Change to DCL Onboard Booking Limits

In addition to new itineraries and cruise dates, this week Disney Cruise Line also announced a change in the time limit for using an onboard booking and receiving the benefits.

Prior to November 2013, you could book a future cruise while onboard your Disney Cruise and use it anytime in the future.  This led to many bookings that would need to be moved to a new date before the penalties set in.  Some reservations had been moved many, many times!  At some point, there needed to be the realization that you weren’t going to use that reservation.

That’s when Disney changed the policy and added a limit.  Bookings made prior to November 2013 were given until November 30, 2015 to be used or the onboard booking benefits would drop off of the reservation.  Any future bookings, however, were only given 18 months to be used.

This arbitrary number of months caused a lot of problems for future cruisers.  We started hearing a new reason for cancellations – “I can’t use the booking before the benefits will expire so I might as well cancel.”  We also were hearing back from those just off cruises that they didn’t book onboard due to the new time limits.

We figured that 18 months was a problem from the start.  There are a different types of people who make an onboard booking.  I’m going to focus on just two types.  Both of them are trying to save money on their future cruise and therefore have done their research.  They know that booking onboard is one of the ways to get a discount and onboard credit.

The first group are those who cruise every couple years.  They cruise pretty much at the same time each year due to the kid’s school break schedule or vacation time from work.  The problem is that 18 months is not long enough for them so they wouldn’t book onboard.

The second group are those who cruise every year.  Clearly, 18 months should be enough, right?  No, because they understand how to get the best price with Disney.  You book as soon as the dates are released.  That means if you normally cruise in January every year, if you book onboard your cruise, you would have to book for the following year.  However, to get the best pricing, you should have booked as soon as the following year’s bookings opened.  By the time you get onboard, you already have the next vacation booked, so it doesn’t do you any good to book onboard as you would need to use that booking within six months of your next cruise.

It seems as though Disney noticed this was happening and this week modified the time limit to now be 24 months.  While I would have preferred to see three or four years like Norwegian Cruise Line allows, or at a minimum 25 months (to account for shifts in school breaks/holidays/etc.), I think this is a vast improvement.

If the reason for the change is the reduction in the number of onboard bookings being made, I do think they will see an increase now.  If it is due to the number of cancellations, I don’t thing this will help.  Remember, when the rule went into effect, everyone booking before the rule was given approximately 24 more months.  It was only the new bookings that were given 18 months.  That means the majority of those who cancelled due to the time limit, were doing so because the limit was 24 months, not 18.

I am happy with the change however.  There was a need for it to happen.  For those who are sorry they didn’t book onboard or cancelled existing reservations due to the limits, don’t feel bad.  You helped Disney to see that the 18 months was too short a time.  Without your actions, there wouldn’t have been a reason to change it.  You sent a message and it appears it was heard loud and clear.

Early 2016 Disney Cruise Line Bookings Open Thursday

Disney Cruise Line has announced the itineraries for the first part of 2016 today. Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members can begin booking tomorrow with bookings open to everyone on Thursday, October 30.  Contact us today to get ready to book your date as soon as possible.  Or better yet, use this form to submit your request to us.

All four ships will be staying in the Caribbean and Bahamas for the spring months. Dates have only been released through the end of April. Here are the itineraries:

Disney Dream: Sailing alternating 3 and 4 night sailings from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas with stops at Nassau and Castaway Cay. 3 night sailings are on Fridays and 4 night sailings are on Mondays.

Disney Fantasy: Sailing alternating 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings on Saturdays from Port Canaveral.

  • Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay – January 2, 16, 30, February 13, 27, March 12, 26, April 9, 23, 2016
  • Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Castaway Cay – January 9, 23, February 6, 20, March 5, 19, April 2, 16, 2016
  • Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth, Castaway Cay – April 30, 2016

Disney Magic will be sailing out of Miami and Port Canaveral. For Miami, the sailings will be:

  • 4 night Nassau, Castaway Cay, Key West – December 27, 2015
  • 3 night to Castaway Cay – December 31, 2015 and January 3, 2016
  • 4 night to Castaway Cay, Nassau, Key West – January 6, 20, 2016
  • 5 night Western with Cozumel, Castaway Cay – January 10, 24, 2016
  • 5 night Western with Grand Cayman, Castaway Cay – January 15, 29, 2016

For sailings out of Port Canaveral, we have:

  • 3 night with Nassau, Castaway Cay – February 4, 11, 18, 25, March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, 2016
  • 4 night with Nassau, Castaway Cay – February 7, 14, 21, 28, March 6, 13, 20, 27, 2016
  • 7 night with Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Castaway Cay – April 10, 26, 2016
  • 7 night with Tortola, St. Thomas, Castaway Cay – April 3, 26, 2016

Disney Wonder will be sailing out of Galveston, San Juan and Miami! Here is what we have from Galveston:

  • 6 night repositioning from Galveston to San Juan – St. Thomas, Tortola – January 4, 2016

Here is what is showing from San Juan:

  • 7 night Southern Caribbean with ports of call in Barbados, Grenada, Martinique, Antigua, St. Kitts – January 10, 17, 24, 31
  • 5 night Southern Caribbean repositioning with ports of call in St. Kitts, Tortola and Castaway Cay – February 7, 2016

Here is what we are seeing from Miami:

  • 4 night with Castaway Cay, Nassau, Key West – February 17, March 2, 16, 30, April 13, 27, 2016
  • 5 night Western with Cozumel, Castaway Cay – February 21, March 6, 20, April 3, 17, 2016
  • 5 night Western with Grand Cayman, Castaway Cay – February 12, 26, March 11, 25, April 8, 22, 2016

Which itinerary are you most interested in?

 

“Can We Book 2016 Disney Cruise Dates Yet?”

We have been getting a lot of questions about booking 2016 cruise dates for Disney Cruise Line.  This started around the time that Disney released the remaining 2015 cruise dates.  The answer for the most part is that we have our suspicions when it will happen, but won’t know for certain until they are announced by Disney Cruise Line.

Disney Magic in St. Lucia

Disney Magic in St. Lucia

Based on the past few years, we do believe that Disney will divide the year into thirds again.  We think that the first part of the year, before the “Summer” season, will be released before the holidays this year.  This could be as soon as next week or as late as mid-December.  We do expect a release on Tuesday or Wednesday for Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members with a general public release the following day.  We usually get a feeling when the release is going to happen and our feeling right now is that it will happen sooner rather than later.

What do we think we will see in terms of itineraries?  Probably nothing different than Winter/Spring 2015 with the Magic on Western Caribbean sailings, the Fantasy on Eastern (though we do expect Tortola to be added), the Wonder sailing out of Miami or Galveston with Caribbean and Bahamas sailings and the Dream sailing 3 and 4 nights to the Bahamas.

What does this mean for you?  If you are looking for a Winter/Spring 2015 sailing on Disney, let your Travel On A Dream agent know!  Don’t have an existing booking?  Use our handy form to request a quote.  Tell us when you want to cruise, who’s traveling, where you want to go and what type of room you want.  When the pricing is available, we’ll get you a quote right away.  Be sure to let us know which category of Castaway Club you are in so we also know which date to book your reservation!

DSC_0335

“Mom, can we skip Disney next year?”

This blog was guest written by our friend Kristen MacWilliams following her Adventures By Disney Costa Rica tour this summer. Thanks Kristen!

“Mom, can we skip Disney next year?” asked one of my daughters last summer?

My first thought was – Where have I gone wrong?? But my second thought was –Hmmmm, maybe it might be a good time to take an Adventures by Disney trip with them!

If you’re not familiar with Adventures by Disney, and I’ve sure run into a ton of people who’ve never heard of it, it’s basically the division of Disney that does group tours all around the word: North America, Central/South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, Asia. There are lots of companies who do this sort of work, but none who do it quite like Disney.

I knew this first hand, because I had gone on an ABD trip in 2010, without the kids, to visit Hollywood and Disneyland. It was a fantastic experience, and while my kids were young then, I knew one day I would want to take them on a trip like this: where every detail is taken care of for you and you get to do things the average visitor just does not get to do.

So we pulled up the Adventures by Disney web site and started investigating trips. My girls would be 10 and 13 at trip time, and I knew it had to be something that would be active and have a “cool” factor. I narrowed down the nearly overwhelming list of choices ABD offers using a few other simple criteria important to me: cost, time of year we could travel, and my perceived appeal to kids the same age as mine. I knew we would all be miserable if they had no one to bond with (aside: another reason ABD is great for families!). I ended up showing the kids two sets of itineraries: Costa Rica and Wyoming (my oldest had just done a big project on Yellowstone and had expressed an interest in visiting). Their choice was unanimous, and for the same reason – Costa Rica for the ziplining!

Tracy suggested the July 12th trip, which was billed as Teen Centric, and this turned out to be perfect for us!

We decided to arrive a day earlier than the tour started to get our feel for the place before the official start of the trip. I chose to arrive early rather than extend the trip at the end for a few reasons, and knowing what I know now, I would make the opposite choice. But it’s really a personal decision, and certainly a lot of people just follow the plan of the trip without adding any extra nights before or after.

We had a layover in Orlando on our way from Boston to San Jose, Costa Rica, and it was very strange to be in Orlando and not get off and visit the parks!

0 -On Our Way

We arrived in San Jose, in the rain, mid-afternoon on Friday, and ABD greeted us and ferried us directly off to our hotel. The hotel was beautiful and we spent some time wandering around, exploring it, and taking a nap. We had had a very early morning and traveling always exhausts me!

1 - Hotel View

2 - Hotel View

Saturday was a day on our own too – we spent it shopping (I picked up a local SIM card for use in my phone so I’d have access to data while in country), and a taxi driver took us to a restaurant in the city that was a big hit with us. Great food and an even better atmosphere.

3 - CR Restaurant

4 - CR Restaurant

5 - CR Restaurant

6 - CR Restaurant

We also walked through a pedestrian mall nearby where the cacophony of the people was the prime attraction. We even saw a taste of Disney.

7 - CR Street

Then we found another taxi to take us back to the hotel (that is actually a story in itself, but I won’t side track now).

Meanwhile we had also come across our guides, Ronald and Frankie, who were busy greeting fellow adventurers as they arrived, and giving us instructions for the next morning. They seemed almost apologetic to tell us we’d need to meet just after breakfast at 7:30 in a conference room before boarding a bus for our first adventure. No need for an apology – we were thrilled to be on our way!

The next morning in the conference room each family introduced themselves to the group. We had 10 families, for a total of 36 people. I believe this is about the largest group ABD accommodates (my trip in 2010 had 22 people). All of the interested teens, ages 13-18, were whisked out of the room to be issued Nikon cameras for the duration of the trip to capture Costa Rica through their eyes. Completely unexpected and a very cool bit of magic to start the trip! We had 4 kids from 9-12, and the rest were teens, with the bulk of them in the 13-15 range. They were all fantastically behaved and formed quick friendships. I don’t think the cameras hurt in that regard! David was the photography guy, and as we learned later, he is head of photography at Disney. He was amazing to talk to, and having him on the trip was a HUGE part of the magic for all of us.

Our first adventure was to board two small planes, each of which carried about 20 passengers. We all had to be weighed before boarding – yeah, that kind of plane! It’s a pretty one, don’t you think?

8 - Plane

Plus, the scenery during the 30 minute flight was amazing.

9 - Plane View

We were headed to Tortuguero, which can only be reached by plane or by boat. Even a bus ride to get us to a boat would have been 4-5 hours, we were told, so we were happy to take the flight!

When we first booked this trip Tracy called me back to tell me that our hotel for the second night of the trip would be “rustic”, with no air conditioning, no TV, but a private bathroom. It sounded a bit, well, sketchy, but I figured, I can handle anything for one night, right? Well, I needn’t have worried – the Laguna Lodge was rustic, but in a gorgeous sort of way. The rooms were all wood paneling (walls, floor, ceiling) and the 3 low beds filled the room. No air conditioning, but a ceiling fan and another portable fan were plenty to keep us cool, and the bathroom was modern, and yes, private! We had a beautiful front porch with rockers that we never had time to really use!

10 - TortLodge

We toured the canals of the Tortuguero National Park where local guides helped point our wildlife, and the teens with cameras tried out their new equipment and skills.

10- Tort

15 - Tort

13 - Tort

12 - Tort

11- Tort

14 - Tort

We learned about the massive sea turtle conservation efforts going on there, and how it has totally transformed the area. And we visited the village of Tortuguero, where about 1200 people live.

19 - Tort

18 -Tort

It was our official Welcome Dinner that night! We’d had a full day of interacting with one another and some really cool sights and experiences, but no chance to actually celebrate! We played games, ate food, and generally had a fantastic time.

19 - TortPIggy

21 - Limbo

20 - Limbo

After dinner we had the opportunity to do a sea turtle walk to see the turtles coming in from the ocean to lay their eggs. It gets dark early in Costa Rica – pitch dark by 6:30 pm!

We started out about 8 pm from the restaurant and no sooner had we headed into the woods towards the beach than the skies opened up and dumped on us. Most of us were not prepared with rain gear – the night had seemed to be clearing. They had us waiting in a holding area while their spotters roamed the beach for a turtle coming in. Then it started to thunder and lightning. And the already heavy rain got even heavier. To say we were drenched is the understatement of the trip. After about 45 minutes of waiting, my youngest had had enough. She was shivering and had lost all desire to see a turtle, and begged to go back. I was incredibly disappointed, since seeing the sea turtles was something I had really been looking forward to, but sometimes the kids’ needs have to come first. Our guide led us back to the hotel grounds before dashing back to be with the group. My oldest stayed and she said they eventually got a quick glimpse of a turtle heading back into the ocean after abandoning her effort to dig and lay, something they call a “half moon”. Unfortunately we were not permitted to take photos during this experience since any flash or light from a phone screen would have been distracting to the turtles.

The next day was a long travel day for us – a short boat ride from the hotel to a waiting area where our bus was, and then a few hours on the bus to a restaurant for lunch. During the ride we passed lots and lots of private homes on rural roads, some quite upscale, and others quite not. Several of our kids on the bus started playing some games that would become a theme throughout.

Based on the towns we were driving through towards lunch time I started to have some doubts about what kind of restaurant we were in for. Frankie and Ronald both commented how fantastic it was and while I trusted them, I just was not sure. About an hour out, they came around asking us for a choice of appetizer (ceviche or salad) and entrée (fish, chicken or beef). I think 90% of us chose the ceviche, which is supposed to be a specialty of the restaurant.

When we finally pulled up to the restaurant my doubts fell away. The restaurant was actually one that could have fit into my own city. The ceviche was in fact superb, and was a large portion. I could have walked away full after that.

22 - Ceviche

But we still had our entrees (beef for me) and then dessert – probably the most delicious cake I have ever had! Strangely enough most of the kids thought it was “soggy”, but most of the adults could not get enough. As full as I was, I had to tear myself away. There’s always next time!

From the restaurant we drove to a pineapple plantation. Do you know how pineapples grow? I thought I did, but I was wrong! We hopped on the back of a tractor and got a tour through the fields. Our plantation guide, Michael “Dole Rockefeller” quizzed us and regaled us with pineapple facts. He was in fact, hilarious (some of the adults were in tears from laughing so hard), and this is made even more amazing when I think how hard it must be to be funny in a language not your native.

24 - Pine

We also toured the packing plant – those pineapples come down the belt pretty fast! Afterwards we got to drink and eat some pineapple snacks!

25 - Pine

26 - Pine

Late afternoon we arrived at our next hotel in the Arenal area. It was dark by the time we got there, so we couldn’t get a feel for the layout of the place that night – it was a sprawling resort with separate buildings and roads. We had the evening to ourselves, and the next morning it was time to go – ziplining!!!

The morning dawned rainy, so the three of us donned ponchos. We were not smart enough to actually bring our own raincoats which hung on hooks at home, so we had to use the ponchos ABD gave us as a welcome gift upon arrival. We got suited up with our harnessed and helmets, then took the sky tram to the top of the forest!

31 - Zip

32 - Zip

We had two short “practice” zips before we had to commit. Those two short ones were still near the infrastructure, and if you wanted to opt out there was still a way to get back to the base building. If you went on the third one, the only way to get back was to keep on zipping!

Some of the kids were small (light) enough that they had what they called a “taxi” where one of the ziplining guys would ride with them, to give enough weight to get them all the way across. My youngest was offered this and she was happy to have a buddy. She had been getting nervous about this the last few days. She went ahead of me, and by the time I got to that landing, she had already moved on with her taxi. I was thrilled to hear she had a huge smile on her face when she landed!

33 - ZipB

It was raining during our first few runs and as completely incredible as the experience was, you could only go so long before the rain started to hurt your eyeballs and you just had to close your eyes. So it felt like an extra special treat when on the first really long zipline, the rain let up and the mist lifted as I started my run, and I got an astonishing view of Lake Arenal with the volcano behind it. I only wish I had photos, but I had nowhere to keep my camera. I’ll never forget it though – I’m just sad I can’t share with you! Everyone in our group absolutely loved this activity – ziplining in a rainforest with a volcano as your backdrop – so, so cool!

33 -Zip

34 - Zip

By the time we all finished we were starving, and next on the agenda was a trip into the town of LaFortuna for lunch on our own. Ronald pointed out a few restaurants he recommended as we pulled into a parking spot, and many of us headed for one of them. We had about an hour and a half before we needed to be back. My kids and I sat down at a table, took a quick look at the menu, and the time, and decided we didn’t want to spend our brief time here in a restaurant – we wanted to shop! So we got up and went to the grocery store for coffee and candy. Then we wandered up and down the streets. My 13 year old bought a Pura Vida tank top and we all got some ice cream and some snacks for “lunch”.

Back at the hotel we were treated to an activity with the Maleku, the native people of Costa Rica. We painted tiny gourds they had already drawn toucans, butterflies, humming birds or frogs on while they talked about some of their history and traditions. This was a low key activity but really fascinating to hear about their culture.

35 - Gourds

36 - Gourds2

An Adventures by Disney trip is never boring – once this activity was over it was time to grab our bathing suits and head to the Hot Springs! There was a light rain which almost made the hot water feel even more special.

37 - Hot Springs

38 - Hot Springs

We had a lovely time soaking in the waters, and enjoyed dinner at a restaurant right there at the springs. It was late when we got back, and we had no trouble falling asleep!

Late nights somehow lead to early mornings, and practically as soon as we woke up it was time to leave for our next destination, with just a quick stop to do some white water rafting on the way!

We rode almost 5 miles of Class III rapids, with 3 or 4 to a raft, plus a guide. We had a blast!

40 - WWR

41 - WWR

42 - WWR

43 - WWR

44 - WWR

45 - WWR

At some point during the day, we passed from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, which means a major climate change. Instead of rain, we had hot sunshine in Guanacaste. The hotel we stayed at on this side is brand new. It was again late when we arrived (though still light!) and we got our rooms and a few minutes to change clothes. It was adult/junior adventurer dinner night! The kids went one way, and the adults went another. Frankie drew the kid straw, while Ronald got to be with the adults. We ate on the beach, with our own personal grill chefs. Fantastic food! The kids also watched “Frozen” during dinner, and afterwards joined us on the beach for s’mores, and David took the teen photographers to the water to do some light work. I think they did a really cool job!

50- Smores

50 - Lights

50 - Lights2

The next day was our final full day – such an amazing week and we can’t believe it’s nearing the end! But what an end! We boarded a huge catamaran and sailed for about 40 minutes to a private beach. But on the way, guess what? Sea turtles! We saw 4 sea turtles swimming in the water! I saw my sea turtles after all!!

We anchored just off a private beach and we had the opportunity to snorkel, paddle board, or just float in the water. Some of us swam over to the beach and explored a cave over there. We did some snorkeling too, and the kids tried to see how many of them they could get on a paddle board!

52 - Paddle

53 - Paddle

54 - Paddle

We had an open bar on the catamaran, and lunch was served too. Their guacamole was almost as good as mine!

57- Cat

It was about noon when we got back, and the kids had swimming on their brains. A few of us lounged by the pool while the kids swam.

That night was our Farewell Dinner. The food was out of this world, and after we ate, we each were asked to share our favorite memory of the trip with the group. The most common answers were ziplining and white water rafting, but one teenage boy said the all you can eat buffets were the best part and some mentioned the guides.

61 - Final

60 - Final

It was a very emotional evening. So many memories made, so many friendships made, wondering when and how we can be together again. And the hardest thing of all – which Adventures by Disney trip to do next??

100 - Sunset

A few notes:
Adventures by Disney trips are not cheap. However, in my opinion, they are totally worth the money. The tour price includes all your hotels, most meals (varies by trip), all published activities (without waiting in lines!), gratuities for covered meals, local tour guides, and luggage handling from stop to stop (this alone is priceless!) (Gratuities for your ABD guides are not covered, but if yours are like mine, you will not be able to give them enough money to show your appreciation for all they have done). I challenge you to put together the same trip for less money, and even if you could save a few dollars, you would have the stress of figuring out where to be each step of the way.

We love meeting new friends on ABD trips. Thanks to Facebook (for me) and Instragram (for my kids), we can easily keep in touch with our new adventurer friends!

Alaska Cruise on the Northern ToaD

We have just returned from an amazing cruise vacation with several Travel On A Dream clients to Alaska on the Celebrity Millennium!  What a fantastic trip!

Celebrity MillenniumWe enjoyed a couple beautiful days in Vancouver before heading to the ship.  If you have time before your Alaska cruise, you should definitely visit this city for a few days.  We thoroughly enjoyed walking along the shoreline path from Canada Place to Stanley Park.  We took the shuttle around the park.

The Celebrity Millennium is a bit smaller than other ships we have been on but this really didn’t take away from the ship.  It was a comfortable size for us.  Sailaway was made more special because our group was invited to the Helipad to experience it.  Here are some views of the city and the Lion’s Gate Bridge from the ship.

DSC_5035Lion's GateThe hardest part of an Alaska cruise, or should I say the most disorienting part, is the daylight.  The further north we sailed, the longer the days.  Towards the end of the trip, we never saw true darkness, which made it difficult for me to sleep.  Because of this, I was usually up very early each morning.

Our weather was exceptional as well.  The temperatures were warmer than we expected, plus the rain was much less than expected.  We had a bit of rain in Juneau towards the end of the day and half of the time in Skagway, but otherwise, it was beautiful!

We saw a lot of wildlife.  We only saw one whale but saw many other animals and birds.  All in all a very memorable trip.  A big part of the memories though does have to be credited to the company that we cruised with.  We had such a good time with everyone!  And since we had been to Alaska before, it made it so much more special to share it with everyone.  Here are some photos from our ports of call and Hubbard Glacier.

DSC_5160DSC_5217DSC_5218DSC_5755DSC_5518DSC_6105DSC_9719DSC_9665DSC_6159DSC_6688DSC_6815DSC_6888DSC_6928See the hidden Mickey?  Stay tuned for our post cruise report coming soon!

It’s not too late to join us on the Southern ToaD, October 4, 2014 on the Disney Magic out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Contact us for details.

2015 Disneyland, Walt Disney World Resort and Aulani Available July 30

Disney has announced that its 2015 packages for Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Aulani will be available to reserve beginning July 30, 2014.  Dates available to book at that time will include all dates where travel ends no more than 499 from the date booked.  This means that nearly all of 2015 will be available when the packages are available.

Put in your request today and our agents will get you a quote just as soon as they are available.  Click on Request A Quote to submit your request today.