Tag Archives: family travel

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Concierge Level

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Concierge Level

Concierge Level aboard the Disney Dream Cruise Ship

If you’re planning to sail on a Disney Cruise you’ll notice when booking that one of the options are Concierge Staterooms and Suites. We have now sailed twice at Concierge level so we thought we would share the benefits of sailing Concierge and what exactly you get for paying a little extra.

Before You Cruise

Disney Concierge services are available to help you plan your cruise starting 120 days prior to your sailing date. This gives Concierge guests first access to all bookings including shore excursions, spa appointments and restaurant reservations. If you’re sailing on a cruise visiting Disney’s Castaway Cay you can also book the highly sought after and hard to get cabanas.

These Concierge services are accessed through a dedicated toll-free number for U.S. residents which is available from 8.30am to 5.30pm every day of the week. For Non-U.S. residents like us, there is a specific email address you use to can contact the Concierge team.

Disney will also post official documents and luggage tags about six weeks prior to cruise departure.

Boarding Day

Unlike other passengers who will be allocated a port arrival time, Concierge guests have priority boarding. With a separate check-in area at the port terminal, there is not much wait time until you are ready to board. On our last Disney Dream Cruise we were the very first family to board which the kids were extremely excited about!

Usually boarding commences around 11.30am and you are whisked up to the Concierge Lounge (located on level 12 on the Disney dream). Here you meet & greet with the lounge staff who will be looking after all your requests during your cruise.

Concierge Lounge

Open from 7.00am to 10.00pm the lounge provides complimentary food and beverages throughout the day.  Staff members are always around to help with any questions about the ship or if you need any reservations made.

Continental breakfast is served from 7.00am to 10.30am and then snacks are available throughout the day. There is bottled water and soft drinks which you can also take back to your room if preferred. Everyone loves the lounge coffee machine which was very popular.

There is a nightly Concierge Cocktail evening reception which provides canapés, desserts and complimentary alcoholic beverages from 5.00pm to 10.00pm.

Concierge Lounge Private Sun Deck

Located on Deck 13 just upstairs from the lounge is a private sun deck for Concierge guests to enjoy. This is a great private area if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cruise. It even has its own relaxing hot tub.

No need to bring sunscreen – its all supplied on the deck along with towels, Evian water spray bottles and even sunglass lens cleaners.

Even the bathrooms  are pretty fancy!

On the second afternoon of the cruise there is a Concierge Afternoon Soiree from 4.00pm to 5.00pm which is a gathering to mingle with your fellow Concierge guests. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are served during this hour.

On another afternoon there is a private meet and greet with a Disney character on the deck. On our first cruise it was Goofy and on our second cruise we got to meet Minnie Mouse.

Rooms & Suites

Concierge level rooms are only located on decks 11 and 12 of the Disney Dream Cruise Ship. Room types available are:

Other On-Board Benefits

  • Limited Edition Lithographic Print delivered to your room at the end of the cruise as a gift from the Concierge team.
  • In-room treats and surprises.
  • Complimentary bags of popcorn to take to the theatres.
  • Complimentary internet package of 100 megabytes per stateroom.

Conclusion

While it does cost more we have to say that we love sailing Concierge level. Having that little extra service available can sometimes be priceless as we discovered on our last cruise.

Our last cruise was just in front of Hurricane Irma and got cut short by one day. Once it was announced that we would be disembarking a day earlier, the Concierge staff were just unbelievable. Guests were able to call hotels, airlines, transport companies or anyone else people needed to contact. Extra laptops and phone lines were set up in the lounge for guests to make alternative arrangements to leave Orlando once disembarked.

We realised how valuable this was when we walked past guest services not long after the announcement and the queues were so long that they would have been waiting for hours.

We can’t wait to sail again on another Disney Cruise – next time we will be on the Disney Wonder for the first time.

Review of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel in Florida, USA

Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel Review

Review of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront Hotel, Florida, USA

We have now stayed twice at the Hilton Cocoa Beach and have found it a great place to unwind before heading off on a cruise. Located right on the beachfront, you can either hang at the beach or let the kids swim in the pool while the adults relax by Longboards or the Beach bar.

Pool & Fitness Center

While it’s not a huge pool area, it is enough to cool down and keep the kids entertained.

The fitness center has a few cardio machines and some weights for those that like to work out while on holidays.

Longboards Tiki Beach Grille

If you’re looking for an outdoor bar with a great atmosphere to sit back, relax and have a few drinks with a bite to eat then Longboards Tiki Beach Grille is the place for you. They have a real good happy hour menu from 4.00pm to 7.00pm (daily except Saturdays). The staff service is excellent and the meals were pretty big. The bar has big screens which always have sport playing and at night there is live entertainment.

Next to Longboards is a sun deck with plenty of deck chairs and at night there are a couple of fire pits for the cooler nights.

You can watch our YouTube Video of Longboards and the Pool Deck area here.

Note: the video was taken before the Castaways Beach Bar was built.

Castaways Beach Bar

The latest addition to the Hilton Cocoa Beach is Castaways Beach Bar. Opened in July 2017 this bar is situated along the walkway from the hotel to the beach. Great if you are hanging out and the beach and fancy a quick drink.

Salt Restaurant

The main dining area inside the hotel is Salt Restaurant. We only ate here for breakfast but it is open for dinner from 5.00pm to 10.00pm featuring modern American cuisine. Breakfast is served between 6.00am to 11.00am and you have the choice of the buffet breakfast or you can dine a la carte. We chose the buffet as the selection was quite good. It had an egg station, bacon, sausages, potatoes, scrambled eggs and waffles. There was also plenty of pastries, bagels, cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Cool Beans Coffee Shop

If it is a quick bite to eat you prefer or you may just want a Starbucks coffee on the go, head to Cool Beans which is open 24 hours. Cool Beans serves a variety of foods including sandwiches & wraps, cookies, sweets and other convenient snacks.

Our Room

Both times we have stayed at the Hilton Cocoa Beach we have stayed in a two queen room with coastline views. The rooms are good-sized and features included a desk, coffee-making facilities and empty bar fridge. The bathroom is on the small side with all in one bath & shower and has the usual Peter Thomas Roth amenities.

You can watch our YouTube Room Tour video here.

Cocoa Beach

Just a few steps from the pool area is the very nice Cocoa Beach. Through the hotel you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, surfboards, bodyboards, kayaks, wetsuits and even a volleyball. You can book in for private surfing lessons as well.

If you like walking you can wander up to the Cocoa Beach Pier which takes about 30 minutes if walking along the beach.

Conclusion

The Hilton Cocoa Beach is a really nice hotel, not fancy but great for relaxing on the beachfront. It has really good features including an on-site laundry so you can do a load of washing if needed for those that are travelling on an extended vacation.

We also took advantage of a shuttle service provided to the nearby Port Canaveral cruise terminal which is only $5 per person. We would definitely stay at the Hilton Cocoa Beach again before leaving on a cruise out of Port Canaveral.

For more information on the Hilton Cocoa Beach go to: www.hilton.com

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Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando

Formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has enough attractions to keep the whole family entertained, as well as a couple of rides which the thrill seekers will love. While there are not a lot of rides for younger kids, there are some great shows that they will really enjoy.

Thrill Rides

There are two main thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that are not to be missed.

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – based around the infamous Hollywood Tower Hotel, this elevator ride is designed so that you never take the same ride twice. This makes it attractive to go on more than once, so even if you have a fast pass we would recommend going here as early as possible before the queues build up too much.

Family Attractions

Our kids were aged 9 & 11 when we visited this park and we found there was plenty of entertainment to keep them busy for the whole day. There may not however be enough attractions for the whole day if you were travelling with small toddlers. Some of our family’s favourite attractions were;

  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – take a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood makes films that are full of explosions, fist-fights and daring stunts. A real-life director is on hand to explain all of the fine details of their movie making magic.
  • Toy Story Mania – score points in this 4D target shooting game. You can also catch some of the Toy Story gang out and about near this attraction.

Other attractions we recommend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be the Muppet Vision 4D Stage Show,  The Great Movie Ride, A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration, the Disney Junior – Live on Stage dance show and of course the Fantasmic nighttime spectacular which is a combination of pyrotechnics and lasers.

Star Wars

If you are a Stars Wars fan then you will absolutely love Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Be sure to pay a visit to Star Wars Launch Bay where you can get a behind the scenes look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. There are also character meet and greets as well as memorabilia and props from all the Star Wars Episodes.

There is also a pretty cool 3D simulation ride called Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. Here you can board a Starspeeder 1000 and launch into hyperspace on your very own mission. Each intergalactic adventure is different so you just never know what planet will be your next destination.

Next to the Star Tours ride is the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple where youngsters aged from 4 – 12 can learn to become Jedi Knights. Be sure to register early though as availability is limited and spots are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Throughout the day at Center Stage you will find different performance shows including Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away and March of the First Order.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios also now has a nighttime fireworks and lighting show based around Star Wars called Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. It’s a spectacular way to finish off a busy day at this Walt Disney World park.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot Guides.

Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Epcot at Walt Disney World Orlando

Exploring Epcot at Walt Disney World Orlando with Kids

While Epcot is not a theme park that is filled full of thrill rides, it still has a lot to offer for those travelling with younger kids. We travelled with our two boys aged 9 & 11 and with a bit of pre-planning, made our day at Epcot into a fun-filled adventure.

Fastpass Planning

Planning your day needs to start 30 days (or 60 days if you are staying at a Disney Resort) before your visit date. This is when you can make your fast pass selections. If you are not familiar with the fast pass system, it basically means you can pre-book three rides at certain times where you skip the queues. It is best to book the fast passes for as early in the day as possible as once your three selections are exhausted, there are fast pass kiosks at the park where you can get extra fast passes for later in the day.

Epcot works on a fast pass tier system, which means you have groups A & B and you can only make one choice from group A and two choices from group B for your first selections.

Group A

  • Frozen Ever After – all young princesses will love this Frozen journey through the Kingdom of Arendelle, but fast passes go quick for this popular ride and can be hard to get.
  • Soarin’ – this is definitely another favourite of ours where you get to virtual hang glide around famous landmarks from different parts of the world. This is what we used our initial fast pass for.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Soarin’

  • Test Track – this was our boys favourite attraction at Epcot. On this ride you hop aboard a six-seat vehicle and take it through a series of efficiency tests ending with a high-speed blast around the Test Track facility building. Afterwards you can walk around a showroom featuring the latest Chevrolet cars. We didn’t use fast passes for this ride as there is a single rider option which has virtually no queues. As we weren’t fussed if we didn’t sit together, this was a better option for us and we saved our fast passes for other attractions.

Group B

  • Living with the Land – this is a slow-paced indoor boat ride through Disney’s agriculture farms and laboratories which lasts about 15 minutes. This is interesting if you love gardening but our boys got bored by it pretty quickly so we don’t recommend using a fast pass for this one. Plus there were no queues when we were there anyway.
  • Disney/Pixar Short Film Festival – popular Disney & Pixar short films shown in 4D, this attraction was actually really good and worth going to but you don’t really need to use a fast pass as there were no queues.
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment – travel through Dr. Channing’s sensory labs with Figment the purple dragon to test your five senses and imagination on this carriage ride. Afterwards the kids can enjoy ImageWorks, an interactive play area. There are also some pretty cool jumping water fountains outside the Imagination building, a fun way for the kids to cool off in the Orlando heat!
  • Spaceship Earth – located inside Epcot’s landmark 18 storey silver sphere, this attraction showcases the development of communication technology from caveman paintings to television to computers. This is a good educational slow-paced ride which goes for about 15 minutes. As you exit the ride you walk through Project Tomorrow which is an interactive game and activities area. This attraction can get quite long queues, so a fast pass is a good idea here.
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends – younger kids will love this attraction where you board a “clam-mobile” on a journey under the sea to find Nemo. When you hop off the ride you are located in a pavilion which houses an impressive size aquarium and don’t miss Turtle Talk with Crush (see below). This attraction can also have long queues so try for a fast pass here.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – the kids absolutely loved this Q & A session with Crush the Turtle from Finding Nemo. A few of Nemo’s friends from the movie also make guest appearances here. This was a really entertaining attraction, there were plenty of laughs for the whole family. There weren’t any queues when we went so wouldn’t recommend using a fast pass.
  • Epcot Character Spot – meet your favourite Disney pals at this character sport located at Future World.
  • Mission: SPACE Green – this is the less intense of the two space simulation rides that take you on a space journey to Mars. This one doesn’t get as busy as the more intense Orange ride so fast passes for this one may not be needed.
  • Mission: SPACE Orange – this is definitely not for those who experience motion sickness but awesome for those that like to experience the G-Forces of a spaceship launch. Would recommend a fast pass as this gets quite busy.

World Showcase

If you have ever wanted to eat and drink your way around the world, this is the place for you. World Showcase at Epcot consists of 11 pavilions attributed to different countries located around a large lagoon, so be prepared for a bit of walking. While a lot of the focus of the pavilions is to showcase the food and culture of that particular country, there are still quite a few attractions for the kids to enjoy.

Some things the kids will love about the countries featured in pavilions at Epcot’s World Showcase are;

  • China – there is a 14 minute film called Reflections of China shown here which highlights the natural beauty of China, but it may not hold the attention of younger kids for that long. They will however enjoy the amazing performance by the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

Chinese Pavilion

  • Germany – our boys really enjoyed this pavilion which included a Garden Railway Miniature Train and Der Teddybar where you can shop for teddy bears, toys and gifts. Snow White also has a meet and greet in Germany at select times.
  • Italy – the only real attraction for kids here is Sergio the juggler and mime who performs at certain times throughout the day.
  • United States – The American Adventure is a 30 minute show which explores key moments in the history of the United States.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

American Pavilion

  • Japan – experience the amazing performance of the Matsuriza who will captivate the whole family with their Taiko drumming abilities.
  • Morocco – kids can have fun meetings with Princess Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie.
  • Canada – O Canada! is a 14 minute film which showcases the beautiful country of Canada and screens continuously throughout the day.
  • United Kingdom – inside a quaint English garden, kids can work their way through Tiggers Maze. There are also scheduled appearances by Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland.
Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA

English Pub

Special Events at Epcot

Epcot plays host to different special events throughout the year. We were lucky enough to visit during the International Food & Wine Festival which is a celebration of food and drink from all around the world. During the festival you will find a lot more food and drink stalls from all different parts of the world, as well as more roving entertainment. In 2017 the festival will run from August 31st until November 13th.

Another popular attraction at Epcot is the International Flower & Garden Festival which in 2017 will run from March 1st until May 29th.

Epcot Conclusion

While Epcot was probably the least favourite of all the Disney Parks for the kids, we still had a really fun day out here. There is more than enough to keep the kids busy for a full day if you want to explore the whole park. However if it’s only the rides that you are interested in at Epcot, then make sure you have a park hopper pass as you won’t need a full day here – you can just catch the mono-rail and finish your day off at another park.

You can also read our other Disney Park Tips – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Guides.

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