April 17, 2014

Three Things Thursday ~ Distractions AKA Life

Here's one of my new favorite blog hops today:
Three Things Thursday!


(Be sure to link up on her blog!)
Since I already have a blog (and three blogs preceding this one) what haven't I already shared? In the last month, quite a lot! I have been off the radar for a while because (as it sometimes does) life took a lot of time and I almost entirely ignored my blog aside from picking a new header and colors. So this week I'm going to share three other things that have been distractions priorities in my life this last month!

Once Upon a Time There Was a Princess Who...

1.) Decided to reorganize her home office.

Functional, kinds busy/crowded looking
I mainly used the room to store my laptop and supplies when they weren't in use. The room has a single north facing window, and we never really decorated it or picked out furniture since we moved in three years ago. Since the office is off of our master bedroom, it's something I saw and promptly ignored pretty much ever day.

I do love the pictures.
Chris occasionally does some desk work in there, but for the most part other than the pictures I put up in there last year (which I love), it's functional but not loved.

2.) Assembled every bit of IKEA furniture in this room by herself with unskilled labor as assistants.

My princess knows her way around a hex wrench.
Building the furniture by myself probably would have been faster.

You can almost see the "don't hit my finger" thought bubble.
Honestly though, Chris and Kylee loved helping out with real tools on real work. IKEA directions are entirely pictorial, so that was fun to show them.

3.) Repainted her house by hand rather than paying someone else to do it.
Honestly? I'd MUCH rather spend that money on a cabana than on someone else painting my home when I am capable of painting.
LOVE this color. I brought in a photo storage box I loved the color of and they custom mixed it for me.
That being said, we're still picking paint out of Christopher's hair. The room seems much brighter and more alive during the day rather than sadly gray the way the white walls looked under the northern lighting.

I just realized that I repainted the room so that it goes with my new blog colors. They make me happy, what can I say?

Once I get the walls all decorated I'll get together a proper before and after post!

April 16, 2014

Top 7 Ways NOT to Save Money on a Cruise

Although I've already blogged over a dozen tips and tricks to save a bundle on your cruise, what about ways to totally blow your budget unintentionally?
I'm not talking about splurging on a cabana massage or swimming with the dolphins.
I'm talking spending (way) more than you have to on things that are unnecessary and in a few instances spending some cash in order to give Murphy the boot (or just keep from missing an awesome experience!)

Skip Trip Insurance

What's the worst that could happen?
It's not like we could possibly miss our travel window and the ship would sail without us. It's not like I'd ever break my leg and need to pay to be airlifted off of the ship. It's not like I could have a relative get sick and need to reschedule at the last minute. Besides, aren't we trying to save money?
The truth is once you are within 15 dates of your sail date any cancellation will mean a total loss of the cost of the vacation. This falls under the better safe than sorry category for me. DCL offers trip insurance as part of your trip package or you can find another company, just don't miss the boat on this one. I've seen the price tag of a helicopter evacuation (to be taken to shore for medical treatment) quoted in the neighborhood of $30K. Makes the trip insurance seem like chump change in comparison, doesn't it?

Skip Palo

There is a TON of food on the cruise that is already included in your fare. Paying an upcharge for an exclusive adults only restaurant is clearly a waste of time, right?

Sorbet. Mmmmmm.
Hold on a second. If you want a romantic evening with quiet romantic music in leisurely lush surroundings, this is well worth the $25 upcharge. Still need convincing? Between the Palo Beef Tenderloin and chocolate soufflé, it's a must try. If you have a super special occasion to celebrate, try out Remy on the Dream class ships for a unique night out. If your little mouseketeers are anything like mine, they'll be thrilled to enjoy a kids evening eating and playing in the clubs.

Fly in the Morning of the Cruise

You don't need to worry about hotel room costs when you fly in the morning of embarkation!

Even the cuteness of tiny airline salt and pepper can't allay the stress of last minute air travel.
However if your flight is delayed and your trip insurance doesn't cover travel delays and the flight to the next port of call (and your hotel stay for the nights until the ship reaches it's first port) it's probably wiser to fly in the night before and enjoy a plane free pre-cruise morning. I've flown in the morning of our cruise exactly once. It was not relaxing, It was not enjoyable and our flight ran perfectly smoothly with not a single delay or hitch. If you're flying from a location that receives snow or other storms that mess with air traffic, the peace of mind alone is worth the extra day to absorb delays.

Rely on a Birth Certificate for Customs

Yes, some closed loop cruises can be boarded with only a certified birth certificate and official photo id. Assuming your cruise is one of those this is true for, please check that you are not on one of the several port adventures which require a passport.

Besides, passports are just cool.
I know of at least one dolphin excursion where you cross from St. John's to St. Thomas (thus needing a passport) and a couple Alaska excursions that cross into Canada (passports please!) It'd be a real shame to pony up the money for a lovely excursion that you can't attend because of paperwork.
You can double check the port adventure information ahead of time, of course.
(Murphy's Law: what if you need to fly back at some point during the cruise?)

Skip Room Service

Room service on land is often associated with arm and a leg costs. Thankfully room service is mostly included (alcoholic beverages, sodas and packaged snacks are extra, check the room service menu for details.) For no more than the tip, you can enjoy breakfast (lunch, dinner, midnight snacks and mickey bars) in the comfort of your stateroom.

Ignore Major Holidays

You scheduled your cruise over Easter week, not because of school schedules but just as a coincidence and ended up paying twice the cost of the week before.

Christmas décor is up for much of November through New Years. It's much cheaper to enjoy the holiday cheer the first week of December rather than the week of Thanksgiving!
We just saved $1,600 bumping our cruise back by one week from Thanksgiving to the week after. We will still enjoy all of the Christmas décor and activities but without paying extra for the holidays.

Book your Cruise for this Summer

You want to book your vacation for this summer and you want to book it now. Basically we are in the dead zone for most of the summer dates. Last minute *GT rates haven't come out (if they will) and due to tier pricing, the staterooms currently available are selling at rates several thousand dollars higher than when they initially went on sale sometime last year. Either get a good Disney authorized TA or devote some time (and persistence) to keep an eye out for the last minute deals which may appear in the 45-30 day range yourself.
Other options? Consider booking for summer of 2015. All of those dates were released last month and haven't jumped much yet. Just think of how long that paper chain will be!

So in review:
1) Buy trip insurance, it's worth it.
2) Palo is definitely worth it (and a steal) at $25.
3) Fly in the day before, your peace of mind is worth it.
4) Passports are worth it.
5) Room service (included!) is worth it.
6) Paying attention to the school calendars is worth it.
7) Patience (or persistence) is worth it.

Want to know how to actually save money on your cruise or what is already included in the cost of the cruise?
You're in luck, I already blogged on those!

April 9, 2014

All-Inclusive* - Beyond the Asterisk

Disney Cruise Line is all about the "All-Inclusive*" Disney vacation experience.
What on earth does that exactly mean?
What is included in "All-Inclusive*" vacations?
Why do you keep using that asterisk?

"All-Inclusive" means that you could theoretically get away without spending a single dime once you've paid the initial cost* and boarded the ship.
*Plus any ground transfers, pre- or post-stay hotel reservations, port parking, airfare and trip insurance.

Minimally, please budget for gratuities! The standard gratuity of $12 per passenger per night of cruise will be automatically added to your account. This tip will be divided amongst your dining room server, assistant server, head server and your stateroom host. If you wish to add to this tip for exceptional service, either adjust the tips at the guest services desk anytime during your cruise or else add cash to the envelopes left in your stateroom.

What is Included:

1.) All Food*
This includes as much in the way of breakfast, lunch and dinner (even dessert!) as you want. Room service, quick service, buffet and sit down meals are all included every day (port or sea day) for the duration of the cruise. Snacks offered around the ship in the lounges are included. Even lunch on Castaway Cay is included! Mickey bars from room service?

Breakfast with Goofy? Included*
*Exclusively offered on the Magic and the Wonder on longer cruises.
Character breakfasts are included but only offered on the Magic and Wonder on longer sailings with at least three sea days.
Also included. Everything you would want to eat for the entire cruise is included.
*Except snack bar items (prepackaged candy and popcorn either outside the theatre or ordered from room service), tips for room service, adults only dining at either Palo or Remy, and the Royal Court Royal Tea aboard the Disney Fantasy. Also not included, any meals on your way to or from the ship as well as when you are off of the ship in any port except Castaway Cay.

2.) All Drinks*
All the coffee, tea, sodas, juice or milk (even soy varieties) you care to drink in the dining rooms!
All the coffee, tea, milk or juice you care to order from 24 hour room service!

The Royal Treatment
Feeling civilized while drinking a cup of Twinings at breakfast? Included. 

All the coffee, tea, water or soda you care to pick up at the 24 hour drink station on the pool deck!
All the soda or water you care to pick up at the soda station on Castaway Cay!
*Exceptions apply:  Anything you order from a passing waiter at the pool or in a club will have a price. Any specialty drinks and smoothies (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) will have a price, whether ordered at dinner or on the go. Any coffee drink handled by a barista at the café will have a price tag similar to Starbucks. Soda (in cans) and water (in bottles) delivered via room service will have a price. Tastings (martini, beer, wine, etc.) are not included and you need to reserve these ahead of time at Guest Services.

3.) All Entertainment*
Broadway style shows, variety entertainers, animation classes, Art of the Theme tours, movie premiere events, pools, fitness center, karaoke, live music, dance parties, deck parties and adult only events.

5K? Included! T-shirt? Not included!
On Castaway Cay, the loungers, hammocks, crab racing, a separate on shore kids club and even the 5K is included! For the kids 3-17, the Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Edge (tween club) and Vibe (teen club) and all their activities are included! Meet and greets with your favorite Disney characters around the ship are included and often the helpful cast member acting as their friend (escorting the character) would be more than happy to take a photo with your own camera or phone or let mom or dad do the honors.
*For (not yet potty-trained) any cruiser under 3, the nursery allows pre-booking of pay by the hour play time while their parents are free to explore the ship. Spa treatments are not included. Laundry (if you must do it) is not free, but the machines take your room key and detergent is also for sale. Port Adventures (the Disney term for excursions) are not included. Cabanas on Castaway Cay are sadly an arm and a leg. Bingo is played with real money for real cash prizes. The ARR-cade does not run on pixie dust alone. If you join an FE group, expect to budget for those gifts as well.
Any cute customized kids clothes you buy for the trip?
Sadly not included.

Tiltshift Fun
But they're so cute!
If you choose to buy the photos in Shutters or purchase some Mickey Ear hats, pins or indulge in some shopping in the gift shops or in port, those are (I hope, obviously) not included.

Why do you keep using that asterisk?
What can I say? I really, really love asterisks*.
*Although it is very possible to only spend the initial costs, travel costs and gratuities and enjoy a perfect vacation, I find most of my friends want a realistic look at what and where they might choose to add to their budget to personalize. For example, one of my dear friends (who shall remain nameless) was on a first name basis with the barista by late the afternoon of boarding. He has a serious Starbucks habit. He went into it eyes wide open, knowing that he paid for each of his Frappuccinos rather than getting a rude awakening on reviewing the bill at the end of his cruise. (Also he picked up the café buy five get one free card to help subsidize his need for caffeine.) I'm using the asterisk as a way to shed light on things you might love to try but might need to add into your budget before you hit the high seas.

What do you make sure to include in your cruise budget?
If you'll excuse me, I'm off to save up for a cabana on Castaway Cay!

March 25, 2014

Trying to Peek Under the Wrapping Paper

If last night were Christmas Eve, we're stuck in the "waiting for mom and dad to get out of bed" phase of things.

Full of box shaking, commencing now!

Meaning all of us DCL fans are congregating on message boards and Facebook groups looking at lists of best guesses (brought on by careful analysis of port calenders) and wild guesses (brought on by impatience and hopes).

Personally (and entirely selfishly), I would LOVE DCL to bring a ship back to Texas.

For now, though, the waiting.

March 24, 2014

Drum Roll Please!

'Twas the night before cruise schedule release and all through the net
Not a castaway was booking for summer 2015 yet.
The rumors were flung through the forums with glee,
 In hopes that DCL soon would port near me.

 I am SOOOO ready to find out about our big family reunion next fall and tomorrow is the day!
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