Disney vacations: Why we go

Walt Disney World
is the most visited resort in the world. Other Disney resorts and Disney cruises remain huge destinations worldwide. Yet, a Disney vacation is also maligned by many people.

Believe me, I’ve heard all the negatives: It’s overly programmed; it’s pedestrian; it’s gimmicky; it’s hot and miserable (or cold and miserable, as the case may be).

And as a journalist who covers Disney, I have to admit that many of my trips to “The World” feel a whole lot more like work than vacation, even with my family in tow.

After a marathon couple of weeks trying to cover all the holiday happenings at Disney Parks, I spent the first half of January in Disney burn-out. But I was reminded again last week why I – and many other moms – bring our kids on Disney vacations.

While watching the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, Tinker Bell took off from Cinderella Castle to make her nightly flight. My 7-year-old daughter, who has seen these same fireworks dozens of times, turned to me, eyes sparkling, and squealed, “Mom, Tinkerbell waved at ME!”

I cannot even express the joy I felt in that moment. I can only say it was worth a million not-so-great moments waiting in line, sweating, and dealing with kids’ meltdowns and obnoxious grown-ups on vacation.

It’s a sentiment Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger agreed with when I interviewed him last week on board the Disney Dream.

A father and grandfather himself, Iger has a built-in focus group at home, and it keeps him centered on Disney’s core values.

“Watching through my kids’ eyes reinforces the richest and most valuable quality of Disney – the impact we have on kids and families,” Iger said.

Sure, enjoying a Disney vacation requires a little leap, a little suspension of reality. And no, it doesn’t give you a sense of the place you’ve traveled or a look into the real people who live there.

But I still urge you to try it sometime. And when you do, go with a kid.

Because as far as I’m concerned, Tinker Bell really does fly out of Cinderella Castle every night. And she really did pick my daughter out of the crowd last week and wave specifically at her.

And it was magical.

New Disney Dream cruise ship sails out to sea

The Disney Dream, the third ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, is now under its own power, conducting tests out on the North Sea.

The Dream left the Meyer Werft shipyard and was towed by tugboats 26 miles down the River Ems to Eemshaven, The Netherlands. This conveyance is unique to ships built at Meyer Werft, because it is so far inland. Some railroad bridges across the river had to be dismantled to allow the ship to pass.

Of course, the whole thing was done Disney-style, with fireworks and Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck waving from the decks to residents gathered to watch the spectacle.

After the North Sea tests, known as the “test-and-adjust period,” the Disney Dream cruise ship will be dry-docked for a short time in Germany before being officially delivered to the Disney Cruise Line.

The Disney Dream will sail 3-, 4- and 5-night cruises to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida. The inaugural cruise is set for Jan. 26, 2011.

A fourth Disney Cruise Line ship – the Disney Fantasy – is also under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard. The Fantasy will be completed in spring 2012.

New Disney Dream cruise ship to feature “Goofy Sports Deck” and “Nemo’s Reef”

The newest cruise ship in the Disney Cruise Lines fleet won’t sail till 2011. As we get closer to that Date, Disney has started to release images of the amazing amenities guests will be able to enjoy on the Disney Dream.

Today, Disney announced the details of several new amenities on the ship”

Goofy’s Sports Deck – a miniature golf course with Goofy and his son Max leading you through nine wacky holes. The sports area also features two mini sports courts with soccer, basketball, volleyball and a walking track.

Nemo’s reef – a 1500 square feet infant and toddler play area with slides, an “inking” octopus, and of course a chance to swim in the EAC (the east Australian current).

Quiet Cove pool and bar – adults can escape all the kid friendly attractions at the cove. The area features several pools, hot tubs and of course, poolside cocktails.

AquaDuck – one of the highlights of the new ship will be the world’s first shipboard water coaster. Forget water slides – Disney is adding a high speed flume ride with twists and turns.

To learn more about this amazing new ship, or to see where it will sail, check out the promo page over at the Disney Cruise Line site.



Disney Cruise Line heading to Alaska in 2011

Starting May 3rd 2011, Disney Cruise Line will be offering an Alaska itinerary. The 7 night Alaska cruise starts in Vancouver and after day at sea will take guests to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, followed by another sea day before arriving back in Vancouver.

The cruise will be offered on board the Disney Wonder, their 964 foot long, 2400 passenger vessel. The Disney Wonder offers guests three pools, 6 youth clubs, 7 lounges and bars, 9 restaurants and of course a whole host of Disney themed entertainment.

For a modest fee, parents can check their little ones into one of the on-board kids clubs, allowing them to enjoy themselves without the kids for a couple of hours.

The Disney Wonder currently sails in the Bahamas, Mexican Riviera and the Panama Canal, so the repositioning to Alaska during the summer is an interesting choice – I’m guessing it has something to do with a drop in passenger numbers on cruise lines, especially in that area, along with overcapacity. The Alaska Cruise market is still relatively popular, so this Disney gamble should mean they’ll be able to fill their ships quite easily.

If you are interested in a Disney Alaska Cruise, you’ll be able to book your voyage starting September 28th 2009. In addition to the Alaska route, Disney will also be offering 2 repositioning cruises from Los Angeles to Vancouver (April 27th 2011) and Vancouver back to Los Angeles (September 20th 2011).

(Via: Anchorage Daily News, thanks Matt!)

Top 5 cruise ship spas

Being on a cruise seems luxurious enough. To add to the glam and relaxation, though, consider a spa visit. Frankly, if I were on a cruise, I’m not sure if I would need a spa–the cruise seems like it might be enough pleasure. On second thought, a person to massage my feet would be nice–a person from Thailand, perhaps.

If you are that person who wants to add the best spa experience to your trip, and I’m starting to think I am, here are five ship spas to check out. A tweet from TomTravel2 led me to what makes them stand outs in the crowd. As he said, how can one pick out five best? Still, they are touted by msnbc as being the five at the top. The more I read about them, the more that massage seems sweet indeed. [photo by kikaski]

Celebrity Solstice Aqua Spa Has indoor waterfalls and areas to relax and lounge while waiting for treatment and afterward. Acupuncture treatments are a forte.

Costa Serena Samsara Spa-If I were on this cruise, I’d want to see the spa even if I didn’t get a treatment. It’s the largest spa at sea and was designed to capture an Asian flavor. Ayurvedic, holistic treatments are an integral part of the options. There’s a foot massage that I have my eye on.

Cunard Queen Mary 2 Canyon Ranch Spa Club–A spa called Canyon Ranch on a cruise ship is an amazing thought. I picture cowboys and horses. Not this spa. Think reflexology, an ice fountain and aromatic treatments. After reading about this spa’s description, if I didn’t disembark from the Queen Mary fresh and new, I’d feel something was wrong with me, especially with the “healthy living experts” at the ready to pass on tips and advice.

Disney Magic Vista Spa–Besides the fine looking couples massage and other relaxation treatments, this spa has a rain forest and “villas” that come with a private deck, hot tub and an open-air shower. My!

Norweigian Pearl South Pacific SpaWith Botox being one of the treatment options–seriously, yuk-I guess one would end the cruise a new person. I’d stick with the thalassotherapy pool which is described as a relaxing, heated salt water pool.