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понедельник, 4 ноября 2013 г.

Family Holidays: Florida, the Bahamas, Disney Cruise



Let me just start by saying that I am not a fan of cruises; I do not feel safe in the sea, and figure that I probably drowned in at least one past life :).

However, for this cruise I would make an exception because of our beloved daughter! She is now six years old and absolutely adores everything Disney. We had already been to Disneyland in Paris so it was time to explore what the US had to offer for Disney fans! I started to plan our trip by looking at the theme park, of course, but then I thought it would be preferable to go on a Disney cruise first. 


The Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of cruise destinations in Europe, Alaska, the Californian coast, the Caribbean and the Bahamas, there are even transatlantic Disney cruises. 


In 2013-2014 the company has 4 distinct cruises on offer on 4 ships:

Cruises depart from the following ports (2013, 2014):
Europe: Venice and Barcelona
USA: San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Port Canaveral (Florida), Galveston (Texas)
Canada: Vancouver
Puerto Rico: San Juan
 
I imagine that all of the cruises are interesting but in order to firm up our vacations I focused my planning on a Caribbean cruise or a cruise in the Bahamas with a visit to the private island Castaway Cay. This island is owned by Disney and can only be reached by cruise ship. It's like Disneyland, only on an island with white sand surrounded by azure ocean. It is a real dream island for all children (and adults)!



The duration of the cruises varies from 3 nights to 2 weeks. I had a shorter cruise in mind, such as a 4 night cruise in the Bahamas. Our departure was from the Port of Miami with a visit to Disney Island Castaway Cay, the capital of the Bahamas (Nassau), and the island of Key West on the cruise ship Disney Wonder (departure: 9th April 2014). 

The cost of the trip depends on which cruise cabin category you choose: the cheapest cabin (Inside
Stateroom without a window) for 2 Adults and 1 child of 6 years old cost 1,176 Euros, including all meals on the ship; the more expensive cabin (Suite with Verandah) costs you 1,500-1,800 Euros.



You can get more information on routes and ships, as well as the cost of cruises, on the Disney web page, where you can also book and pay online for your chosen cruise.


The main goal of all Disney cruises is entertainment in all forms. This comprises meeting Disney characters, and enjoying musicals, fireworks over the ocean, deck parties, and a lot more. A lot of fun can be had whatever your age, with special programs for children, teens and adults.


All ships have special zones for kids of different ages and with varying interests. For example, in the
Vibe zone - exclusively for those aged 14-17 years - there is a lounge with a variety of technology where teens can listen to music, watch TV or play video games. Parties and discos happen here too ;), and I’m sure that the décor will please this age group, even if it’s not to my taste :).

For younger children (11-14 years) there is the
Edge zone, which is also a bit hi-tech with music, video games and entertainment.

For the littler ones (3-12 years)
Disney's Oceaneer Club and Disney's Oceaneer Lab offer excellent entertainment. There are fascinating games based on themes from everyone’s favorite Disney movies (Monsters Academy, Tinker Bell, etc.). Kids can also watch these movies on the big screen in this zone.

And, furthermore, for really little kids (from 3 months up to 3 years), you can go to the It's A Small World Nursery (on the Disney Dream, Disney Magic and the Disney Fantasy) or Flounder's Reef Nursery (on the Disney Wonder). These are like a kindergarten on board the cruise ship and for a fee of USD6 per hour your kids can be left under the supervision of the professional entertainers.

Water sports on board:
One of the most popular attractions on the Disney cruises is the Aquaduck (on Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy). This is a 765 foot water slide in a transparent tube that starts on the 12th deck and goes down 4 decks into Lazy River. There are said to be stunning views of the ocean and the ship for those that manage to take the plunge :)… Please note, however, that there are height restrictions enforced, with only those over 107 cm or 42 inches tall allowed on the Aquaduck. A quick tip: avoid a long line-up by going on the Aquaduck in the evening during the dinner and shows.

 

On board, there are also swimming pools: Mickey's Pool (on the Disney Dream, Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy), Donald's Pool (on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy), and Goofy's Pool (on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder).

These pools feature favorite Disney characters and there is even a big screen above the pool on which movies are shown. While the kids are in the water, parents can relax in the sun on the loungers around the pool.

There is also a poolside entertainment program which features, for example, a pirate party with Disney characters.
A café nearby offers a handy place to eat.

The Disney cruise ships also have special areas, such as
AquaLab (on Disney Fantasy and Disney Magic) and Nemo's Reef (on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy), where kids can play around and experiment with water in the form of geysers and fountains and so forth.

All ships have a separate quiet area with a swimming pool that is just for adults (Quiet Cove Pool) and there is also a Jacuzzi and a bar where you can enjoy cocktails with views of the ocean and have some grown-up time.
The Disney ships also have nightclubs for adults as well as spas and fitness centers.


Dining: There are a lot of restaurants, cafés, and bars on board - you will not go hungry :). There are three main restaurants on the ships where guests can eat dinner:

Animator's Palate (on all ships). During dinner you can watch a show, which is repeated several times, giving everyone a chance to watch it.

On the Disney Magic there is a restaurant called
Lumiere's, which has been designed in line with the movie ‘Beauty and the Beast.’

On all ships there is a system of rotation for all guests. It is organized so that everyone can visit all the main restaurants and watch all the shows, if they so wish. Ship’s staff can arrange everything for you.
The restaurants offer a children's menu and each child gets a personalized cup featuring Mickey Mouse, as well as pencils and coloring books to keep them entertained while waiting for food.
Some drinks and alcohol are subject to an extra fee. There are also restaurants exclusively for adults, Palo (on all four ships), for example, is an Italian restaurant that is highly recommended, although has a surcharge  of USD25 per person.

During the day there are a variety of restaurants and pizzerias where you can eat.
Every night there is a delightful evening program with great musicals and shows and, yes, more meetings with Disney characters! As I previously noted, Disney is the best at entertaining!
There are even theaters (with 3D movies and a variety of live stage performances) on all ships: the Buena Vista Theatre and the Walt Disney Theatre. I'm sure that kids and adults alike will have an unforgettable experience!

Destination places during a cruise on the Bahamas:
- Nassau: I’d recommend visiting the water park in the famous Atlantis hotel:
Aquaventure (for a fee). You can also just relax on the white sandy beach or go for a swim with the dolphins.

-
Castaway Cay: Disney Island - a must-see! You get to spend the whole day there and everyone will be happy, children and adults!

You can take pictures with your favorite Disney characters, dance with Lilo and Stitch, take a ride on the water slides, and experience the ‘Flying Dutchman’ ship from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie... Don’t forget sunscreen though!

In addition to the classic Disney-brand entertainment you can book all kinds of private tours on the Island. Try out snorkeling, bike tours, and kayaking and make sure not to miss out on
Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure where the kids can not only see stingrays but feed them too.
If you have had your fill of non-stop entertainment then check out the island’s private beach, Serenity Bay, exclusively for adults.

I’m sure that the other Disney cruises will be just as memorable and fun as ours!
I’d definitely still prefer a shorter cruise, 7 nights may be a bit too long I think, unless you’re a big fan of sea cruises. However, a 4-5 night cruise is just right! We will try it and share our experience after the cruise!

Bon voyage!
Look forward to your feedback!

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