Sunday, July 7, 2019

Walt Disney World - Passholder Previews for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Passholder Previews for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Select Dates and Times This August

The following information is from the Disney World passholder website.  Make sure to keep an eye out for your email if you qualify because these preview reservations are going to go faster than the Millennium Falcon flies!!  We have been to Galaxy's Edge several times at Disneyland since it has opened, and let me just tell you that Disney has done a fabulous job on the theme and decor.  Star Wars fans - you are going to love the immersion and detail.
Details on the previews from Disney:

Platinum, Platinum Plus and Premier Passholders will have the opportunity to register for a preview of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on select dates and times in August at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

How to Register
  • Email invitations with registration details will be sent out later this summer. 
  • If you are an eligible Passholder and would like to register a Guest to accompany you, that Guest must also have a valid Platinum, Platinum Plus or Premier annual pass, be listed on your Family & Friends list and have opted to share "All My Plans" with you.
Important Information
  • Advance registration is required. 
  • Platinum, Platinum Plus and Premier Passholders must register by making an online reservation for ONE event. 
  • Valid Annual Pass and photo ID are required at check-in for each Passholder and Passholder Guest.
  • Reservations are limited and are subject to availability.
  • Activities and attractions are subject to change without notice.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Update on entry into Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland (and the new Virtual Queue)

Beginning on June 24th, Disneyland's Star Wars Galaxy's Edge will no longer require the advance reservation to access the land, HOWEVER, they will be implementing a "virtual queue" process to help control the capacity and experience for guests.

It is important to note that those who want to visit Oga's Cantina (the bar) and Savi's Workshop (build your own lightsaber) will need to make a reservation (same day reservation through the Disneyland App, beginning at 7:00 a.m. with a credit card guarantee) due to the limited capacity of each of these two locations.  You can do that by visiting and for the details on this.

So you want to go and visit Batuu?  Well here are the deets from Disney....(contact your DreamFinder Travel agent for more information, or to book your Disneyland stay to experience this amazing Galaxy, that is not so far, far away!)

Virtual Queue Information
For guests wishing to live out Star Wars adventures and access Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge beginning June 24, Disneyland Resort may utilize a virtual queuing system, as needed, to help everyone have a great experience. Download the Disneyland app before arriving and check the app or signage the day of your visit to find out if you will need to be part of a boarding group to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that day. The boarding group will save you a virtual spot in line so you can enjoy other experiences while you wait to be notified of a time to enter.*  (*Admission to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is subject to capacity and joining a boarding group does not guarantee entry.)
You may use the Disneyland app to request to be part of a boarding group after entering Disneyland park, if implemented that day. Simply link the theme park tickets of everyone in your party together on the app to request the same boarding group for your entire party. To see which boarding group is currently being admitted to the land, look on the app or digital signage in the park.
If you enable push notifications on your mobile device, you will be notified when it is time to enter the land. If not, continue to check the Disneyland app or digital signage in the park, and enjoy other experiences, while awaiting your boarding group. You have up to two hours to enter the land after your boarding group is called for admission, so there is no rush!
For guests not using the Disneyland app, a boarding group may be obtained with a park admission ticket at select Disney FASTPASS Service locations such as Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain or near the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Virgin Voyages - a new way to cruise (sailing for Adults only!)

Virgin Voyages, the new adults only (18+) cruise line, is setting out to change the face of cruising.   They will debut cruises on their first ship, the Scarlet Lady, in 2020, and they have just announced a teaser of their itineraries.  One such announcement is that they will have four and five-night sailings out of the port of Miami. The itineraries will include some overnight stays, as well as longer and later, extended port stops with late-night sailaways.

Exact sail dates and itineraries have not yet been announced, but Virgin Voyages has said that they will have Four and Five-Night cruises to Cuba (with an overnight stay in Havana).  In addition they will have Five night sailings that will stop in Costa Maya, Mexico (known as "Mayan Sol" sailings).  There will also be five-night sailings that stop in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, known as "Dominican Daze" sailings.  Additional itineraries and ports will be announced soon and each sailing will either have an overnight stay at a port, or a late night sail-away.

A fun little tidbit for you, Virgin Voyages refers to their passengers as "Sailors", because after all, that is what they are.  They are promising to offer their Sailors an experience unlike any other at forced gratuities (tipping is completely, 100% optional), no assigned dinner seating, and no formal nights.  There will be 20 places from which to choose to eat, and there will be no extra fees to dine in any of the restaurants on the ship.   According to Richard Branson,  "Taken on their own, none of these little touches are extraordinary. But added all together, we believe they help our consumers to relax, reducing their worries about additional costs, annoying surprises and sneaky shocks. No nickel and diming helps our guests do what they want to do – how they want to do it. "

And now we have a peek at the non-suite cabins as well!
View of cabin, looking toward the terrace, with seabed in "day' mode
The cabins have been designed for function and mobility with flexible furnishings (for increased socializing opportunities).  According to Jamie Douglas (Senior Product Design Manager for Virgin Voyages) "The cabin feels like a reflection of modern city living.  A design that works harder with what are normally constricted spaces."  Most standard cabins will have the transitional Seabeds, and will include sensory mood lighting, in-room entertainment with 43"+ flat-screen HDTVs, minibars, premium products and Rainshowers in the bathrooms!  The ship is technology and Eco-focused, so the rooms will have tablets for controlling the lights and blinds (and these will also work automatically as well).

Seabed in "night" mode, looking back toward the interior of the cabin

 According to Virgin Voyages, 93% of the cabins will have sea views, and 86% have sea terraces with outdoor hammocks for lounging beneath the stars.  There will also be a variety of inside cabins (including solo options) as well.  Want to see more?  Click here to take a look at the PDF document of the cabins!

We are super excited for this new cruise line, and cannot wait to get onboard.  Reservations begin booking for the Scarlet Lady on February 5th for those who placed pre-sale deposits, and on February 14th for everyone else.   Can't wait to sail onboard?  Click here to put in your quote request and we will contact you with pricing information once they are on sale!

Monday, January 28, 2019

MSC Seaside

DreamFinder Travel agents Kim M and Lisa F headed out to Miami to sail on MSC and here is what they experienced.  (blog post by DreamFinder agent Kim Merrill)

Hi, Kim here -- I wanted to share my thoughts with you on the MSC Seaside ship and my experiences onboard.  I had been looking for an opportunity to try something new and this fit the bill!  I’ve never sailed on MSC and it’s a newcomer to the American market (and it has garndered mixed reviews--so I felt that it was important to check it out first-hand!)  I’m not going to cover the ports at all, so if you’d like specific info please email me with your questions.

The MSC Seaside was launched December 2017 and was designed with the American market in mind. MSC Shipping Company is the second largest shipping line headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and it was established nearly 50 years ago.  MSC Cruise Line, on the other hand, was established in 1987 with a focus on the European market.  Since their first sailing in 1988, the line has been building and improving their fleet, with ambitious plans to launch 11 ships between 2017 and 2026.

On various Internet sites that review ships and cruise lines there have been mixed reviews….almost a love-hate line drawn in the proverbial Caribbean sand, with very little middle ground.  This could also be said about most other cruise companies out there, but with a newcomer, the only way to know what level of validity there is to the reviews is to actually experience the product.

MSC Cruise Terminal - Miami
Taking on the task, Lisa & I took a taxi from our downtown Miami area hotel and arrived to MSC’s port building F around 1pm and we breezed thru our check in.  (Travel Agent Tip--MSC offers a "status-match” program, which means you have a one-time opportunity to submit your highest status level with a cruise line, so if you opt to do this, make it worth your while)  I’m Platinum (the highest level) on Disney, so now I’m “Black” on MSC (their highest-tier level).  To retain this status, you must sail once every three years.

I had booked a “Bella” balcony cabin.  MSC has the standard interior, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins, but they also have “experiences” that you can book.  “Bella” is the basic entry-level experience (also available are the “Fantastica” (upgraded from Bella), “Aurea” (spa-focused), “Wellness” (fitness/health focused), and “Yacht Club” (concierge, and not on all ships) experiences that you can choose from)  Depending on your preferences, pre-booking a different experience can save you money in the long run.  We both pre-purchased the Deluxe Beverage Package which gave us adult beverages $13 and under, gelato (which was AMAZING), specialty coffees, soda, water, and probably more that I am forgetting.  I also pre-purchased a Thermal Spa pass and two sports massages.  (Travel Agent Tip:  these were SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper purchased prior to the cruise and worth the money--pre-purchase when you can!)

Because of our status, we had a special security and check in line, and went from curb to ship in less than 20 minutes.  We missed the initial boarding rush, and we were able to head directly to our room and drop off our luggage before heading to get some lunch.  There are two buffet restaurants, one is located on decks 8 and one on deck 16.  We headed to deck 16 to check out the pizza that we had read so much about.   We found that this was the smaller of the two buffets with fewer options, but the pizza lived up to its wonderful reputation.  We also found that the tables had on-call bar service!!  Unfortunately we also quickly found out that the beverage selection was still being replenished from the previous cruise.  For the rest of the cruise, we opted for the buffet on deck 8 for the expanded food and beverage options.

We took time after lunch to explore the ship.  Weighing in at 154,000 gross tons, it can hold just over 5000 passengers.  We found out later on that the ship was pretty much full on our sailing.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that there were 3 banks of elevators on the ship, conveniently located forward, midship and aft.  Recently I’ve been on a few ships that have done away with midship lifts, so having all three made it quite convenient.   The exception to that being getting to the specialty restaurants on deck 16--we found that particularly challenging and convoluted.


There are two main dining rooms on the ship, with three seatings for each, at either 5:15/30, 7:15/30, or 9:15/30.  The Yacht Club (their concierge level) has their own main dining room.  You can request early or late dinner, and you find out your specific time upon boarding.  We ended up with 7:15pm dinner and a table for just the 2 of us.  Overall, the food was varied and good, with additional items that could be ordered for an additional cost (for example, lobster or really good cut of steak).  Of the 6 nights we dined there, there was only 1 menu that really didn’t catch my interest, but what I did order was well cooked and tasty.  They also responded well to my requests for alterations to what was served.

There are 6 specialty restaurants on the ship.  As part of my “Black” loyalty status, we were entitled to a free meal at a one of these, with Teppanyaki and the Chef’s Table excluded.  We opted for sushi, and were pleased with our meal.  You are entitled to order from the “dining experience” menu but can substitute a different item for half the listed cost.  My sushi was worth the $7 upcharge!  You can pre-purchase some of the dining prior to boarding should you choose to do so, and then make reservations once you board.


Each night there was a different show in the theater (Travel Agent Tip:  pre-reserve a seat via the interactive touch screens throughout the ship).  We found that our dining time fit best with the later show (9:15).  The night we did sushi we went to the early show (6:45) and it was empty.  That was almost too early for the 1st seating to make the reservation and would cut it too close for the 7:15 dining to make it.  (My opinion is that they could really stand to tweak this a bit to help equilibrate the crowds.)

The performances were very good, but our thoughts were that something was getting missed in translation.  In my mind, the artistry was amazing, but the story didn’t exactly make sense.  However, this didn’t decrease my appreciation for what I experienced.
Some nights they had a late night adult comedy show.  We caught this once and enjoyed it.  There was a game show night that seemed popular but I almost felt a bit old to get what the general population was doing (and I’m not that old, people!).

Many of the bars had musicians.  There were very few times that I felt it was too loud, which was a refreshing change of pace.  Often times in bar areas with music I find that it’s too loud and you can’t hold a conversation.

During our sailing the final games of the World Cup were going on.  It was broadcast in the sports bar, in the atrium, and on the pool deck, as well as being rebroadcast later in the day.  People had chairs pulled up to the atrium railing on all 3 levels and no one complained.  It was a fantastic and fun atmosphere.

There were two theme nights held on our sailing, a White Night and a 70’s night.  The White Night had high participation.  A "white night" is when everyone is supposed to wear all-white clothing.   The deck was full to the brim with white clothing!  The 70’s night had some very enthusiastic devotees, however, the music strayed a bit from the 70’s era. 

Pool and Recreation areas:

Zip Line onboard MSC Seaside
There were 4 pool areas on the ship.  Yacht Club members had their own, the Main pool, the kids play area/waterslides, and the adult pool (ages 16 and over and ENFORCED!).  As we really didn’t spend much time in port, we had no issue hanging out by the pool.  However, as with ANY cruise line, if you sleep in on a sea day, you’re going to lose out on those pool-area chairs.   That being said, the ship design has ample seating areas all around the ship.  We never had an issue finding a chair to relax in.

There were two waterslides: One you went down sitting on the slide itself, and the other you could use either a single or a double inner tube.  Prior to using this, you had to sign a waiver and get a wristband to prove that you had done so.  There was not a charge for the waterslides.

The zip line was $5 per ride and there was a waiver process for this as well.  You have to wear shorts or pants and a shirt with sleeves.  Closed toed shoes are required as well and you are not allowed to bring items that can be dropped.  Go Pros were ok if they had a securing strap.

 There were four kid’s clubs on board the ship.  The age ranges were narrower than other cruise lines and there IS drop off infant care.  This is not a feature of all ships/cruise lines, and is important to note if families are traveling with children 3 and under.

There were fee-based activities for kids like an arcade, bowling, etc for which a pre-paid activity card could be purchased.  (Travel Agent Tip:  there was a deal onboard where you could add to the card and get "bonus" money added to it too--be sure to look for this if you are planning to get one of these cards) What I can tell you is that considering that we were traveling in the middle of summer on a ship with large groups of families, the kids never seemed to be out of control, making me consider that the onboard activities were diverse enough to keep them busy.

Spa and Fitness Center:

I’m “one of those people” who works out while I'm on vacation.  The fitness center was large with plenty of cardio equipment, free weights, and machine-based strength machines.  There were a few spin classes offered for a fee ($13 per) and there was yoga on deck every morning (free).  I was also pleased to see that there was a shower in the gym locker room, however I really didn’t get the impression that anyone knew it was there or used it.

As I mentioned above, I had pre-paid for 2 massages.  I found that the spa experience was not as robust as on other lines.  There were no fluffy robes or quiet central waiting areas.  You sat in the spa lobby, got called back directly to the room, and got your massage.  The service was friendly and the massages were well-done, but the total experience was a bit slim.  What I found odd, and almost refreshing, was that I was NOT given anything to sign either time.  So there was no ability to tip.  I found that…well, different.  They did, of course, try to get you to book another service.  There seemed to be no lack of openings, so I wonder if maybe they would fill the schedule up more if you could pre-book the times of your service as opposed to waiting until you were onboard? 

The Good and the Room for Improvement:

·         Let me preface the rest of this review with the fact that this is MY opinion of the experience I had on the Seaside and not that of DreamFinder Travel or necessarily others.

  •  I really appreciate the fact that the buffet is really the only place to get a bite to eat outside of the gelato places on deck.  This really cut down on the number of tables outside of the eating establishments covered in dishes and food.  Since there are 2 buffets open a variety of hours, you really aren’t lacking food options.
  •  I wish the bars had small snacks/nuts/wings/chips that were complimentary.  This is lacking, but again, is a different way to do business. 
  • There is a seeming lack of trashcans on the ship.  There are multiple recycle bins, but I’m not sure if the theory is that the staff’s job is to bus the trash or if the focus is on recycling, but what comes across is trash left in odd places.  If the staff is meant to cycle and pick up trash and clean tables, there needs to be more of them.
  •  I LOVED the variety of bars onboard.  I was particularly enamored with the chocolate bar and have decided that chocolate martinis are my new favorite drink.
  •  In the main dining rooms, the assistant waiters were clearly the ones who served our beverages.  Ours was very personable but seemed spread very thin.   We started going into the dining room WITH an adult beverage and ordered what we wanted with our meal when we sat down.
  •  I find that I like having set dining.  For cruisers that like to get to know their servers, a flexible dining time should be avoided as you never know who you might get.
  •  I already mentioned my confusion with entertainment.  I did, however, love having a new show every night.
  • We found that there were times when it was hard to identify staff members.  There were instances when some of them appeared to be dressed in their personal clothing and then they turn around and you see their name badge.  I found that bar and pool staff seemed to be easily identifiable though. We had the opportunity to pass this on to the captain, and hopefully this can be addressed.
To sum up my experience, I had a great time! I would absolutely sail again on MSC.  I think their product has value for the money, and they are addressing both the family and the adult sides of cruising.
Want to book a sailing onboard MSC, or another great cruise line?  Click HERE for our cruise quote and be sure to ask for me!