My Disney World Agent Education Program

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Disney agent education program. Every couple months, Disney offers these programs to agents who are new to the business, or need a refresher on things. It was a whirlwind four days of learning more about the business, and visiting many hotels and even the Disney Cruise Line. Here are some of the highlights I got to experience:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Pretty soon I will write up an entire blog entry on this hotel. It was my first time staying at the Lodge and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was never one to really gravitate towards an African theme, and I was always turned off by the fact that you couldn’t walk to a park from the hotel. Now that I have stayed there, I can’t wait to go back. The hotel is beautiful, and there is something, or some animal hiding around every corner. My room looked out onto a small part of the savanna.

Disney's Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Throughout the day I could see different types of birds and grazing animals. The highlight of my room was seeing the giraffes every night. While having a savanna view was definitely awesome, I don’t even think it was necessary. Down every hallway, there are windows to see the animals. Every exit door you can open and peak out to the savannas. And right off the lobby, you can walk little trails to get better views of different animals. There was never a shortage of zebras. The hotel is kind of dark and quiet, making me feel like it was all for me. This hotel definitely has a lot of extra activities. You can sign up for safaris, and even use night vision goggles to see the animals in the evening. What you give up in terms of walking distance to parks, the animals and hotel more than make up for with amenities and scenery.

Disney's Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Disney’s Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Art of Animation 
Since I am usually visiting Disney World with just my mom or husband, there has been no need to stay in a family suite. Seeing them was just a treat. The Art of Animation resort has a tremendous amount of detail. Even the landscape and music will suddenly change as you move from the Finding Nemo pool to the Lion King building. You really feel like you stepped into the movies. I found the total immersive feeling more here than any other value resort. The suites are great and really well thought out. You can fit six in these rooms that have one stand alone bedroom with bathroom, and a separate pull out couch and drop down murphy bed / table with bathroom and kitchenette. We also got to eat lunch in the food court, and it was some of the best looking food I have seen at Disney. There was so much more to eat than the traditional burger. Pasta, salads, sandwiches, and different ethnic foods guarantee that there will be something for everyone.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Gingerbread houses

Since I was there around the Christmas holiday, I was able to see all the trees in the hotels, holiday decorations, and some beautiful gingerbread houses. The Contemporary Resort had a huge Frozen themed gingerbread house, complete with characters. The Beach Club holds a rotating gingerbread carousel. Both the Grand Floridian and Boardwalk Inn had Gingerbread houses so big, that they were selling gingerbread cookies from inside them.

Going onboard the Disney Dream
Even though I took my maiden voyage on the Disney Dream last August, getting to board on a day that they get the ship ready blew my mind a little bit.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

On the same day people disembark the cast members have only a couple hours to get everything ready for the next batch of people ready to board. This means total turnover of rooms, common areas, restaurants, and lounges. Something I also got to do this time that I didn’t do on my three night cruise was explore literally everything onboard the ship. I was able to see the kids sections, all the way from the nursery, to kids clubs, to teen lounges. I was able to check out all the adult lounges. I was able to see the two exclusive restaurants, Palo and Remy, that require advanced reservations. I also got to see every room category onboard. Even though I was completely exhausted after this action packed tour, I feel very comfortable with the Disney Dream, and am still amazed by how beautiful, clean, and well-maintained it is.

Illuminations Dessert Party

On our very first night, we had an exclusive area of the World Showcase just for the agents to eat some dessert and watch Illuminations. Even though I have seen this firework show a million times, I have never seen it with such an amazing, unobstructed view – while drinking beverages and eating delicious desserts. I know that dessert parties can be pricey, and it’s not something I would do every time, but maybe on a special occasion I would suggest splurging.

See Illuminations like never before.

See Illuminations like never before.

During this party, they gave us exclusive Mickey glasses that are only available for these dessert parties. They somehow polarize the light so every light source you look at looks like a Mickey head. It was both trippy and super cool at the same time. It added a little extra magic to an already great show.

While I was exhausted every night after my full day of conferences, site tours, and having some time at the park, it was an awesome experience. Although I am a Disney dork through and through, there is always something new to learn, and something new going on. My agent education program was a great experience. I hope to one day attend the program in Disneyland as well.

10 Interesting Things To Consider Aboard A Disney Cruise

It’s been over a month since Brad and I were on our first Disney Cruise, well our first cruise ever actually, and we still like to think back to how much fun it was. For all you other first timers out there, I have compiled a list of some interesting tidbits I wish I had known ahead of time to make your Disney cruise even more magical.

IMG_10701. Clocks are not really present onboard:
For my next Disney cruise, I am definitely going to invest in a cheap, waterproof watch. I never wear a watch and on vacations I don’t love having my phone out, so I often didn’t know what time it was. While onboard I only saw one clock and it was inside the AquaDuck load area. Other than that, you basically have to use the angle of the sun and the rumble of your tastily overfed tummy to determine the time. For a lot of the day I didn’t really need to know what time it was ‘cause heck, I was on vacation, but around the evening time when there were dinner and shows and clubs, a watch would have been handy. Lucky for me, Brad is one of the few uberdorks left in the world who always wears a watch, and you know what they say: a husband with a watch is better than wearing a watch yourself, because that way, only he gets ugly tan lines.

Thank you table mates for this picture

Thank you table mates for this picture

2. You may be forced to sit with other people at dinner, and dinner can take a long time:
I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing. Some people love to make new friends and sit with new people and can talk for hours about what they did that day or life in general. I’ll be honest and say my husband and I are not those people. If you are there as a couple, you may be forced to sit with other couples. Brad and I are the kind of people who, for whatever reason, get along much better with people far out of our demographic. We like talking to people nearing, or in retirement, whose kids are our age. Perhaps we have old souls. But naturally, because we were celebrating our anniversary, we were with a bunch of other anniversary people our age. Maybe you will get lucky and like everyone you are sitting with. Maybe you won’t like them and you will have to awkwardly sit with them every night for the 1.5 hour long dinner.  Having a little privacy at dinner would be much more relaxing for introverted couples. Again, depending on the type of person you are, this can be awesome or it can be a bit anxiety ridden. Apparently some tables for two do exist, and are available upon request. This is when having a vacation planner comes in handy. They know these secrets and help add some extra magic to your trip.

Does this look strange to anybody else?

Does this look strange to anybody else?

3. Outlets are for American gadgets:
I spent one whole day trying to figure out how to charge my phone. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the outlet situation. Even though Brad, who is brilliant, told me it would definitely fit, I refused to try plugging my phone in because the outlets just looked way too big and foreign to be compatible with American electronics, and I was dead set on believing that he was an idiot. Finally at the pool one day I asked a veteran cruiser (who was nearing retirement and had kids our age) if I was missing something. He said they will fit. An older woman overheard us talking and said she too could not figure it out and had to ask a staff member. Whew, I was not alone in this. When I went back to my room and tried it, there were correct, it did fit. Mischief managed.

4. You can bring your own alcohol onboard:
This is something Brad and I unfortunately didn’t get to participate in since we had only carry on luggage and could not find a liquor store in the Orlando airport. If you can swing it, there is no limit to the amount of alcohol you can bring on, it simply just has to be in a carry on bag. This literally has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars if you like to drink while on vacation. Plus with the free unlimited drinks by the pool, you have all the mixers you might need. Buying drinks onboard will get very expensive very quickly. Brad and I ordered a grand total of two drinks on our cruise, and $30 later we decided we didn’t love alcohol enough to spend that kind of money. (We also come from a small town where drinks are typically $3-4). For our next cruise, we are checking luggage and therefore will have a nice bottle of rum or three to bring with us. Drink up me hearties yo ho!

Nothing like waking up early to go run in intense heat and humidity.

Nothing like waking up early to go run in intense heat and humidity.

5. You should bring some running gear so you can participate in the Castaway Cay 5k:
The Castaway Cay 5k is something relatively new on Disney’s private island. It is a real runDisney event.  If you are a runner (or walker) it is something fun to do to help justify the enormous amount of food you have been eating. Make sure you bring some running shoes and clothes. You will start early so no sleeping in that day. And it will be hott. (Yes, I misspelled “hot” intentionally to make a point. But the payoff of the early rising is you get a nice mickey medal (plastic) that is only given out for this “race.” I say race loosely because you get a medal for participating and no one cares if you decide to walk the whole thing. In fact, the leaders, who we called “the skinnies” missed the first turn because they were travelling at warp speed. No one cared. We noticed some people brought bookbags with them to the race with their bathing suit and sunscreen so they could immediately start enjoying the island. We didn’t think of that and went back to our room to shower then back to the island. It really depends how much time you want to be out in the sun on the island or if you want to come back to some air conditioning for a bit.

Free onboard credits is basically free money!

Free onboard credits is basically free money!

6. There are different ways to get some free onboard credits:
For this you might have to do a bit of research in order to get some free onboard credits (obc). For starters, if you have the Disney visa card, you will get $50 obc if you book and pay for your entire trip with that card. Easy enough. Once you are onboard, if you book another cruise, they will often throw in some obc as well. Plus you will save a little bit by booking onboard. The other way would be booking through an authorized vacation planner, I know a really good looking vacation planner named Sandy who would love to help you out. Sometimes they have CLIA weeks, which offer $100 obc if you book through an agency with a CLIA number. Othertimes, agencies or individual agents purchase credits for their guests as a “thanks for booking with us.”

7. Having some sort of lanyard to keep your keys on would be helpful:
I will be honest and say I think it’s stupid that Disney cruise line hasn’t hopped on the MagicBand wagon. I love the ease of MagicBands and they would fit so seamlessly on the cruise. Plus you could recycle them at the end of the cruise and they could be reused. Anyways, until that happens, I’d recommend a lanyard that would hold you room key. As a woman, sometimes I don’t wear clothing with pockets (dresses, bathing suit, etc.) and I don’t love carrying around a purse on vacation. Having a lanyard might have been a little easier to keep track of and less worry about losing my key in my tiny pockets.

We love you refillable Disney mugs.

We love you, refillable Disney mug.

8. Bring your own Disney Mugs if you have them:
While my husband will deny being a Disney fan until his dying day, he has no problem praising the refillable Disney mug. I’m not quite sure why he likes them so much, but we have grown quite a collection of them at home. I knew that there were drink stations onboard Disney cruises similar to those at the resort hotels so we brought our mugs and were happy we did. Our mugs were bigger, more insulated, and more portable than the paper or styrofoam ones at the drink station. It just made pool time and Castaway Cay a little more enjoyable to have a little more to drink in my mug. Plus it’s way more environmentally sustainable to use one refillable mug instead of a million paper cups on a cruise.

9. Being able to read a map may be helpful in getting around the ship the first couple of days:
If it is your first time onboard, you may notice, as we did, that hallways and locations are not labeled particularly well. When we first arrived in the main lobby, we really had no idea where we were going. You will have to get very familiar with the terms forward, mid, and aft. To access some floors you might have to cut through restaurants. Some floors you can walk outside. Some floors it’s easier to go up over and down before moving forward or aft. By the 2nd day, we had become more familiar with the layout of the ship, and only sometimes used the navigator app to help us get around. Don’t be afraid to ask the cast members too, they are all super nice and helpful.

IMG_110010. Three nights might not be enough:
Now that I’m officially a cruise lover, I tell people that three nights was not enough. While it was my first cruise and I had no idea what it was all about, I now know that it really wasn’t long enough. Part of this was my fault. We had a late flight the day of the cruise departure and were literally the last bus to arrive in the port terminal around 3:00pm or so. Perhaps if you were one of the first people on board around noon it would feel more like an extra day onboard. You really only get two full days on a three-night cruise, and on the morning of your departure, you are off the ship by 8:00-9:00 am, so no sleeping in there. I would have liked to try a couple more things (tours of the boat, onboard movies, different restaurants, different entertainment) but I also loved sitting by the pool so I was a bit conflicted. I feel that a longer cruise would let you do everything and still have plenty of time to lounge and relax.

Indeed three nights was not enough for Brad and I. We have already booked another Disney Cruise for this spring on the Disney Wonder. I am excited to see a new country (Cozumel, Mexico) and to return to the beautiful Castaway Cay. If you have any questions about the Disney Cruise Line or are interested in booking a cruise, I would be happy to help. Disney pays me, so my service is free!

I’m Officially a Cruise Lover…Aboard the Disney Dream


Disney is magical because there’s always something new to experience. There’s a different park to visit each day. There are too many restaurants to ever eat at every one. There are so many runDisney events that you can’t race them all. There are parties, and decorations, and no two days at Disney will ever be the same.

You know I love Disney vacations, so I was a little nervous when my husband and I embarked on our first Disney cruise. My expectations of a Disney vacation are unbelievably high, and my husband is kinda hard to impress sometimes.

IMG_1042We flew into Orlando a little bit late, and arrived at the cruise ship on the very last possible bus. As soon as we entered the cruise terminal we were blown away. Security was quick and friendly, and the building was immaculate. There was a gorgeous stainless steel inlay of Cinderella’s Castle in the floor and a beautiful scaled model of ship as a centerpiece. After a three minute check in procedure we were issued our “key to the world” cards and we took our first fateful steps through the glowing Mickey head that indicated the ramp to the ship.

The words “wow factor” are usually hyperbolic. In the case of the Disney Dream, the wow factor was literal. Literally. We walked into the lobby of the ship and both of us whispered “woooooow.” That wow factor continued through the entire ship. Every square inch of the ship was maintained to perfection. During the day, when most people went to Nassau, we saw maintenance crews sanding and repainting lamp posts, sanding and re-lacquering bar top tables, powerwashing every surface imaginable, and cleaning and sanitizing every surface any person might have touched. That’s not to say the maintenance got in the way of enjoying the ship, it’s just that somewhere on the boat, at all times, someone was improving the appearance or function of the ship.

IMG_1053It wasn’t just the ship that blew us away. The cruise delivered above and beyond our expectations in every way. For example, we passed a human sized portal window that looked perfect for sitting in, and we thought “wouldn’t it be nice if there was a little cushion in there?” Three portals down the hallway, there were cushions in every other portal down the entire hallway. The only reason there weren’t cushions in the first few portals is that they would interfere with how people lined up for dinner nearby. At one point, I said to my husband “it would be nice if you could watch video versions of the shows in the stateroom.” We returned to our stateroom that night and turned on the TV for the first time, and guess what I found? Filmed versions of the shows I watched, available at any time. IMG_1072Our first experience in the hot tub was at night, and it was amazing that the bottom was made out of clear glass, so you could look down at the roiling waved below. After we returned to our room, I said to Brad, wouldn’t it be cool if the outside of the hot tub was also glass, so you could see out? When we returned to the hot tub during the day, we realized that the outside wall of the hot tub was actually glass and you could actually look out.

IMG_1077The value of a Disney cruise is phenomenal. Every night you receive the Navigator, an all encompassing schedule of the next days events. Throughout the day you could meet characters, take tours of the ship, watch current movies, attend Broadway style shows, attend dance parties, play games, and the list goes on. The best thing though is you can also just hang out by the pool and that is awesome too. There is literally something for everyone, and something for every age onboard. Brad and I took full advantage of the adults only sections of the ship, and luckily staff members were on top of keeping it that way.

While we loved the cruise, there were some times when the service was almost obtrusive. There are about a million cast members walking around the pool with drink menus, so while beautiful, our lasting impression of the pool experience went something like this:

“Would you like a drink?” said cruise guy.
“No thank you,” we replied politely.
-30 seconds pass.
“Would you like a drink?” said cruise girl.
“No thank you,” we replied politely.
-One minute and 30 seconds pass.
“Would you like a drink?” said cruise guy version 2.0.
“No thank you,” we replied tersely.
-45 seconds pass.
“Would you like a drink?” said cruise girl version 2.0.
“No thank you,” we replied exhaustingly.

It was just too much drink pushing for us. With less than ten cast members offering drinks, they would have been able to remember that we didn’t want a drink, but it was always a new person, always offering a drink.

IMG_1056After the great cruise sickness outbreak of a few years ago, Disney is poised to make sure that there is never any sickness on their ships. What that looks like for the average cruiser is someone in the 50 square foot public restrooms watching you…ya know… and then wiping up any stray droplets of water from the sink (or wherever.) It got a little awkward. It also looks like being handed a wet nap every time you enter a restaurant. I get the point, but it got a little tedious being all clean and polished and fresh from a shower and being handed a wet nap like a child each time we entered an eatery.

The only other part of the cruise that didn’t get top marks was the dinner service. Don’t get me wrong, the food at the restaurants was fantastic. You could order as much as you wanted, and there was always someone there smiling at you. But when there’s a server, assistant server, and head server all catering to only several tables, it’s a little disappointing when ordering coffee with dessert is followed by a 10 minute wait for the coffee cup, and another 10-15 minutes before the coffee shows up.

IMG_1082Overall the cruise was beyond amazing. We loved the ship. We loved the food, drink and ice cream station, and room service. We loved the shows and the general, laid-back atmosphere. Three days was not quite enough awesome. We have already booked another cruise on the Disney Wonder for a bit longer so we can experience the magic again.