Easter Onboard Azamara Journey

In our April newsletter, we shared the first day onboard Azamara Journey from our recent cruise to the Western Caribbean.  When we scheduled our cruise, we didn’t realize that it was sailing over Easter.  We were wondering how this would impact the sailing.  One way was a lovely brunch on Easter Sunday which featured this ice sculpture.


As well as some cool deviled eggs.


We also had an Easter Egg hunt for everyone of all ages.  We attended although we didn’t care to get much chocolate, we helped the kids involved find some of the treats.

I forgot to mention on the first day we had a Cruise Critic meet.  This was very well attended with over 50 people who signed up.  I didn’t spend much time on Cruise Critic before the sailing so I didn’t really know anyone, but it was still fun.  Hors d’oeuvres were brought around as well as beverages.  Everyone introduced themselves.  We did run into a few Cruise Critic members over the course of the cruise which was fun.  Check out their Roll Calls for your upcoming cruise on most cruise lines!

One thing I should mention about myself, I love trivia!  I may not be good at all trivia, but I still like to participate and sometimes even win.  Even if there isn’t a real prize, it’s the thrill of the competition and seeing what I know.  We were happy to see a lot of trivia onboard.  We regularly joined in when we weren’t busy with other activities.

We started out the day with breakfast in Windows Cafe, followed by Trivia in the Living Room.  Because it was Easter, we planned to go to brunch, but did so closer to lunch time.  Before brunch though, we decided to try out the Sanctum Terrace and the thalassotheraphy pool.  We had purchased a cruise long pass for $160 for two.  While not very expensive, we found that we didn’t go as often as we had thought we would (dang trivia!).  Over the course of the cruise, we only went three or four times.



One thing that we really liked onboard Azamara is there were select activities each day where you could participate in to earn prizes.  On the daily Pursuits, activities marked with a * would earn you a signature if you participated.  If it was a competition (like ping pong or trivia), you would get an extra signature if you won.  At the end of the cruise, you took all of your signatures to the Cabaret and turned them in for prizes.  Of course, you know I had to do this!  One of the first things we did each day was see which activities would count.

After brunch, we participated in the Tribond Trivia and then the Easter Egg Hunt.  The cruise staff hid chocolate eggs all around the ship and we had to explore to find them.  We helped some of the kids go in the right direction, including one who found a Godiva chocolate bunny.

Then it was up to the Living Room for ’60s music trivia.  We met a couple from Canada in the morning trivia that day and over the course of the cruise would become trivia teammates.  We had a lot of fun, even if we didn’t win very much.

Tonight we would attend the first of three Chef’s Table meals.  The Chef’s Table was held in Prime C, right outside of the wine cellar.

20160326_152447 20160326_152513

The first dinner didn’t have very many participants, probably because it was so early in the cruise.  Check out the menu.

Italian Chef's Table

The Sommelier went over all the wines we would be having with the meal for each course.  The Executive Chef went over the menu at the beginning and stopped to visit us at the end.  He asked if there were any recipes we would want.  I said “all of them, for all of the dinners!”.  He said he would work on that for me.

After an amazing dinner, we stopped down to the Captain’s Welcome Reception and got a glass of champagne, just in time for the toast.  Afterwards, we decided to call it a night early rather than stay for the entertainment.  It was before 10 pm, but we would be changing our clocks one hour earlier so we ended up getting a good night’s sleep before our arrival in Cozumel.

Disney Offers Free Dining and Discounts for Fall 2016

Today, Disney announced two new promotions for the Fall, 2016.  The first is Free Dining.  Wen you buy a non-discounted package for select arrive dates between August 23 and December 21, you may qualify to get a free Disney dining plan.  If you have a Disney Visa, be sure to let us know.  Dates available for the Disney Visa offer start on August 14.


The next offer is a room discount, available between August 26 and November 5, 2016.  You can save up to 25% on rooms at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels!


Availability is limited so contact your Travel On A Dream consultant to get your Fall 2016 Disney World quote today!

Disney Cruise Line vs Azamara Club Cruises

As many of our friends and fans know, I just returned from my first Azamara Club Cruise on the Azamara Journey.  I traveled over Easter, so more children were onboard than normal.  According to the stats we were given, there were six onboard under 17.  Yes, I did say that was more than normal.  Part of the reason it is surprising is that Azamara does not have dedicated children’s programming like all of the contemporary cruise lines.  That was ok with us as we are two adults with no children.


We have cruised 27 times on Disney since 2002.  People are amazed when I tell them that.  We have been very happy with Disney Cruise Line and to be honest, the experience on board has rarely been less than excellent for us.  We have realized that we pay a premium to cruise on Disney and it hasn’t been a problem for us when we consider all we are getting.  This started changing about 2 1/2 years ago when the Disney Magic came out of her reimagination.

As I was preparing to host a group onboard for the five night sailing, I received a call from Disney Cruise Lines, indicating that the cruise was going to be cancelled as the ship was not ready yet.  This was three days prior to sailing.  I scrambled to reschedule or postpone all of my clients to another cruise date and then I started worrying about myself.  Our flight was in the morning and we had been scheduled to cruise back to back, plus meeting friends at Disney World pre-cruise.  We couldn’t just cancel, we had a lot of arrangements to be made.

Of course, since our notice was three nights prior to the sailing, we figured that the rest of the work should only take three more days, right?  I think I would have been more accepting if it had only taken three days, but instead, when we got onboard eight days after we received the notice, there was still work being done.  Some cabins weren’t completed.  Reserved cabins weren’t cleaned, toilets weren’t attached, etc.  This made me realize that Disney should have been able to give more than three days notice.  As far as I can tell, this is when my opinion started to change.

After this time, Disney started putting limits on onboard bookings, changed the alcohol policy, significantly increased pricing, yet didn’t vary many of the sailings at all.  After 27 sailings, we really didn’t see a need to cruise except if it was a very special itinerary or a new ship.  When summer 2016 sail dates were released, we made our decision that unless it was work related, we would not be cruising Disney again after our scheduled cruise to Iceland and Norway in summer 2015.  It was a very sad moment in our household.  It was a tough decision, but we had decided that unless people started to send a message about the itineraries and the pricing, nothing would ever change.  As long as people were paying, Disney had no incentive to change.  I was no longer going to be a part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you have young children and haven’t been on every Disney Cruise Line itinerary, you have every reason to cruise.  The children’s programming is fantastic.  I don’t know of any cruise line that comes close to what Disney does for the kids.  I’m not saying the other lines have bad children’s programming, I’m saying that Disney far exceeds the others.  Disney is a great line to go on a multi-generational trip.  There is something for every age to do.

Disney prides itself on is exceeding the competition in terms of what they offer onboard.  I think the children’s programming is a great example.  But when it comes to the rest, I think you can reasonably argue that Disney has started to fall behind the competition.

With summer 2017 sailings released last week, it was great to see some new itineraries out there for more than just the Disney Magic.  Four and five night “double dips” to the Bahamas, new ports in Alaska, a nine night sailing in Alaska, plus two Southern Caribbean sailings on the Fantasy.  However, when I looked at the pricing on those sailings, it was the same old, same old.  New itineraries mean higher prices, justified because they are during summer break and because you can’t compare to previous sailings as there weren’t others.

Let’s turn back to our Azamara Club Cruise.  This cruise far exceeded our expectations.  From the food, to the service and everything in between, Azamara was, well, just amazing.  While onboard we booked a future cruise in November 2018.  This was a 10 night Eastern Caribbean, visiting many islands that we have not visited before.  The price was not cheap, but the experience made us realize it was worth it to us.

Balcony Cabin

After Disney announced 10 and 11 night sailings on the Fantasy, we felt it was important to compare the two lines and sailings.  Here is a comparison of the ships and what is offered.


Yes, gratuities and standard alcoholic beverages are included in the cruise fare.  The inclusions listed above are for all cabins, not just concierge and suites.  They have other extras as well.  I should also mention that with a new booking on a future Azamara cruise, onboard credits are available for most of the categories.

Of course, you have to compare the pricing as well as the ports of call as it wouldn’t mean much without that.  Below I compared the 10 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 10 night Azamara Journey sailing that I am booked on.  The price difference is staggering!  Yes, the Journey is not going as far south as the Fantasy, but I will get nearly 20 more hours in port and visit three ports of call I have never been to, and return to three ports that I loved in the past.  Plus I won’t have to pay for gratuities or beverages.  If I opt for the concierge room, I’ll pay just a little more than a balcony on Disney and I’ll also get my specialty dining included.  Plus I’ll get between a $300 – $1500 onboard credit from Azamara.

Next I compared the 11 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 11 night Azamara Quest sailing in January 2017.  Editor’s Note:  Price comparison removed by request.

10 vs 11

One other thing that I forgot to mention about Azamara pricing.  Several sailings a year will have single rates at 125% instead of the industry norm of 200%.  This is great for the solo travelers.  Additionally, if you are a cruiser who has been on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises, you have an advantage.  When you are part of either the Crown and Anchor or Captain’s Club, you can request a one-time match into the other club.  You will come in to the other club at a corresponding level, then start earning loyalty with the second line.  Azamara shares the club levels with Celebrity.  What this means is if you have cruised with Celebrity, when you cruise on Azamara, you come in at their respective level.  What is different is that you continue to earn points with both!  We started our Azamara Journey cruise 6 points away from the next level with Celebrity and Azamara.  After completing the cruise, we have now reached the next level with both of them.  The repeater benefits are much better as well with both of these lines.

This has made me feel even better about the amount I’m spending for my Journey sailing.  The only question left is “Who wants to join us?”  If there is enough interest, we will make this a ToaD group sailing!  Drop my wife a note at tracy@travelonadream.com.

Summer 2017 Disney Cruise Line Itineraries Announced

Disney Cruise Lines has announced the itineraries and dates for Summer 2017 sailings today.  Here is what we are seeing.  Gold and Platinum members of the Castaway Club will be able to book tomorrow and everyone else on Thursday.  If there are dates you are interested in, please let us know as soon as possible so we can book for you as soon as the bookings open.  If you don’t have a Travel On A Dream agent, please email vacations@travelonadream.com.

Disney Fantasy – Will be alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.  The Eastern Caribbean sailings will go to Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay while the Western will go to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth and Castaway Cay.  Eastern Caribbean sailings will be on June 3, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, September 9 and September 23.  Western Caribbean sailings will be on June 10, July 8, July 22, August 5, August 19, September 2, September 16 and September 30.

Also, there will be an 11-night Southern Caribbean on June 17 with stops in Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, Tortola and Castaway Cay.  Finally, there is a 10-night sailing on June 28 with stops in Aruba, Curacao, St. Kitts, Tortola and Castaway Cay.

Disney Dream – The Dream will sail 3, 4 and 5 night Bahamian sailings from Port Canaveral.  Several dates will include two stops at Castaway Cay.  The 4 night sailings with two stops at Castaway Cay include June 7, June 21, and July 5.  The five night sailings will have two stops at Castaway Cay on June 2, June 11, June 16, June 25, June 30 and July 9.

Disney Magic – The Disney Magic will again visit Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.  The Eastbound Transatlantic will visit Ponta Delgada, Portugal, Portland, England, Dover, England, Amsterdam, Netherlands and end in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This sailing will be on May 13 for 15 nights.

May 28, June 11 – 7 night Northern European – Copenhage to Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm.

June 4 – 7 night Norwegian Fjords – Copenhagen to Stavanger, Alesund, Geiranger, Bergen.

June 18 – 10 night Northern European – Copenhagen to Warnemunde, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Amsterdam, ending in Dover.

June 28 – 11 night Norwegian Fjords and Iceland – Dover to Stavanger, Alesund, Akureyri, Reykjavik and Invergordon.

July 9 – 12 night British Isles visiting Newcastle, Invergordon, Kirkwall, Greenock, Liverpool, Dublin, Le Havre and Guernsey.

July 21 – 7 night Western Europe – Dover to Le Havre, Lisbon, Cadiz, Barcelona.

July 28 – 10 night Mediterranean – Barcelona to Villefranche, Livorno, Olbia, Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo, Palma.

August 7 – 5 night Mediterranean – Barcelona to Cannes, Livorno and Civitavechhia.

August 12, 19, 26, September 2 and 9 – 7 night Mediterranean – Barcelona to Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Villefranche.  September 2 sailing visits Cannes instead of Villefranche.

Disney Wonder – The Wonder will again be visiting Alaska with a new port of call – Icy Strait Point.  We visited this port in 2014 and know it will be popular!

April 23 – 14 night Panama Canal sailing – Port Canaveral to Cozumel, Cartegena, Panama Canal, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and ending in San Diego.

May 7 – 5 night Baja – San Diego to Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas.

May 12 – 2 night Baja – San Diego to Ensenada.

May 14 – 3 night Baja – San Diego to Ensenada.

May 17 – 5 night repositioning – San Diego to San Francisco and ending in Vancouver.

May 22, 29, June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10, 17, August 7, 14, 21, 28 – Vancouver to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan.  July 17 date will also stop in Icy Strait Point.

July 24 – 9 night Alaskan – 9 night Alaskan – From Vancouver to Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm.

August 2 – 5 night Alaskan – Visiting Tracy Arm, Ketchikan.

Any dates not listed will not be released this week and should be available on the future release.

An Azamazing Journey

We have just returned from a 10-night sailing on the newly refurbished Azamara Journey.  When I tell many friends that we cruised on Azamara, the most common question is “who?”.  While I admit the only reason I know about this cruise line is because I’m in the business, since cruising on Azamara, I want to shout out to everyone about this line.


Azamara is a small cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean International.  Each of their two ships holds just under 700 guests.  Azamara is a mostly inclusive cruise experience with standard beverages (including alcoholic beverages) and gratuities included with your cruise fare.  Also included is an Azamazing Evening event, which is an evening shore excursion that is nothing less than spectacular.  We paid for specialty dining and shore excursions, that was pretty much it.



After taking a course on Azamara last year, I decided that we needed to try out this cruise line.  Since we had been to Europe twice in 2015, we were looking for an experience in North America.  We found the March 26 sailing to fit into our schedules and pricing was not bad.  As previous Celebrity Cruise guests, we were already members of Azamara’s Le Club Voyage which offered a discount for the March 26 date.

I can tell you that the service onboard was nothing short of spectacular.  The food was very good to excellent, with the specialty restaurants consistently excellent.  We enjoyed the best steak dinner we have ever had, on land or at sea, when we attended the French Chef’s Table.


The service onboard was something that we won’t soon forget.  Servers, bar staff, managers, officers remembered you when they met you again.  And with the size of the ship, you were constantly seeing familiar faces.  This also rubbed off on the guests.  While I will admit there are times on every cruise line when you run into “entitled” folks, the vast majority of cruisers we met were friendly and welcoming.  We made several new friends onboard.  I truly think the cruise line does that to you.  We have been on other cruise lines where you just don’t interact with other guest.  You just don’t feel like it.  I think that is reflective on how you interact with the crew.  If they are outgoing and friendly, you feel like being the same.

In future blogs, I will talk about more details with this cruise, including a cost comparison to our Disney cruise last year (here’s a sneak preview – Azamara cost us considerably less when all was totaled).  We enjoyed this sailing so much that we are considering a group cruise in the future.  What do you say?  Sounds like fun, right!?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an onboard credit of $100 for Bill and I to try both specialty restaurants, which we planned on doing anyway with our onboard credit we received from a booking promotion.  My opinions and impressions of this cruise line are independent of any perk I received.  While a travel agent rate may have been available, we booked at prevailing rates and promotions, getting a discount only because of our prior sailings with Celebrity, a benefit any other previous Celebrity cruiser would have been eligible for.


Time to Double Up and Cruise!

Who doesn’t like to save money on vacations?  Now is your chance to not only save, but to also get some bonuses.  There are two offers that you will qualify for with Royal Caribbean cruise bookings made between now and April 13, 2016.


For sailings on or after May 5, 2016, excluding China departures, you will get 50% off the second guest in the same stateroom.  Additionally, you will receive 25% off for the 3rd and 4th guests in the same cabin.  If you book an oceanview or higher on many sailings, the first and second guests will receive FREE pre-paid gratuities (in the form of any onboard credit).  Finally, if you are booking a new deployment sailing departing on or after May 1, 2017, you may be eligible for a free upgrade within stateroom types.

ToaD RCCL sale

Who wants even more?  You are not a tourist. And this is not a cruise. For seven days only, book with us and enjoy an exclusive bonus on top of the current promotion. Courtesy of Travel On A Dream, take advantage of 50% reduced deposits and up to $50 onboard credit on any sailing — even Royal Caribbean’s newest ships.  Come Seek the Royal Caribbean®.  Book between April 7 and April 14, 2016.  Balconies and suites will receive $50 per stateroom and Interior and ocean view will receive $25 per stateroom.  This offer is only available when you book through Travel On A Dream.

Both of these offers are IN ADDITION to our current incentives as well!  So what are you waiting for?  Request your Royal Caribbean Cruise quote today!

Terms for BOGO Saver – *Cruise must be booked April 4-April 13, 2016 (“Offer Period”). Offer applies to all sailings on or after May 5, 2016, excluding China departures. Offer includes 50% off cruise fare of second guest who must be booked in the same stateroom as a first guest who books at full fare (“BOGO”). Offer also includes 25% cruise fare savings for 3rd and 4th guests booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests. Additionally, offer includes pre-paid gratuities in oceanview categories and above for the first and second guests in the stateroom for all eligible products excluding Alaska, Asia, China, Transatlantic and Repositioning sailings. Pre-paid gratuities will be applied as an onboard credit (“OBC”), and includes  stateroom, waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter gratuities in the amount suggested by Royal Caribbean guidelines. OBC will be applied automatically at time of booking to all eligible reservations and displayed as per person amounts for the first and second guests, totaling the gratuity value. OBC is in USD, has no cash value, is non-transferable, not redeemable for cash. In addition, for eligible newly deployed sailings that depart on or after May 1, 2017, the Offer includes a Free Upgrade within the stateroom meta-category (for example from a D8 to a D1, interior to interior, or ocean view to ocean view). Free Upgrade refers to booking a stateroom for the price of the lowest available category within the same stateroom meta-category type. Upgrade is subject to stateroom availability at time of booking. Upgrade offer excludes Panoramic, Family, and Suite staterooms. All other charges, including, but not limited to, taxes, fees and port expenses, are additional and apply to all guests. BOGO does not apply to third and higher occupancy guests. BOGO is combinable with adjoining Pre-Paid Gratuities, 25% Savings, New Deployment Upgrade Offer, NextCruise Offer, Crown & Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. Pre-paid Gratuities are not combinable with Crown & Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. BOGO and 25% Savings are not combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military). Pre-Paid Gratuities are combinable with restricted rates (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military) as well as NextCruise offers. Offer is not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, and Net Rates. After the Offer Period, the Offer will be removed from the booking if the guest cancels and reinstates the booking or rebooks into a new booking on the same ship and sail date, applies a fare change, or changes the ship or sail date of the booking; certain other changes to the booking may also result in removal of the Offer. Offer applies to new, individual and named group bookings confirmed at prevailing rates. Individual reservations may be transferred into an existing group, assuming required criteria are met, though full deposit will be required at time of transfer. Failure to apply the required full deposit amount may result in the cancellation of the booking. Offer available to residents of United States and Canada. Prices and Offer are subject to availability and change without notice, capacity controlled, and may be withdrawn at any time. Refer to www.royalcaribbean.com for complete terms and conditions. Royal Caribbean International reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. ©2016 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships registry: The Bahamas.

Terms for reduced deposit and OBC offer – Cruise must be booked during the designated offer period. Offer applies to all sailings departing outside of final payment and is applicable to all itineraries, excluding China departures.  Offer includes a 50% reduced deposit and a per stateroom onboard credit [“OBC”] in the amount of $50 for balcony/suite accommodations and $25 for interior/ocean view accommodations. OBC will be applied to eligible bookings within 10 days and will not appear on booking invoices until this point. The onboard folio will reflect the OBC as a per person amount on guests one and two, totaling the per stateroom value. Booking confirmations will not reflect the reduced deposit amount due. Individual reservations can be transferred into an existing group, assuming required criteria are met, though full deposit will be required at time of transfer. Failure to apply the required full deposit amount may result in the cancellation of the booking. After the offer period, the offer will be removed from the booking if the guest cancels and reinstates the booking or rebooks into a new booking on the same ship and sail date, applies a fare change, or changes the ship or sail date of the booking; certain other changes to the booking may also result in removal of the offer. Offer applies to new, individual and named group bookings confirmed at prevailing rates. All unrestricted and select restricted promotions can be combined with this offer. Offer cannot be applied to deep discount promotions, off-tariff price promos, or special programs such as, Net rates, Book Rates, Going, Going, Gone Sales events, WOW Sales, Individual Incentive rates, Gross fares, Interline, Friends & Family discounts, Travel Agent fares, Crown & Anchor, Shareholder benefits, NextCruise offers and benefits, etc. One offer per stateroom. Offer available to residents of United States and Canada. Offer subject to availability and change without notice, capacity controlled and may be withdrawn at any time. Features vary by ship. ©2016 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships’ registry: The Bahamas. 15048406 • 2/26/2016