called “Fish Extenders” and take park in a “Fish Exchange”. Every stateroom has a fish of some kind hanging on the wall outside the door where Disney staff place important communications to you such as excursion tickets and notes.  A Fish Extender (FE) is something that you hang off the fish while still allowing the Disney staff to use it for its original purpose. All the people in the exchange buy or make little items and place them in each other’s fish extenders. It’s basically a gift exchange. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Choose your dining rotation when you book your cabin – main dining is the early session which begins at 5:45pm, and second seating, which starts at 8pm. If you book too late you will be placed in late dining like we were and have to request a change and hope it comes through. For your assigned seating time and restaurant rotation, please check the dining tickets located in your stateroom upon arrival. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • “Main” or early dining fills up fast. If you’re not sure what dining rotation you want when you book your cruise, choose early as it’s the most popular. It’s always possible to change it to the late session when you board, but rarely the other way around. If you book late (like I did) you might be allocated the late dining session. if this happens, call Disney Cruise Line and request to be put on the wait list for the change.
    • Both dining session get to see the same live shows at night. If you do “main” or early dining, you will then be able to see the late show, which is at 8:30pm. If you do late dining, you can then do the early show, which is at 6:15pm.
    • If you aren’t able to get the dining session you want, you can still use several other flexible and included dining options on the ship, including the free 24-hour room service.
    • If you missed out on your dining session even after being wait listed, there are Disney Cruise Line employees set up in one of the main dining rooms on embarkation day to try to accommodate dining requests (which dining room it is will be listed on the Navigator that you get at the Port).
    • In case you forget where you’re supposed to eat dinner each night, your dining rotation will also be listed on the Key to the World card as well as the tickets in the room.
      Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me .
    • Many frequent cruisers place Disney magnets all over their doors, often with their family names and pictures on them. You can make your own or order some on Etsy. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Take note of your Port Arrival time (PAT). Your PAT determine your boarding number therefore when you board the ship. If you do not complete online checking then you will most likely get a high boarding number and sit in the terminal waiting to board the ship. PAT are first come first serve therefore by completing your checkin as soon as it is enabled online, you will have a better chance of a earlier PAT. Note: If you are taking the Disney Cruise Line busses from the Walt Disney World resorts then this is not that important since the buses will not get to the port until after 1pm anyway. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • If you buy a disney photo premium package in advance you get 15% off. If you don’t like the photos on board you can ask for a refund. This discount only applies to the most expensive packages, like purchasing all of the digital images. Go to: http://www.mycruisephotos.com/DCL Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • You are also able to register kids for kids’ club online before boarding the ship. I’d highly advise doing so as it just saves time filing in more forms when you go to drop them off for the first time.
    • Pack breakables in your carry on bag, plus anything you might need for the rest of the day as it can take a while for luggage to be delivered to rooms. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Put a pair of swimmers in your carry on so you can head straight to the pool when you get onboard. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Be early for everything onboard. If there is a movie, a show, even a character meet and greet, be early, by at least 15 minutes if not longer. If you want to see it, everyone else is bound to as well. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • Formal, semi-formal and pirate dress-up nights are really optional. We were travelling a long way before and after our cruise so had minimal luggage space for special formal or dress-up wear, and it ended up not being a big deal at all. We just wore our nicest clothes and they were fine. Some people go al out, however, wearing suits and fancy dresses, and make the most out of the opportunity to get glammed up and have portraits taken. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • If you book another cruise onboard you get a discounted rate. The deposit you place down on the cruise is completely refundable so it’s a good idea if you’re strongly considering taking another cruise in the near future.
    • The water in the cabins is drinkable but a bit funky tasting. I’d advise taking large refillable water bottles with you and refilling them throughout the day at the free beverage station on the pool deck. Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me
    • There are shops onboard where you can buy most things you might forget, like sunscreen, hats, toothbrushes and so on, but they are on the pricey side. Stock up on your own everything before boarding, including sea sickness medication, just in case. It is possible to get free sea sickness medication free of charge from guest services if you forget to pack your own.

Are you a Disney cruiser? I’d love to add your tips and tricks!

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!