Sunday, March 23, 2014

Making Memories

Making Memories…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of being the one BEHIND the camera and not being in any of my family vacation pictures.  In fact, if you were to look back through the thousands of my family photos taken over the years while at Walt Disney World you might not believe I was on any the trips!  Have you ever come back from a vacation only to look back through your pictures and realize that you are not in any of them either?  Is someone in your family also the DP (“designated photographer”) and missing from your vacation memories?  In hindsight, I really wish I had have been in more of the pictures to be part of the memories captured on film or by a digital camera.  It seems that the only pictures we had of the entire family were ones taken by random strangers who offered to assist and they often came out blurry or with heads cut out of the picture.  I think all of us at some time have found some of these pictures in our collections.

For these reasons and more, I was a fan of Disney’s PhotoPass service when they debuted it years ago.  It allowed all of us to get in on the magic and create vacation memories that we would treasure forever, but purchasing individual pictures was expensive and time consuming.  I am happy to say that those days are gone and Disney has now “rebranded” their PhotoPass service at Walt Disney World.  It is now called “Memory Maker”, a very fitting name in my opinion, and it’s EVERYWHERE at Walt Disney World.  It seems like you can’t turn a corner or walk into a store without seeing one of the Memory Maker displays offering the opportunity for you to purchase the Memory Maker service. 

What is Memory Maker you ask?  It’s Disney’s answer to the always-missing family photographer and/or the stranger-masquerading-as-family-photographer problems.  Disney has “PhotoPass” photographers all over the theme parks, ready to take your pictures and capture those perfect shots (including some magical surprises!)  Memory Maker allows guests to have everyone in the picture, and to link them to their DisneyExperience account so that friends and family can view them (if you allow for sharing.)  The Memory Maker service is 100% digital and it allows for unlimited downloading of photos from the day the pictures are taken until the photos expire (which is 45 days after they are taken.)  Also, you can collect pictures for up to 30 days after your vacation begins, so if you have an extended park visit you have plenty of time to gather those memories. 

How does it work?  When you see a PhotoPass photographer, have them take your picture(s).  Then touch your MagicBand or Memory Maker Card to the photographer’s electronic card reader to link the pictures to your DisneyExperience account.    It’s that simple!  There are PhotoPass photographers located at hundreds of locations throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, including almost all of the “flagship” locations. The Memory Maker even includes pictures taken at select attraction and dining locations.  You can also customize these pictures with borders and stickers, crop them, and/or make them black & white.  By purchasing the Memory Maker you get the digital rights to have these printed at any location you would like. Who knows? You may just find that perfect family picture for your holiday cards!  Be sure to ask your DreamFinder agent for more information on using the Memory Maker service.  We have lots of tips and information we can offer you on getting the most out of using the service.
Memory Maker can be added to your Magic Your Way Package in advance of arrival for $149 (a $50 savings), or you can purchase it after you arrive for $199.  Want to get your Memory Maker included with your Disney trip for free?  Book your vacation by April 20, 2014, for travel between now and June 15th or between August 15 – September 30, 2014, and not only will you get great savings on your resort stay, but the Memory Maker feature is included for FREE!  There are also other great promotional discounts available for summer travel between June 15th and August 28, 2014 as well.  Contact DreamFinder Travel today for more information or to get your complimentary, no-obligation pricing quote. 

Time is precious and passes so quickly, and making memories with friends and family is important.  So while visiting Walt Disney World last week for the Flower & Garden Festival I added the Memory Maker to my account.  I took full advantage of taking as many pictures as I could with my friends and my family.  Now instead of being just the face BEHIND the camera, I am now in the picture too, and as a result have many great memories to treasure.  No more missing out on being included, and wishing that I had taken the time to be in the pictures.  Guess what!  I even found a friend who “popped” up into one of my pictures    (you never know where some Disney magic may appear!)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cruising, Disney Style!

Today's blog comes from DreamFinder Travel's DreamMaker, Kim M, one of our personal vacation planners at DreamFinder Travel.  With the impending release of the 2015 cruise itineraries this blog is on Disney cruises.  We hope you enjoy Kim's take on why you should choose Disney cruising!

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably as Disney-obsessed as I am.  But your focus may be on the parks, and not on Disney Cruise Line, like mine has been of late.  This is my new favorite way to travel, but not everyone is as convinced as I am.  I hear a lot of reasons for this, some of which include:
  • ·  It’s too expensive
  • ·  I’ll be bored
  • ·  I don’t want/like to dress up
  • ·  My kids are too young
  • ·  I won’t see any characters/there’s too many characters
  • ·  There are too many kids
  • ·  There is nothing for adults to do
  • ·  I won’t like the food
Did I miss any of your objections?  I’m sure I have, but let me tell you my answers to these concerns.

Marvel Training Academy, Disney Magic
Activities:    There are kids clubs for children for all ages.  The Oceaneer’s Club starts at age 3 and   The Edge is the tween’s own club and the Vibe is a teenager’s sanctuary!  The areas and activities are themed for the ages they cater to.  Best of all?  Access to these areas is included in your cruise fare!  It’s a Small World Nursery is available for children under 3 at a low hourly rate.  They have a very small child to staff ratio so that your little one gets hands-on interaction.  You can reserve some time here prior to boarding to coincide with your Adult dining reservation and/or spa treatment!  For the younger children, the safety and security is top-notch, with a check-in, check-out process and a wrist band that tracks the child’s between the clubs.
Andy's Room, Disney Magic
melds into the Oceaneers Lab for kids up to the age of 11(ish).
 Movies:    First-run movies play on board daily and are included in your fare.  In fact, if your sailing coincides with a new Disney release, chances are that you will be treated to a Prem”ear” in the Walt Disney Theater!
Too Many Kids?    There is a finite number of kids that can be onboard due to lifeboat regulations and the staff/child ratio in the kids clubs.  So, you may even find that there may still be availability left on the ship, but none for parties with children.
Character interaction:    This can be as intensive (or not) as desired.  Character times and locations are listed in the daily navigator, and you can either seek them out…or not!

The spa : Need I say more? Yes, it’s an extra cost.  But you know it’s worth it!
The Adult dining:  All four ships have Palo, an Italian-themed restaurant, and the Dream and Fantasy have Remy, a French-inspired dining experience.  Onboard to celebrate an anniversary?  These will do the trick! They offer dinner nightly and brunch on sailings 4-nights and longer.
The adults-only entertainment district:  Kids dump you for the clubs?  Head over to the adult entertainment district and enjoy some live music, some dancing, or maybe some trivia!  Beverages there are not free, but…..did you know that DCL will let you carry on alcohol (in your carry on)?  Pour your drink in your room….they will bring you glasses and a bottle opener if needed!

How about an adults-only area on deck?  With a pool and hot tub…no little ones to splash you.

The fantastic thing about DCL is that there are activities for the whole family.  Want to make sure you get some of your kid’s attention?  Look at the navigator and schedule a bit of your day.  Negotiate!  “Sure, I’ll leave you alone with your friends, but you need to meet me at karaoke/bingo/trivia at 5pm”.  There are great options for everyone to have together time, as well as separate time.  Excursions are also family friendly, notating which allow kids and which are adult-only.  On Castaway Cay, there is even a teen-only excursion.  Everyone should find something that makes them happy.

Let’s swing back to the topic of dining and beverages.  On DCL, sodas, coffee, and tea are included with your fare.  There are no beverage packages to worry about for the kids, and if you don’t opt to bring your own adult beverages onboard, there are wine and beer options available onboard.  None of these include a drink-all-you-want alcohol, so the family-friendly atmosphere is preserved.  If you’re a coffee snob (and I am…I live in the Pacific NW and it’s part of our local culture), there is the option of purchasing froo-froo coffee at Cove CafĂ©.  It’s located in the Adults-only area.
Animator's Palate, Disney Magic
Rotational dining:  There are 3 main dining rooms on each ship.  Your traveling party and your severs rotate between these restaurants, each having their own theme and menu.  So you get to experience all of these without having to pay an upcharge or fight for reservations.  In addition, your servers get to know you and your family!  Interaction with the cast members is part of the experience!
Buffets?  Sure.  Up on the top deck there is a casual buffet restaurant.  Too tired?  Saw the menu and didn’t care for it?  In port too late and REALLY need a shower?  Just head up there and grab a bite to eat.
Room service is also an option, 24 hours a day. The menu is a bit more limited, but the food is included in your fare.  Tipping the cast member who delivers it to you is recommended, however, so you may want to plan on having some dollar bills with you.

Dress code
DCL is probably has one of the more relaxed dress codes out there.  Recently, shorts were added to the list of what is okay in the dining rooms. Formal and semi-formal nights (on the longer cruises) are suggested, not required. That being said, there are some amazing photo opportunities for your family if you happen to get them dressed up!

Okay, so let’s get to the biggie.  The cost.  I am well aware that on the surface it looks like DCL is more expensive.  But you get what you pay for.  You get a bigger stateroom.  You get a higher passenger-staff ratio.  You get Disney quality, entertainment, and interaction.  Your food is included.  Your beverages are included.  There are soda machines on deck! Snacks on deck are included.  It is absolutely possible to get onboard and not spend another dime.  The value you get for your dollars is far higher on DCL than it is on other cruise lines.  And I haven’t even brought up the biggest benefit….Castaway Cay!  Disney has their own private island!!
Castaway Cay

So how do you get the most bang for your buck(s)?  Book early, especially if you are limited to school holidays to travel.  Use a travel agent…you control all your onboard bookings, but travel agents bring their expertise and offer onboard credits…essentially free money for you to use on board! Be flexible with your dates and itineraries, and when you’re onboard, rebook your next cruise.  By doing so, you may get 10% off a future sailing (though blackout dates do apply) and onboard credit offered by DCL.  Name your agent while you book onboard and you can stack DCL’s onboard credit with your agent’s offer.  (See DreamFinder Travel's ONBOARD CREDIT OFFER here)

The remainder of the 2015 cruise itineraries are being released next week. New itineraries are rumored (and there are some really FUN rumors out there!) I’m going to be booking something new….can’t wait to see where I’m going next!

Interested in booking a Disney Cruise?  You can submit a quote request on our website, or by clicking here!  New to cruising and want to learn more?  ClickHere.