Working with a Travel Agent for Your runDisney Experience

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

You train hard for your runDisney experience, let the planning be taken care of by a Travel Agent Specializing in Disney destinations and experiences!

It’s the best of both worlds when you work with a Travel Agent that specializes in Disney who also knows all about runDisney – they can expertly assist you with ALL of your plans!

As a runner you are dedicated to your training and preparing for your runDisney experience. Your training should continue to be your main focus and you shouldn’t need to stress over the details of your travel plans.

There are many avenues for finding a Travel Agent and many that specialize in Disney and runDisney, but you want to be sure to find the “right” Travel Agent to help you with your runDisney travel plans!

runDisney races are unique. You want someone who will partner with you and help you navigate the process. When running at a runDisney event, you do have to earn your placement. This system is in place to be inclusive of all people that want to join in.

And be cautioned – if your Travel Agent offers you higher corral placement that hasn’t been earned or unusual package requirements outside of those required by runDisney BEWARE. Just like in any industry, there are some people who take advantage of the system and this affects everyone and can cause disqualification to participate.

Even if a Travel Agent is recommended by others in runDisney groups, be sure to check reviews before selecting your Travel Agent.

– Do they have extensive travel planning experience?
– Do they take the time to understand your wants and needs rather than a “one size fits all” experience?
– Do they have personal experience with runDisney events?
– Do they have personal experience with resorts on property so that they can offer the best recommendations for you?

Once you decide on the best Travel Agent for you, it’s not out of line to expect the following:
ACCURACY – All information for your reservation and race registrations should be accurate and correct. Having extra people on your reservation or other inaccuracies should be brought to the attention of your Travel Agent. You should have no surprises at check-in.

– Are your travel dates correct?
– Are you booked at the resort hotel with the park ticket type, dining plan and race bibs that you requested?
– Are all names on your reservation the same as you requested for your travel party?

RESPONSIVENESS – A good Travel Agent will respond to your emails and phone calls efficiently and effectively and will help you beyond just making your reservations. A good Travel Agent is there to help you with as much or as little as you want or need.

Having a Travel Agent to help guide you thru the runDisney process can add value to your experience and costs nothing extra! They have a passion for what they do, so it is a win-win for you. Make sure your Travel Agent is a good fit while being knowledgeable, ethical, and responsive to your needs.

Contact your Wish Upon A Star With Us Travel Agent and Disney Specialist today to assist you with your runDisney plans – Happy Running!

Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

During the holidays I had the opportunity to experience the newest dining experience on property – Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood at Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood opened July 2019 and has been a hit from opening day! The new Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is quite amazing, feeling more like a Deluxe Disney property than a Moderate resort.

This unique rooftop dining experience is just one of three new options at Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort offering both food and beverage, with Toledo and Dahlia Lounge offering spectacular views as well!

The menu choices are inspired by the flavors of Spain and include tapas, steaks and seafood created in the on-stage tapas kitchen.

The atmosphere and experience was amazing and the service top notch! The food presentation was impeccable and everything was prepared to perfection!

We started our meal with an order of Tronchón Cheese Gratinado from the Cazuelas (Spanish for cooking pot) menu. This was essentially a cheese bread with tupelo honey and lavender, it was very flavorful and you could smell and taste the lavender.

Our entrées included Scallops (fava hummus, olives, harissa vinaigrette, roasted carrots, yogurt powder), Manhattan Filet (olive oil-potato purée, grilled onions, dates, sherry vinaigrette) and the Red Wine-braised Chicken (grapes, sherry vinegar, roasted tomato ‘bomba’ rice). In addition, we ordered the Roasted Cauliflower and Olive Oil-Potato Purée as sides to share.
My only critique was regarding the descriptions and recommendations from our server – – – my husband and I ended up switching plates once our food arrived because our server was not accurate with his information.

I would definitely recommend the Manhattan Filet (which is what I ended up eating) and feel that the Red Wine-braised Chicken is a heavier meal (which my husband ended up eating). And, definitely order the Roasted Cauliflower side dish – I am not a fan of cauliflower but this dish was amazing!

If you aren’t looking for a table service dining experience, but have the time, I highly recommend simply going to this new resort on property to check it out – the new lobby, Barcelona Lounge, Dahlia Lounge and Three Bridges Bar & Grill all offer amazing experiences and the feel of a Deluxe resort. And, yes, I have experienced and enjoyed it all!!

I am in LOVE with the lobby area – the lighted panels randomly change colors and the tables all have charging ports!

Barcelona Lounge
Three Bridges Bar & Grill

Let your Wish Upon A Star With Us Travel Agent know that you would like to experience Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort during your next Walt Disney World vacation!

The NEW Disney Skyliner

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

The newest transportation option is the Disney Skyliner – magic in the sky!

Check out this video of my ride from Disney’s Pop Century Resort to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

Magic is in the air at Walt Disney World® Resort with the new Disney Skyliner transportation system.

Disney Skyliner connects Epcot® and Disney’s Hollywood Studios® to four Disney resort hotels – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the forthcoming Disney’s Riviera Resort, set to open December 16, 2019. The system serves as a magic carpet, floating Guests through the air aboard approximately 300 gondolas, nearly half of which are wrapped in whimsical Disney scenes of beloved characters, fan-favorite movies, theme park attractions and more. 

While riding Disney Skyliner, you will be treated to never-before-seen views of Walt Disney World Resort as you float along the treetops and waterways alike. The system provides bird’s-eye vantage points of Disney icons such as the Hollywood Tower Hotel and Spaceship Earth. 

Come experience the magic for yourself, contact your Wish Upon A Star With Us Travel Agent today!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Boarding Group Virtual Queue

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

UPDATED: 1/29/2020 – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is now open in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and, currently, you must use the Boarding Group feature in your My Disney Experience Mobile App to reserve your place in line for this new experience, there is currently no standby line or FastPass+If you do not join a Boarding Group you will not be granted access to the queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance but you will have access to enter the land and to ride Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run either as standby or, if your vacation dates are February 19, 2020 or after, if you secured a FastPass+ time. In addition, you will want to keep an eye on park hours as they have been adjusted daily since opening of this new experience and the Boarding Groups become unavailable for the day very quickly, in most cases by 8 am or earlier depending on park opening time.

You must scan your MagicBand or park ticket and enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios before you are able to join a Boarding Group and you can then only join a Boarding Group once Disney’s Hollywood Studios officially opens.

You can follow the Boarding Group information provided below to join a Boarding Group and should receive a notification when your Boarding Group opens. You will be assigned a Group number and estimated wait time for return to the land to join the line for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Your MagicBand or park ticket will be scanned again before you are allowed access to the ride queue. During this time you are free to enjoy any other experiences at Disney, including going back to your resort to sleep!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge  is now open and you can use a Boarding Group feature in your My Disney Experience Mobile App to reserve your spot in line to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance  rather than waiting in a physical line. Access to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge does not currently require a Boarding Group.

Early morning visitors wishing to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will need to join a Boarding Group once the park opens. If you simply want entry to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge , you will be able to head directly into the land to experience shopping, dining, and the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction either as standby or, if your vacation dates are February 19, 2020 or after, if you secured a FastPass+ time.

As the day progresses, there may be times when a virtual queue will be used to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, allowing you to enjoy the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios while waiting for your turn to enter Batuu. Guests should check either the My Disney Experience mobile app or with the Guest Experience team that can be found within the park for the land’s current status.

To make sure that you’ll be able to join the virtual queue, you’ll need to have the latest version of the My Disney Experience mobile app downloaded on your phone. If you’ve enabled push notifications for the app and you have entered the virtual queue, you should be notified when it’s time to return to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. If you don’t, you’ll be able to view the boarding group status in the app, or check the various digital status boards throughout the park.

To see if the land is open or if Boarding Groups are available, you’ll launch your My Disney Experience mobile app and look for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Status and Access section – tap the “Find Out More” button.

The land’s status will show ‘Closed’ until actual park opening time for that day. If the land’s status shows ‘Open’, and you do not want to secure your spot in line for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you’ll be able to proceed directly to the entrance near Grand Avenue just to the right of Muppet Vision 3D.

If there are Boarding Groups available, and you want to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you will then click the “Join Boarding Group” button.

Once you select “Join Boarding Group” you will see the information below in your My Disney Experience mobile app. Click “Continue”.

In the next screen you will select your Party and click the “Join a Boarding Group” button.

You will then be assigned a Group number and estimated wait time for return. Click the “Done” button.

You will be assigned a Group number and estimated wait time for return. If you have push notifications set up on your phone you should receive a message when your Boarding Group opens with a return by time.

For those who don’t choose to use the My Disney Experience mobile app, and you would like to join a Boarding Group, you’ll need to visit a Guest Experience Team kiosk.

As a reminder, for those with reservations for Oga’s Cantina, Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers, or Droid Depot, if the land is full and you have a reservation, you will be allowed into the land.

Contact your Wish Upon A Star With Us Travel Agent now to book your Walt Disney World or Disneyland resort package for your Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience!

Early Morning Magic at Toy Story Land

By Kimber Preece, Travel Specialist

This trip was never what we planned. Over and over again, we had to move the dates. When we moved it for the last time we were too late to get the coveted Slinky Dog Dash Fastpass. My sister and I stalked the availability for Slinky Dog Dash for weeks. We were even willing to change our day at Hollywood Studios to any day with a Slinky Dog Fastpass to make it work. We were desperate!

Then my sister asked what I thought about doing Early Morning Magic at Toy Story Land. At the time, prices were $79/adult and $69/child plus tax and regular theme park admission was required. I was curious, but was not thrilled about anteing up to an expensive breakfast event just to ride one ride once or possibly twice. Boy, was I wrong.

Let me just say that I will tell you if a ticketed event is not a good fit for your family. But, I think most guests will appreciate the extra time in this new land that this breakfasts event supplies. And, yes, I said plural breakfasts. Read on to find out why.

The event last from 7:00am or 7:30am depending on what you reserved until 10am, though park guests will enter the land at 9am when Hollywood Studios opens. This essentially brings the riding part of the event to a close. It is just the breakfast part that continues until 10am. We started by showing up at Hollywood Studio’s main entrance at what we thought was extra early, 6:45am for a 7:00am entrance.  But, there was no crowd ahead of us and it was apparent that guests had already arrived before us. We received wristbands and enjoyed a peaceful walk down Hollywood Boulevard.

Whether you have the 7am or the 7:30 am entrance time, you do not get to enter Toy Story Land until 7:30am, so breakfast was our first stop. Breakfast was a combination of quick service ordering ques for hot food and a continental breakfast bar that included yogurt, pastries, cereals, and juices. From our experience you can order as much as you like and make multiple trips to either.

After eating somewhat quickly, we used the bathrooms and applied sunscreen before heading over to Toy Story Land. We thought we were a few minutes shy of the 7:30am mark, but it seemed they let guests in early again. So, if you do this event, just remember not to wait around and fill up time if you are early.


The attractions that are available to ride during this event are Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania!, and Alien Swirling Saucers. There are also opportunities to get your picture taken with Woody, Buzz, and Jessie.

My party consisted of three adults and four children, ages 2.5, 8, 9, and 12. At first, we split up, because we weren’t sure the 2.5-year-old was big enough to handle the curves and stops of Slinky Dog Dash though he met the height requirement. But, after a few test-runs by Mom and Auntie, we decided he could ride. He is tall and solid, so take that into account if you are trying to decide whether your kiddo should ride. And, just as we got the little guy riding Slinky Dog, the 8-year-old decided to tap out and do other things, so more splitting up. But, my point is, even with all the splitting up, each of the adults got to ride Slinky Dog Dash at least 3 times. Some of the kiddos got to ride it 7 times. We all rode Alien Swirling Saucers a few times each. And, we rode Toy Story Mania! together once knowing we had a Fastpass for it later in the day. Note: my party was not interested in meeting characters, and I have heard that they can take some time. So your experience my vary based on what you want to accomplish.  All in all, we thought it was a blast and that we accomplished a lot of Slinky Dog Dash riding!

The quoted wait times for Slinky Dog Dash varied from 5-25 minutes during our event, but I think those quotes were higher than what we experienced. The longest wait times were at the beginning of the event and they tapered pretty quickly. Thankfully we noticed the time just before 9am and sent the 9 and 12-year-olds through the line one more time before the mass of park goers entered the que. This is was the wait time for Slinky Dog Dash just after 9am.

Once we regrouped we headed back to the Backlot Express where we had second breakfast. This was nice, because some of our party were up too early to be ready to fill up the first go around. The rest of us just took advantage of another opportunity to fill up. It was similar to dessert parties where the food is available the entire event.

We had an amazing morning! The food was yummy. And, the event did not feel crowded, so you really got to ride as much as you wanted. I heartily recommend it to people who are interested in having extra time in a new land.



Packing Cubes! Oh, how I Love Thee! Let Me Count the Ways….

packing cubes

By Kimber Preece, Travel Specialist

suitcase with packing cubes

My family travels all the time: quick trips to the mountain, a week at Walt Disney World, lengthy trips to Europe, cruises, you name it. These cubes have changed my packing game for the better.


1. You keep everyone’s stuff separate

2. You compress stuff so we can fit more into our bags

3. You make unpacking easy, just unzip the lid, fold lid back, and place cube in drawer

4. You turn any bag into luggage

5. You are a spiffy overnight bag all by yourself

6. You make divvying up stuff to various rooms easy

7. You make my kids more responsible for their stuff, because they like cubes too

packing cubes in drawers

How to make the most of your packing cubes:

1. Pack a few complete outfits in a smaller cube and pack that cube in another traveler’s bag or your carry-on (I do both when traveling internationally). This way if you lose a bag, you will have at least a few outfits to see you through until you get your luggage catches up with you. Do this for all your family members.

2. When sending the kids to stay grandparents’ house or hotel room, cubes are convenient mini suitcases.

3. Buy cubes in different colors for each family member to make finding things easier. It’s also more fun for the kids.

4. Repack cubes with dirty clothes (folding optional) and put them away in the luggage to keep your room tidy and repack along the way. This also keeps the dirties from spilling at the airport in case you bought too many souvenirs and have to rearrange your load. Some travelers like to turn them inside out when they put their dirty clothes inside.  

packing cubes
packing cubes

Disneyland Resort in California

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

I have been to Disneyland in California several times – when I lived in California and again in September 2016 when I participated in the runDisney Coast-to-Coast Half Marathon – I didn’t know at the time, but this was the last year for this runDisney experience in California. However, a lot has changed even since 2016 so I was very excited to be chosen to participate in a Travel Agent learning experience at this Disney Destination!

While we toured all 3 of the Disneyland property hotels, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. Even though you are in the heart of Anaheim, this is still a very large property with 3 towers for rooms. We stayed in standard rooms that all had magical Disney touches from the light fixtures to the headboards to the faucets! Everything was so “Disney”.

And we toured a themed signature suite at this hotel – Adventureland Suite – which was AMAZING! This suite takes guests on the most luxurious safari ever. With the feel of an explorers’ camp from the 1930s, the Adventureland Suite features a master bedroom fashioned as a safari lodge with a claw-foot bathtub in the living area. In the master bathroom there is a grotto with a foot spa, steam and rain showers, and lighting and sound effects that make you feel like you’re in a rain forest or savanna. There is also a second bedroom, which makes you feel like you’re sleeping in a safari tent. The Asian/Indian-inspired main living area includes a wet bar, a flat-screen TV hidden behind artwork above the faux fireplace, and a “hidden” closet (hint: try the bookcase). When you’re in this suite, it even sounds like you’re in the jungle: the doorbell “rings” with tiki gods playing drums, and – for the first time in a Disneyland Hotel suite – themed background music plays three separate tracks inspired by the Jungle Cruise, Disney adventure-themed movies and music first created for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.

There are also 3 other signature suites at the Disneyland Hotel – Fairy Tale, Big Thunder, Mickey Mouse Penthouse and Pirates of the Caribbean. All signature suites include concierge level access.

All of the property hotels have signature suites and concierge level service. The concierge service is different than Walt Disney World where you book the Club Level room type for concierge level services. At Disneyland Resort you book any room type and then pay additional to add on the concierge services per person per night. And, unlike Walt Disney World, you are encouraged to take food and beverage from the concierge offerings to enjoy when in the parks.

During our resort tours we also enjoyed Brunch at Storyteller’s Café with Mickey and Friends! This character dining experience offers a delicious buffet with great character interaction for Breakfast and Brunch. It was a fun experience and I would definitely recommend it for your Disneyland vacation!

Dining reservations open 60 days in advance and walk-ins are typically not available.
There are 5 locations for character dining:
– Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & SpaDisney Princess Breakfast Adventures (Napa Rose) – Breakfast with Disney Princesses
Disneyland Park – Breakfast with Minnie & Friends at Plaza Inn – 7 -11 am *Park ticket required
Disneyland HotelGoofy’s Kitchen – Breakfast & Dinner
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & SpaMickey’s Tales of Adventure (Storyteller’s Café) – Breakfast and Brunch – after 2:30 pm there are no characters
Paradise PierDonald’s Seaside Buffet – PCH Grill is a small venue and characters are only at Breakfast – this dining experience is known for the best character interaction.

There are 2 parks at Disneyland Resort – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park – and they are only separated by a small courtyard-like area so park hoppers are definitely the way to go with tickets at Disneyland. Disneyland Park is very similar to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort except it’s a bit smaller – or at least seems smaller. This is where the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open Summer 2019.
Note: With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge scheduled to open Summer 2019, non-Star Wars fans should plan to visit NOW before opening date.

Disney California Adventure is similar to Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort. The two new attractions, Incredicoaster and Guardian’s of the Galaxy, were definitely on my “to-do” list as they were not open yet during my 2016 trip! Neither disappointed but Guardian’s of the Galaxy was my favorite – but one of my favorite rides at Walt Disney World is Tower of Terror and Guardian’s is a similar experience with different theming and a bit different experience but close.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa also offers a secret entrance for guests staying at that hotel. This hotel sits “inside” Disney’s California Adventure and offers great views of the park.

And, if you are looking for a quiet spot to get away from it all – the Alfresco Tasting Terrace is the perfect little spot!

The Downtown Disney area offers shopping, dining and entertainment with many outdoor areas to enjoy during the day and at night. Splitsville is new to Disneyland and more new venues will be opening soon!

I also highly recommend adding MaxPass to your resort package. MaxPass will allow you to make advance FASTPASS selections the day of your visit and also includes PhotoPass. If you aren’t heading in to the parks first thing in the morning, be sure to walk over to the Monorail entrance to activate your park tickets – just enter the Monorail area, scan your ticket and exit – you can then make FASTPASS selections if you have MaxPass. Without MaxPass you will only be able to use the paper FASTPASS system once inside the parks. With MaxPass you can have mobile FASTPASS selections and also paper FASTPASS selections for the same or overlapping times.

The PhotoPass system is a bit different at Disneyland than Walt Disney World… for ride photos you will want to take a screenshot of your photo code and enter it into your Disneyland Mobile App as the photos do not automatically capture to your account like they do with your My Disney Experience (MDE) account at Walt Disney World.

And, once you link your park ticket to your mobile app, take a photo of it to save to your phone in case your internet is not working once at or in the parks. They can scan the photo of your park ticket instead of needing to open your mobile app.

Disneyland Resort is a great way to kick off a Southern California vacation – Disney/San Diego/Hollywood – and we can book it all for you! At Paradise Pier there is an Alamo Car Rental office which offers no drop fee to pick up at one location and return to another. So, for example, you could rent a car at Disneyland and drop it in San Diego for your return flight home without any additional drop fees.

If you are looking for a laid back, more spontaneous Disney vacation experience, where you will often see the characters roaming around and interacting with Guests, then Disneyland is for you! Contact me to help you book and plan your Disneyland Resort vacation!!

The Disney Dream – Very Merrytime Cruise

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

The Disney Dream was the very first cruise ship I sailed on in 2012 and then again in 2014. I wasn’t a Travel Agent in 2012 yet and still learning my way as a Travel Agent in 2014 so I haven’t written a blog about my experience on the Disney Dream…

The Disney Dream’s first voyage was in January 2011 and it was last refurbished October 2015. As the first of the larger Disney cruise ships to set sail, the Disney Dream is still just as magical as her sister ship, the Disney Fantasy.

So, here you go! I actually sailed on the Disney Dream early November 2018, this was a regular Disney cruise experience, and then again early December 2018 which was a Very Merrytime cruise experience.
The Very Merrytime sailings offer many fun holiday activities in addition to the normal onboard fun! This was my second Very Merrytime Disney Cruise experience, my first was on the Disney Magic out of the port of Miami. This time we sailed out of Port Canaveral for both November and December. On a Very Merrytime cruise, you experience the magic of the holidays before even boarding the ship!

And remember to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app before you sail away! The Navigator app will help you locate experiences while onboard, check out dining menus and the drink of the day and stay in touch with your fellow cruisers via the messaging feature.

The holidays seem to make anything more magical, even a Disney Cruise! The ship was all decked out for the holidays and there was a tree lighting ceremony, a gingerbread house as well as gingerbread house making classes, even Castaway Cay was decorated for the holidays, and Santa and Mrs. Claus sailed with us too! And, as a special touch, many of the characters were also dressed in their holiday themed costumes.

Once onboard I always head straight to Cabanas for lunch and I get a big plate full of fresh peel ‘n’ eat shrimp and then dessert – what can I say, it’s vacation!

Around 1:30 pm my stateroom is ready, and I head there to unpack and then go explore the ship – catching up with crew members that I have come to know from my previous sailings on the Disney Dream and meeting new crew members too. This is time for you and your family to also start enjoying the pools and water slide onboard and check out the kids clubs and other activity areas. And if you would like to make any changes to your dining rotation you can do this now as well.

After the safety drill (which is required attendance for all cruisers), we head to the upper decks for the Sail-Away Party. Our favorite location to view from is the deck just above the pool area/stage on the port side of the ship.

Once we set sail the shops open and I can check out the Disney Cruise Line souvenirs – I like to get a new Tervis cup with each cruise. And then it’s time to get ready for the evening activities – Broadway-like musical productions, dinner and other fun activities for adults and children. And there is even a move theater onboard – movies are free to watch and they always show the most recent Disney movie – while the movie is included with your cruise, popcorn, snacks and beverages for your movie are available for a fee.

My husband was cruising with me and we always choose a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah or Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah. We enjoy going out on our verandah to “feel” the ocean and we always choose the Starboard side because we love seeing Castaway Cay as we enter the port!

Disney Cruise Line has thought of everything to ensure first-rate comfort and convenience during your cruise. We have never felt cramped or crowded in our stateroom when cruising with Disney. The Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah design features include:
      A sitting area with a couch, TV and desk
      A heavy privacy curtain to separate the sitting and sleeping areas
      A “split bath” (in most) that includes a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and tub and a half bathroom with a
      vanity, sink and toilet
      A leather-upholstered ottoman with hollow inside storage
      Cabinets with storage space in the living area
     And my favorite feature – Elevated wooden bed frames for under-bed storage of suitcases and other large items
For the kids (or kids at heart), a mural of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Wendy and her brothers soaring through a starry sky reveals itself when the upper-berth bed is pulled down!

And don’t forget about the fun and amazing towel art that the talented crew leave in your stateroom – you can also sometimes find towel art around the pool area too!

The itinerary for both November and December were 2 ports of call – Nassau and Castaway Cay – with the December itinerary offering an additional day at sea as well.

My preference for Nassau is to stay onboard and enjoy the ship – movies, pools, water slides, games, dining, entertainment and all the soft serve ice cream you want – IT’S ALL INCLUDED!

Every Disney cruise that departs from Port Canaveral or Miami stops at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, consistently rated by Disney Guests as their favorite port of call – and MY favorite port of call when cruising with Disney!! And, as I mentioned previously, the island was decked for the holidays with a large Christmas tree greeting you on arrival.

Castaway Cay is reserved exclusively for Disney cruisers and the ship will dock right at the island to allow you to come and go as you please while enjoying experiences such as snorkeling, boating, swimming and sunbathing and bicycles can also be rented if you want to explore the island’s nature trails. While all areas of the island can be reached by walking, an island tram offers four stops to help you easily get where you want to go.

Your “Key to the World” card will work for all purchases on Castaway Cay except at the local post office where you can send mail to your loved ones back home with a Bahamian postage stamp; the post card postage rate is approximately $0.70 USD each. Dining on the island is also included as part of your cruise package with covered outdoor restaurants serving burgers, BBQ chicken and ribs. Alcoholic beverages are available for purchase and, if you are traveling without children, Disney offers “adult only” areas at Castaway Cay – Serenity Bay is a secluded beach exclusively for adults (where you just might encounter Captain Jack Sparrow strolling the beach!) and families can have fun together at the Castaway Family Beach. Cabanas are also offered for rent in both beach areas but it’s best to reserve in advance during your online check-in as they are very popular and sell out quickly!

I am a runner and since I have started cruising with Disney Cruise Line they have offered a 5K on Castaway Cay – IT’S INCLUDED. It’s very informal and you can run or walk. You also receive a race bib and medal at the finish line. If you want to participate in the 5K on Castaway Cay, you can register at Guest Services when you board your cruise and your registration ticket will be added to your onboard activities. Your “Key to the World” and photo ID are required the day of your event to participate. The 3.1-mile out-and-back event is free and family friendly – open to walkers and runners ages 10 and older. The race takes place first thing in the morning on the island, typically with a meeting time onboard of 8 am, and the runners are the first group to disembark the ship. The vibe of the event is casual, a fun experience worth the early wake-up!

Cruising with Disney is a very casual experience – I wear comfortable dresses and flip flops while my husband wears shorts and polos – even to dinner. The only exceptions are if you reserve adult only dining experiences at Palo or Remy which both have dress codes. And, unlimited room service is also included!!

I enjoy the rotational dining exclusive to Disney Cruise Line, experiencing a different restaurant and menu with the same servers each evening – my favorite is Animator’s Palate on all 4 Disney ships.

It’s fun to get to know your servers and I requested the same service team for my December cruise that I had for my November cruise and, even though it was a month later and they had served many Guests since me, they remembered everything about my likes and dislikes! Amazing service is just one of the things that keeps me coming back to Disney for my vacations – land or sea!

In addition to Castaway Cay and exceptional dining experiences, Disney Cruise Line offers many entertainment options including Broadway-like musical productions, viewings of recently released Disney movies, character meet & greets that you often cannot find at the parks, deck parties, dance clubs, karaoke, trivia and so much more – be sure to say hi to Tony from Spain when you cruise on the Disney Dream!

Some experiences are included, and some are offered for a fee. There is definitely enough to keep everyone – adults and children – busy on a Disney Cruise if you aren’t the lounging at the pool or beach type. And Disney is the only cruise line allowed to display fireworks at sea!

There are also “adult only” experiences and areas on the ships, including spa services and mixology classes, so if you are traveling without children, which we normally do, you will be able to find adult spaces.

And be sure to purchase your photo package in advance for the best price – you can then just pick up your photo prints or digital images from Shutters on your final morning.

There is so much more I could share about cruising with Disney but then this would be a very long blog… If you are thinking about a Disney Cruise Line vacation, reach out to me and I will help you make the most of your magical experience!

Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White

Snow White

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

I recently experienced the new Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, which opened December 16, 2018.

If you have eaten at Artist Point previously, you will notice a few changes… First, the check-in host is now located at the bottom of the ramp before you get to Territory Lounge.

And, while the layout of the restaurant has not changed much, there are new “rustic” features, inspired by the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, creating an Enchanted Forest.

If you have dined at Artist Point in the past, the menu cover will be familiar but the menu selections and experience have changed.

This is now a prix fixe dinner and Snow White, along with Dopey and Grumpy and the Wicked Queen, make appearances for meet & greets as well as song and dance performances.

For this prix fixe dining experience, you will have shared appetizers for the table. However, they bring enough for each Guest to have their own “small plate”. My favorite was the Wicked Shrimp Cocktail (center photo).

For your entrée, you will choose individually from the menu selections. With our group of 6 we ordered Magic Mirror Slow-braised Veal Shank, Royal Prime Rib Roast and Brother’s Grimm Roasted Chicken. Of these, I had the veal, which was DELICIOUS – I requested the Roasted Brussels Sprouts instead of the Wilted Winter Greens and they went very well with my veal and Celery Root Mashed – a great side to steak or chicken, tastier than mashed potatoes with half the carbs – it tasted a lot like mashed cauliflower and was delicious and light, perfect with my veal. As with all Disney dining experiences, there are also children’s selections on the menu.

And, for dessert, you have a shared experience again with plenty for everyone at the table. I love dessert but the “Poison” Apple was my favorite – I might have eaten two!

At the end of your meal your server will deliver a very special treat…
The Hunter’s Gift to the Queen – Crackled Maple Popcorn with Ganache Hearts – presented with white gloves in a royal treasure chest!

Even the adult beverages are themed! Our group enjoyed the Enchanted Apple (vodka martini) and Evil to the Core (berry margarita).

And, there is a PhotoPass Photographer on hand at the end of your meal to capture you with the Wicked Queen so be sure to purchase Memory Maker with your resort package! It’s a fun but challenging Photo opp – you want to smile for a photo but you also want to follow character with the Queen…

This is a fun character dining experience. If you are a Snow White or Wicked Queen fan, or you just love those cute Dwarfs, be sure to make a reservation for your next Disney vacation! Advance reservations are a must (they were turning Guests away when we checked in for our reservation) and are currently available via your My Disney Experience account and some Dining Plans are accepted.

Please note: Disney Characters join guests for dinner only. Character appearances are subject to change. Menu items are subject to change.

Shared Photo and Video Credit with William Coleman

Child Anxiety on Vacation

Simple Ideas for Lowering Childhood Anxiety on a Disney Parks Trip

Have you dreamt of taking your children to Disney, but worry about the way one or more may react due to crowds, an unknown environment, and over stimulation?

Having traveled numerous times with children who are prone to, what I call, over excitement, I have a few tips!

1. Children under eight will benefit greatly from a stroller. I love to bring my trusty umbrella stroller. Any ride with a comfy back, and sun cover (this is a must) will do! Strollers act as more than just a ride. The shade can be used for blocking the sun along with the feeling of protection against crowds. When not riding in the stroller kids can occupy themselves by pushing it. A stroller is an all around win!

2. Bring a new or favorite toy! It can be used as a mental escape as well as something to hug and hold in order to promote a feeling of safety. While visiting Magic Kingdom, just this year, my youngest son was overwhelmed with the environment. The heat, the crowd, and just all the unknowns, were working his little nerves. I watched him engage with a beloved Toy Story hero, as we were exiting our first stop. It was a must buy. As my older son and I were walking ahead of, my newly appointed space ranger now zooming through the galaxy, I explained the reason we bought him this was to get his mind off his worries. This time the older brother glanced back and said, “wow, ok that did work, he’s happy”. We went from pre-meltdown, to a space ranger with one purchase… why? Mental escape, by way of a special item to focus their energy on. It works wonders!

3. Eat outside! While every parent loves a good sit-down meal, this can be a very stressful time for little ones prone to anxiety….unknown foods, close spaces, having to be quiet, need I go on? Save the stress and sit outside. Disney has many quick service options, with outdoor seating. There’s also the option of bringing lunch. Disney allows you to bring any food and non-alcoholic drinks into the parks. Keep in mind, glass and hard side coolers are NOT permitted.

4. Shorter park trips. I know, with the price we pay to go to Disney World we feel like we should be there all day. Now listen to me, I feel the same way. If I’m with my travel ladies, I’m there from open to close. When we’re with our little ones, that have problems with crowds, they need time to unwind. Plan for down time within the day. I find showing up early, and leaving for a mid day swim at the hotel is perfect! A hotel break gives the kids time to cool down and relax. Then its back to the parks 😊 for less sun, the nighttime shows, and lower crowds!