Tag Archives: family travel

Conrad Chicago Hotel Review

Conrad Chicago Hotel Review

Review of the Conrad Chicago Hotel

Located just off the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave), the Conrad Chicago Hotel is a stylish modern hotel perfectly located to explore all areas of Chicago.

Upon entering the Conrad Chicago you need to take the elevator up to the 20th floor to the lobby and check-in area.

Superior 2 Queen Room

We had booked a Superior 2 Queen room for our family of four and were allocated room 1518.

The room size was good with plenty of storage space for luggage items. Features of the room included comfortable beds and couches, Nespresso coffee machine, small refrigerator, electric block out blinds and city views.

The bathroom was dual sink and featured Aromatherapy Associates bathroom amenities. One thing that was strange for a Conrad bathroom was that the bath and shower were an all in one. All the other Conrad Hotels we have been to have had a separate bath and shower.

You can see our YouTube room tour of the Conrad Chicago here.

Baptiste & Bottle

If you love specialty cocktails or are an avid Bourbon and Whiskey lover then you must stop by Baptiste & Bottle for a drink. This restaurant and bar provides an amazing mixology experience right at your table. The bartender comes to you and makes the cocktails while explaining the process along the way – it’s really a great experience!

Of course it’s not all about the cocktails, they have some wonderful food as well – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you are a Hilton Honors Diamond member you will receive a $20 per person credit towards breakfast for yourself and one guest.

Noyane

When staying at the Conrad Chicago during the warmer months, we highly recommend paying a visit to Noyane – a seasonal rooftop Japanese restaurant and bar.

While we didn’t eat at Noyane we did find time to head up for a few cocktails.

It’s definitely worth heading up to the rooftop to enjoy the views of Downtown Chicago. Don’t worry if it’s a bit chilly as there are heaters and the staff will happily bring out blankets to help keep warm.

Conclusion

We were very happy with our stay at the Conrad Chicago. Loved the location, just steps away from the Magnificent Mile shopping strip and we found it an easy walk to many tourist sites. While in Chicago we visited sites such as Navy Pier, Millennium Park and 360 Chicago but never once had to use public transport or a taxi.

You can find more information on the Conrad Chicago Hotel at: www.conradchicagohotel.com

Disney Dream Cruise Ship - 10 Favourite Things

Disney Dream Cruise Ship – 10 Favourite Things

10 Reasons We Love Sailing Aboard The Disney Dream Cruise Ship

Here are our 10 favourite reasons why we loved sailing aboard the Disney Dream Cruise Ship and what makes the Disney Cruise Line so special for family vacations.

AquaDuck

The AquaDuck is a water slide that runs right around the midship of the Disney Dream Cruise Ship. This is a favourite activity for both kids and adults. It can get very busy at times, so be prepared to wait in a queue. The queues are usually much shorter while the ship is docked at port (especially Castaway Cay).

Watch our YouTube video of the Disney Dream AquaDuck Water Slide here.

Pools

The Mickey Pool and Donald’s Pool areas are good for the kids to cool off and enjoy watching a movie at the same time. The water slide is only recommended for guests aged between 4 to 14.

Adults can escape the family pool area if they need some relaxation time and head to the Quiet Cove Pool which is exclusively for adults only.

Goofy’s Sports Deck

Sports lovers can enjoy Goofy’s Sports Deck located on Deck 13 of the Disney Dream Cruise Ship. Here they can shoot some hoops on the basketball court, enjoy a round of mini-golf or have a game of ping-pong or foosball.

There is even a virtual sports simulator available (charges apply for the simulator).

You can see our YouTube video of Goofy’s Sports Deck here.

Kids Clubs

The kids clubs aboard the Disney Dream Cruise Ship are so good that your little darlings will never want to leave them! We hardly ever saw our boys as they were always off doing activities and playing games at one of the kids clubs.  You can grant self check-out access to kids aged 8 upwards so the parents do not even need to be at drop-off or pick-up.

There are kids clubs suitable for all ages.

It’s a Small World Nursery – suitable for youngsters aged 6 months – 3 years.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab suitable for 3-12 year olds and featuring themed play spaces including;

  • Star Wars: Millennium Falcon – kids can learn to train like a Jedi and take control of the Millennium Falcon.   
  • Andy’s Room – the world of Toy Story comes to life and kids can play with larger-than-life characters, including Rex the dinosaur, Hamm the piggy bank and Mr. Potato Head.
  • Disney Infinity Game Room – not just any ordinary interactive video game area.
  • Pixie Hollow – a magical fairyland inspired by Tinkerbell.

Edge – a tween activity and chill out zone for kids aged 11-14.

Vibe  – a cool hangout for teenagers aged 14-17.

There is even a kids club on Castaway Cay called Scuttles Cove.

Castaway Cay

Most of the Disney Dream Cruises sail the Bahamas and stop at Disney’s own private Island called  Castaway Cay.

On Castaway Cay there are a variety of activities and excursions you can book or otherwise you can just relax on the beach. There is a family beach section as well as the adults only Serenity Bay. There are cabanas available for rental, but you do have to book these online months in advance to secure one.

For the family beach goers there is the Pelican Plunge Water Slide to enjoy as well as a climbing and swinging frame that the kids love. Be sure to bring some goggles though as the water is very salty for the kids eyes.  You can also rent swimming gear such as swimming masks, snorkels and inner tube floats. Swimming vests are provided for free in all swimming areas.

Activities on Castaway Cay that can be booked include banana boat rides, parasailing, deep-sea fishing, glass bottom boat cruises, swimming with stingrays, jet skis plus much more.

See our YouTube clip of the Pelican Plunge Water Slide here.

For a look at our YouTube clip of Disney’s Castaway Cay Island click here.

Rotational Dining

A great aspect of Disney Cruises is the rotational dining so you get to try out the different themed restaurants. Our favourite was Animator’s Palate where the Interactive Finding Nemo characters make for a fun night. If you’re really lucky you might get to have a totally awesome conversation with Crush the Turtle.

The other rotational restaurants on the Disney Dream Cruise Ship are the Enchanted Garden and Royal Palace.

There are also two adults only fine dining restaurants that you can book for an additional fee which are Remy and Palo.

Unlimited Ice-Cream

Kids love this part of the Disney Dream, the help yourself soft serve Eye-Scream machines. Located near the family pool area, its hard to keep them away from these!

Even while at Castaway Cay the kids don’t miss out on any ice-cream, there’s soft serve machines on the island too.

Movies and Shows

There is no shortage of opportunities to watch one of your favourite Disney movies.  Buena Vista Theatre screens first run features as well Disney classics daily.  Walt Disney Theatre is home to full production live theatre entertainment. Even if you are relaxing in your stateroom you can watch on-demand Disney movies and TV favourites.

Not to mention the Disney movies continuously playing at the pool area.

Disney Characters

The Disney characters on board the Disney Cruise make for a lot of fun times for the kids. There are daily character dance parties and It all kicks off  with the Sailing Away Celebration Dance Party.

We loved Mickey’s Halloween Dance Parties during the Halloween on the High Seas Cruises.

See our YouTube clip of Mickey’s Halloween Dance Party here.

There are plenty of character appearances on board the Disney Dream Cruise Ship. You do however need to reserve your meet and greet tickets online prior to sailing for a guaranteed meeting with your favourite character.

Cocktails

We like to purchase the souvenir cocktail glasses (plastic not glass) with the cocktail of the day at the sailing away party and then all refills throughout the cruise are available at a cheap duty-free price.  There are also specialty cocktail making and tasting classes that you can attend throughout the cruise (fee applies). Us adults found these a lot of fun, we especially loved the mixology class which was held in the Skyline Bar.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Disney Dream Cruise Ship has so many activities to provide both kids and adults with the most magical family holiday.

You can also read our other posts about our Disney Dream Cruise Ship experiences;

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

SaveSave