FREE At Last!

The biggest mistake I ever made was the ‘art of collecting’ and storing things in boxes when I first got married. I actually thought I was demonstrating organization. Everything was important, everything mattered and everything was tied to a special memory – even the tiniest piece of paper filled with doodles opened a flood of memories while learning about Louis Leakey in university.

I was the person, who as a kid, felt sorry for any kind of candy wrapper, or scrap of paper and who would stuff the wrapper in a box, between pages in a book, or a coat pocket. I felt sorry for a piece of paper and what would become of it, so imagine my anxiety when recycling programs came about and the great relief of the emergence of fancy storage boxes.

I saved everything. Even receipts from our meals at Disney. I’m not kidding. It was, after all, a great example of explaining how to keep track of Disney Dining Plan Meal Credits, which, at the time was really important.

But, at some point, after the move to our second home, after our kids began to get older, there was a shift, and all those boxes of ‘things’ began to cause me great grief. I would think of the closets, and the piles of books and papers and bags of memorabilia which I just HAD TO HAVE at the time, but would now send me into a panic. My closets were filled, organized, but filled and sadly, excessive.

But, there was a problem, I was physically exhausted from being up most of the night with my son and his nighttime behaviours for fifteen years. Fifteen years of walking around like a zombie during the day, trying to catch a wink here and there, fifteen years of struggling with my weight and mobility and yo yo diets which left me anemic and unhealthy. The struggle was real and the motivation at an all time low. I just had no energy, so all I did, was to focus on what I loved to do, something that fed my soul and boosted my moral. For me, that was anything related to Disney. And then came the internet and chat rooms and social media and cyber-friends and the distraction was massive and it took me away from my task at hand and made and continues to make me very happy.

Over the next few years, we would attempt to clear ‘the piles’, but stuff still had a way of creeping into the house- well I was the one who brought it all in, I’ll take the onus.

I would bag stuff, I would donate it, I would run things over to schools and shelters, but that wasn’t enough and those donations did not even make a dent in the clutter that lurked around my home and that kept coming in. This was all I began to talk about with family and friends, even more so than my chatter about Disney and this is when I knew this was a huge problem that had to be dealt with.

Something else had to happen. I wasn’t getting very far stuffing bag upon bag for donation. My biggest problem, was that there were items that couldn’t be stuffed into a bag, such as thick binders and books and papers and frames and you name it. So, I decided to rent a residential bin and to set a time limit. This, for me, was the only way to get anything done because I paid for the bin and didn’t want to send it back empty.

So there it sat for ten days and with each purge, I felt a release. With each toss, I felt a sense of freedom and more importantly control. As the house began to open up, I felt a growing momentum to let go of all those things which were burdens and as I did, I felt more free and strong. When they came to pick up the bin, I actually felt a pang of panic because of not having the luxury of being able to toss something out so easily.

This had a huge impact on me and I vow, that, because of the immeasurable anxiety the clutter and junk had on me, I vow, to never bring in another item on a whim. I vow to let go of something when I do bring in another item, no matter what. Otherwise, I’ll be in this same position before I know it, and I cannot and will not live like that!

I don’t need knick knacks, I don’t need new pots, or pans, or coffee makers, or irons, or things to stuff in bowls, or containers filled with sand or shells, or even testimonial mugs – I have many, many mugs. Years ago, I paid good money for a few cooking pots and small appliances and they’ll do their magic until their end. I won’t visit those home stores which will tempt me to buy this or that, I don’t need anything. What I have serves its purpose and I’ll never be able to make my house look like the pages of a magazine, or what have you. I’d rather save my money for what truly makes me happy, and that’s travel, experiences and making memories.

Now, I love my empty corners, tabletops and shelves because they give me a sense of peace and make me feel in control. Best of all, dusting is a breeze.

That’s what works for me.

The 20 yard residential bin rental was from “Bin There Dump That” which I thought was at a very reasonable cost, and I highly recommend this company. For me there was no other way.

I hope you remove the clutter from your life, because it’s very liberating and empowering.  And now, I can proudly state that my household ‘To Do List’ for 2018 is finished. For the FIRST time in forever, I don’t have that nagging feeling that I have to do this or that, and I can now focus on my daily and weekly tasks at hand.

I can’t express how great that feels.

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Walt Disney World Resort’s Lost and Found

Years ago, I was having fun at an all girl’s weekend at Walt Disney World Resort and brought along my favourite Nick & Nora pyjamas, you know, the one’s that have these huge, bright red cherries all over them? They’re still my favourite pj’s because the cotton is light and smooth, perfect for getting me through those hot flashes and I just love the whimsical cherries and little frilly things. Perfect for me!

Well, sadly, I forgot them back at the Disney Resort hotel, but to my great surprise, after a quick, friendly and very helpful telephone call, the Cast Member found them herself, sitting atop the change area shelf and she called me back with the great news! Why, before I knew it, my cherry pj’s were back home within a few days, along with the cutest little Gus & Jaq figurines sitting in the pocket of the pj’s.

Recently, my cousin was visiting Walt Disney World Resort and lost her sunglasses. To her great surprise and immense satisfaction, Guest Relations was able to locate and return them – she was astounded with the expeditious and courteous manner in which the entire matter was dealt with and resolved, all for a pair of sunglasses. Now, I’m not promising or guaranteeing that everything lost is found, some items of course, just like to stick around for all the Disney fun, but my experience has been that Cast Members do try their very best.

And now, the official Disney Parks Blog announced an even greater and more convenient service. If a Guest happens to lose an item on Walt Disney World Resort property and even while travelling on the convenient Walt Disney World Resort Transportation, they can use their mobile device, head over to DisneyWorld.com/lostandfound, and with a few quick taps, Guests can report their lost item. Best of all, the Lost and Found magic makers will keep Guests updated regarding their lost item. How great is that!

Read all about the Walt Disney World Resort Lost & Found via the Disney Parks Blog and, if you have any questions about your next Disney Resorts, Parks & Destinations vacation, be sure to stop by the Disney Parks Moms Panel for great tips & advice from folks like myself, with first-hand Disney vacation experience.

Thanks for stopping by!

Why Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel? Grab a pen and some paper!

At Walt Disney World Resort it’s all magical, every single experience you’ll have is magical. From the people that work there, called, Cast Members, right down to the Guest Room you’ll sleep in, the magic is all around and begins the moment you book your Magic Your Way Vacation Package online, seamlessly!

The minute you’ve booked online, you’ll receive email prompts for next steps to make sure you optimize every aspect of your vacation. Best of all, you will have complete control over every detail of your vacation to make decisions based on the needs of your family. If you need help, head over to the Disney Parks Moms Panel to ask questions from everyday people who have first-hand Disney Destinations vacation experience. You can read answers to many questions, look through the popular Moms Views, watch fun and informative videos and much more! As well, you can Watch Free Disney Vacation Planning Videos which are perfectly for your planning.

Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel will present you with unique benefits and many conveniences to help you maximize your vacation experiences and to help you create a magical, enjoyable stay.

Now, let’s talk about the benefits:

  • you’ll enjoy spectacular, unique and authentic theming at your Disney Resort hotel where you can seriously enjoy a complete vacation there alone, these hotels are unbelievable and true-to-theme!
  • you’ll have the advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours to enjoy extended morning and/or evenings at select Theme Parks to enjoy select attractions (valid Theme Park admission is required)
  • if you are flying into Orlando International Airport and you select Disney’s Magical Express during your booking – then you’ll receive luggage tags well in advance of your departure from home to affix on your luggage so that when you arrive at the airport you can bypass Baggage Claim and head straight to your complimentary motor coach transportation for a magical ride to your Disney Resort hotel. Oh, and at the end of your vacation, Disney’s Magical Express will take you back to the airport!
  • you’ll enjoy complimentary Walt Disney World Resort transportation Resort-wide
  • you’ll receive complimentary MagicBands which add even more convenience to your stay by connecting you to all your Walt Disney World Resort vacation choices made with My Disney Experience – you’ll travel lighter because you can use your linked MagicBand to enter the Theme Parks, it’ll unlock your Disney Resort hotel Guest Room, you can charge food and souvenirs to your Disney Resort hotel Guest Room account, so no need to carry your wallet, how great is that! And, you’ll enjoy little magical surprises during your touring!
  • if you’re a shopper, then don’t worry about lugging your parcels around, you’ll be able to have the souvenirs sent directly to your Disney Resort hotel
  • now here’s where it gets even better – staying at a Disney Resort hotel enables you to book your FastPass+ experiences 60 days before your arrival check-in date, where Guests staying off Walt Disney World Resort property can only book their FastPass+ experiences 30 days before their scheduled Theme Park arrival (valid Theme Park admission must be linked to your Disney account)

This is why when we vacation at Walt Disney World Resort we book a Disney Resort hotel – so why not get started and book your vacation at the Place Where Dreams Come True at the most Magical Place on Earth!

Partners Statue Gold

Private Cabanas at Disney’s Paradise in the Bahamas

Did you know that when you sail with Disney Cruise Line, most itineraries make one or even two stops at Disney Castaway Cay? This Disney island is located in the Bahamas and offers many excursions (Port Adventures) for Guests of all ages. You’ll find a Family Beach, Adult-Only Beach called, Serenity Bay and a Teen Beach, where you’ll enjoy complimentary beach loungers, chairs and large umbrella. As if that’s not enough, you’ll be treated to a delicious and bountiful beach barbecue!

We love renting a private Cabana for our day at Disney Castaway Cay because it offers peace, shelter and a lot of privacy which is perfect for keeping our son comfortable, enabling him to enjoy a full day on the island. The private Cabana offers, a roomy interior with sofa, chairs, a stocked mini-fridge, face towels, magazines, sunscreens and lotions, a corner change area with curtain, an outer covered verandah with large, cushioned loungers, a hammock, outdoor shower – great for rinsing off the sand, beach loungers, chairs and umbrella, the use of beach floatations, snorkel equipment, bikes, beach toys and a buzzer near the entrance, which will beckon a Cast Member who can restock your mini-fridge with water bottles, juices, fruit and snacks…and yes, they’ll bring you a Konk Kooler, or libation for a cost.

My experience with booking private Cabanas is that you have to book within your booking window for Port Adventures and do so as soon as possible, because they’re popular. I have a few tips (not guaranteed but worth a try) if you can’t book one online. Keep checking back online because someone may cancel. As well, when you board the ship on the first day, check again and every day of your sailing with the Port Adventures Desk. The day you dock at Disney Castaway Cay, catch the Tram to Pelican Point and go to the Cabanas Check-In Booth and inquire again – this is how we scored our very first Cabana the year they became available. Now, as Platinum Castaway Cay Club members, we have an earlier booking window. As well, if you are sailing in Concierge Level, you too, will have an earlier booking window.

As a mom of an autistic teenage boy, I cannot say enough how helpful it is utilizing a private Cabana. My son, enjoys the beach, but will tire easily, so he has the option of resting on the covered verandah on a cushy lounger watching his favourite Disney movies, or swinging to his hearts content on a hammock all to himself and for my motion seeker, that’s the perfect solution!

Disney Cruise Line, where “There’s Something for Everyone.”

Cabana Sign Psarianos

Andrew Soared Sailing with Disney Cruise Line

Who would have thought that we could take our son to Europe? We never, ever thought this would be possible, ever, and we consider ourselves hopeless optimists which has kept us going year after year after year through these chapters called, autism.

We were blown away during our recent sailing on the Disney Magic throughout the Mediterranean seeing our son acclimate so well and I’ll say this – it’s because of our past sailings with Disney Cruise Line. It’s because of the familiarity having sailed all four ships in the fleet (with more to come in the near future). You see, while each ship has its own distinctive features, there are many similarities with the others that create consistency and through that, foster an environment of security. Here’s how they do it:

  • the staterooms all have similar layouts, furniture design and fabrics
  • the basic colours both inside and out are similar
  • the basic layouts of the ships are basically similar
  • the rotational dining system in the three main dining rooms carries throughout the fleet
  • the youth clubs, while slightly varied, do evoke a sense of familiarity offering a welcoming and friendly vibe in all

Andrew can take you almost anywhere onboard. In fact, he quite often leads the way, usually ten paces ahead of us. Yes, it’s become that easy for us. He knows the routine well now. When we open our stateroom door, he knows exactly what to expect and where he will sleep and proceeds to ‘organize his space’ if I may, where he lays out all his comforts from home – his iPad, his tactile, sensory toys to name a few things. It’s all become systematic and seamless. You can see him doing this in the photo below – he’s organizing, as he calls it.

Then, let’s talk about the Port Adventures. We did all of them in Europe because of all the logistical planning and mostly the peace of mind. With Disney Cruise Line you get all of that and much more. On each and every Port Adventure, the guides did all they possibly could to ensure Andrew was comfortable, safe and happy, but most of all, they valued him for who he was and made him feel included. One example, is how Andrew was asked to lead the Port Adventures group straight to the Acropolis of Athens by carrying the group sign. I cannot tell you how his confidence soared right before our very eyes and what great hope that gave us, seeing him so proud and happy. He was all smiles for the entire cruise.

This is what keeps us coming back for more with the cruise line where “there’s something for everyone.”

 

Thalassotherapy on a Disney Cruise?

Thalassa means the sea and coupled with therapy, well, that’s thalassotherapy and yes, you’ll find this therapy sailing with Disney Cruise Line in one of many adult-exclusive areas, namely the Rainforest Room within Senses Salon & Spa.

As you step beyond the welcome area, the feeling of relaxation steadily sets in as you prepare in the luxurious changing rooms. Entering the Rainforest Room itself takes to an environment of one where you de-escalate, as you progress through the three different saunas and rain shower experiences that lead to a room with heated loungers that overlook the sea – the Thalassotherapy Room – Thalassa (sea). You can go in with books with the intention to read, but I guarantee that you’ll be falling asleep over the warm comfort of the heated lounger.

You can purchase your pass into the Rainforest Room by the day, but spots quickly fill up, so I highly recommend that you purchase a length-of-cruise pass on embarkation day from Senses Salon & Spa straight-away to avoid disappointment. While you’re up there, ask for more information on the various spa treatments that will help rejuvenate you.

Thalassotherapy Room 1

Stay tuned for my experience at the adult-exclusive Satellite Falls on the upper deck of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy – a most tranquil, wading pool experience.

 

Adults Love Wading Pools Too!

Doing nothing on a Disney Cruise is the best thing around, it’s your vacation after all. If you’re adventurous, many onboard experiences and shore-side Port Adventures await your exploration, but if you’re a lounger, like me, then you’re seeking peace and solitude, away from the many challenging demands of adulting.

One such place onboard the third and fourth ships in the fleet, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is Satellite Falls. Disney describes this as a “tranquil orbit,” so grab a spot, sink in and bask and just be. This adult-exclusive wading pool is the perfect place to unwind under a gentle rain-curtain if you’re directly beneath the giant sphere, or you can sit near the perimeter and just breathe.

Step out to nap on the cushioned lounge chairs under the shade to enjoy the vistas from the top deck. This is steps away from the adults-only Quiet Cove Pool, Quiet Cove Bar and Cove Cafe – true escapes from whatever you wish – and that’s only the beginning of your adult-only adventures with Disney Cruise Line.

Let’s Talk About the Staterooms on a Disney Cruise!

Sailing with Disney Cruise Line magically reconnects families, offers adults a chance to relax, unwind and it offers stimulating areas and Youth Clubs where children can explore, discover and learn while having a whole lot of fun watching their beloved Disney Characters and stories come to life.

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Choose itineraries in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Bahamas, Alaska, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and the horizon looks so exciting with three new ships that will be added to the current fleet of four!

The Disney personalized service, outshines any other vessel I have sailed on. From the moment you step onboard, you are treated royally with the announcement of your name as you are applauded into the stunning Atrium Lobby to begin your ‘Magical’ adventures filled with ‘Wonder’ to see your ‘Dream’ come alive as your ‘Fantasy’ fairytale world opens right before your very eyes.

Read along as I describe the “Disney Difference” regarding staterooms.

The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the third and fourth ships in the fleet, respectively, offer 1,250 staterooms, where 80% are outside rooms, and of those, 90% offer private verandahs. For larger families and groups sailing together, 500 staterooms have connecting doors adjoining the staterooms.  On the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the first and second ships in the fleet, 70% are outside staterooms.

On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, you can select a Standard or Deluxe Inside Stateroom which offers the delightful “Magical Porthole” window which displays real-time feed from the ship’s exterior and a few little surprises along the way – Magical Porthole windows are not available on the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder. You can select various levels of Deluxe Oceanview and Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with or without a Verandah. If you wish, you can opt for Concierge Level Staterooms and Suites – all offering Verandahs. Whatever you decide, you’ll sleep on made-for-Disney-themed Frette bedding, bask in luxurious H20+ toiletries and twice-daily stateroom service. Guests in Concierge Level staterooms enjoy Concierge Service.

Magical Porthole
The Magical Porthole window on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Photo: Disney Parks Blog

DCL Stateroom 3

Staterooms are 25% larger than the industry standard and offer the industry-first “Split Bath and a Half” configuration adding even more convenience for Guests. The “Split Bath and a Half” offers a room containing a private sink and toilet followed by a second room containing a full tub/shower and sink, filled with plush Frette towels and toiletries from the H20+ line of products.

 

DCL Stateroom

Staterooms were designed keeping families in mind offering a queen-size bed, privacy curtain, a convertible single sofa bed and pull-down bunk. Many staterooms, to accommodate 5 Guests also offer a pull-down wall bed which rests on the floor. The main bed is raised to offer out-of-the-way luggage storage beneath and I love that the mattress is not rounded at the foot end, as is the case with many other cruise lines. The stateroom offers many drawers, a trunk with lid for extra storage, a mini- fridge and ample closet space that includes a safe for valuables. The top bunk ceiling even casts a dreamy, starry night.

DCL Staterooms 2

DCL Stateroom 4

Staterooms are equipped with the Wave Phones which enable communication with fellow travellers, or Guests may opt to communicate privately using the ‘Onboard Chat’ feature via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App which also offers daily schedules, shipboard information and much more!

Wave Phones

Staterooms for Guests requiring accessibility are on almost every deck (pending availability) and offer larger doorways, emergency call buttons, grab bars throughout the bathroom, fold-down shower seats, adjustable-height shower heads, ramped bathroom thresholds, and fold-down shower seats. Special Equipment is available in the form of stateroom communication kits containing a door knock, phone alerts, bed shaker notification and a strobe light smoke detector. A stateroom Text Typewriter (TTY) is available upon request from Guest Services. Sharps containers are offered in all staterooms for the disposal of syringes, lancets and needles. As well, Sharps containers are conveniently located in all public restrooms.

I always look forward to a sound and fitful nights sleep onboard and I rest so well, no afternoon nap is necessary during my sailing – unless of course your find me snoozing on those heated loungers in the Thalassotherapy Room in the Rainforest Room at Senses Spa & Salon, or on a cushy deck chair soaking in the ocean vistas and balmy breezes up at Satellite Falls

The 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration – What An Amazing Experience!

Wow! Just WOW!

I just returned from the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration that took place at Walt Disney World Resort, staying at the beautiful Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, followed by a sailing on the third ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the Disney Dream – sister ship to the newest ship, the Disney Fantasy! This, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was grateful for, and will treasure for the rest of my life, because this conference for me, was a unique experience with the thrust of positivity, hard work, learning, collaboration, networking and empowerment. This conference fostered an environment of hope through perseverance and hard work – I have never before been to such a conference, at The Place Where Dreams Come True, and sailing with the cruise line where There’s Something for Everyone so I was completely awestruck!

Check out the fabulous and informative presentations both at Walt Disney World Resort and sailing the beautiful Disney Dream!

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The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Team and Walt Disney World Special Events, in collaboration with American Tourister proudly befitted all attendees with a beautiful spinner carry-on suitcase and backpack which helped me organize all my essentials. I was an invited participant for which I paid a fee to attend which covered my stay, most meals and Theme Park Tickets at Walt Disney World Resort and on the Disney Dream with Disney Cruise Line. I also received promotional items from sponsors.

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Complimentary motor coach travel from Orlando International Airport was also arranged through Disney’s Magical Express because we were Guests at a select Disney Resort hotel – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. This service presents Guests with luggage tags weeks before departure from home, which, when properly affixed on suitcases, luggage will travel directly from the aircraft to the specific Disney Resort hotel (restrictions apply) a few hours after Check-In. This and many more unique and convenient benefits when staying at a select Disney Resort hotel.

Our stay and visit at Walt Disney World Resort was linked to the seamless planning with My Disney Experience online which was beneficial for FastPass+ selections, checking Theme Park Hours, finding Disney Characters, checking for fireworks shows, and much, much more. We were all presented with the convenience of complimentary MagicBands which were also linked to our My Disney Experience accounts, which then unlocked our Disney Resort hotel Guest Room door, contained our Theme Park Ticket information, enabled charging privileges to our Disney Resort hotel Guest Room and surprised many of us with special, magical touches during our visit – this and many more conveniences and benefits to be enjoyed by Guests staying at select Disney Resort hotels!

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – themed in Spanish Colonial Mexican, was the perfect venue for a conference of this magnitude, being a conference Resort hotel. It also features a Quick-Service “Pepper Market” on-the-go, dining; Table-Service dining at the popular Nuevo Latino-themed restaurant called, “Maya Grill” and offers 24-hour fitness facilities, as well as a range of spa and beauty services. This Disney Resort hotel is undergoing a massive re-imagination and adding a multi-level accommodation building for Guests to enjoy in the near future.

The 2018 Disney Social Media Welcome Reception for attendees and families was a huge success, in true Disney-fashion, filled with interactive Disney Characters and delicious food. There were many well-organized photo opportunities for Guests of all ages and we even had the Slinky Dog train car on display from the upcoming attraction, Slinky Dog Dash at the upcoming new land – Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What great fun that was and a most delightful and welcoming way to kick off the conference! You could feel the energy in the room from over 150 Bloggers and Influencers ready to absorb all they could from The Walt Disney Company representatives and ever so hopeful to build relationships with brands such as GoGo squeeZ, Babybel, Alamo and many more!

Slinky Dog

Day Two saw us all entering the “Valley of Mo’ara”, in the new land, Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, to enjoy, a bountiful RDA mess hall-style experience breakfast at Satu’li Canteen followed by the freedom to enjoy Avatar Flight of Passage on the back of a mountain banshee and then explore a bioluminescent rainforest in a comfortable reed boat on the Na’vi River Journey – not to mention the free discovery of the vibrant flora and fauna throughout the land.

Definitely visit Pandora -The World of Avatar both during the day and at night, as the experience is completely different each time – a definite must-do, and don’t forget to make your FastPass+ selections, 30 days before your scheduled visit, or 60 days before your Disney Resort hotel check-in date – just remember that you need valid Walt Disney World Resort Theme Park Admission!

In the afternoon, we walked down star-studded streets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to learn about and see dioramas for Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the walk-through attraction, Walt Disney Presents, followed by an outstanding gourmet, buffet dinner at PizzeRizzo, sponsored by GoGo squeeZ!

Day Three left us spellbound with an enriching conference presented by many outstanding and dedicated Disney representatives. The session was filled with sage advice for building our social media outlets and how to achieve our dreams. I couldn’t post fast enough. Late afternoon presented us with the opportunity to visit Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park – which we opted to do using the new Minnie Van Service and the complimentary Disney Transportation throughout Walt Disney World Resort.

MinnieVansThe Minnie Van Service photo is courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.

Day Four was the day we boarded Disney Cruise Line motor coach transportation for our approximate one hour journey to Port Canaveral, to the Disney Cruise Line Terminal to board the third ship in the fleet, the Disney Dream. After fun photo moments with Captain Mickey and receiving our boarding number, we anxiously awaited our call time to board the magnificent ship. After a feast-filled, buffet lunch at “Cabanas”, on the pool deck, attendees were invited to a cruise Welcome Reception – an energy-filled, bubbly event that saw the dance floor a-buzz! After the mandatory Muster Drill, my husband and I took turns for a relaxing full-body massage (we saved money doing this on embarkation day) at Senses Salon & Spa to prepare for the evening ahead. Dinner was at “Enchanted Garden” preceded by The Golden Mickey’s – Broadway-calibre show at the Walt Disney Theatre! This was an outstanding way to end the day for most, but we headed up to deck four to luxuriate and bask in the balmy sea breezes on the comfortable padded deck chairs!

Our Disney Cruise Line, Disney Dream stateroom, was 25% larger than most cruise lines, and afforded us with the convenience of a raised queen-size bed, under which we could store our luggage, freeing up the stateroom from clutter. We enjoyed our industry-first, split bathroom configuration because two people could get ready at the same time. The first bathroom contained a full sink and toilet, and second bathroom contained a full tub/shower and sink – how great is that! We enjoyed a balcony stateroom, but many Guests who opted for an inside stateroom enjoyed a unique feature called, the Magical Porthole, which offers real-time views of the outside and which has many Disney Character surprise moments. All staterooms are fitted with the exclusive, made for Disney Cruise Line bedding by the Frette line of linens and I cannot say enough, how luxurious you feel enveloped in those smooth sheets and plush towels! Toiletries were offered by the high-end H20+ brand including shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash and solar gel, in generous sized bottles. Staterooms are serviced twice-daily and all offer 24 hour Room Service – how’s that for service!

Day Five saw us docked in the port of Bahamas and attendees attended a full morning/early afternoon session with more poignant “Make-A-Wish” never before shared stories by the compassionate, highly emotional presentation by John Breckow recounting Richie’s Story – not a dry eye was to be found in the entire Buena Vista Theatre. This photo is courtesy of The Walt Disney Company and pictured below is Richie and John Breckow.

Richie Story DisneyLater on, the influential and dynamic Ashley Eckstein shared her stories of pursuing her dreams and working hard to attain her goals. This was another part of the conference where people empowered people, fostering positive thoughts to chase your dream, work super hard and never give up!

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The afternoon was filled with family-friendly, informative Junkets and we chose to see the magnificent backdrops, unique cyclorama projection for set changes and costuming for Beauty and the Beast! The afternoon continued with great fun for my son, who enjoyed the “AquaDuck” – the first-ever, water-coaster at sea in tow with his dad, over and over again. You can find an identical AquaDuck experience on the Disney Fantasy for longer, seven day sailings. I snuck off to indulge in a delicious gelato from “Vanellopes Sweets & Treats” and filled my bag with delectable macarons too, which I forgot in my stateroom fridge on the last day!

The Broadway-calibre show of the night was the epic, much talked about “Beauty and the Beast”. We enjoyed our view from the centre seats closes to the sound board (a tip from the sound man during our tour earlier in the day). I cannot say enough how outstanding this show was, with beautiful music, costuming, set changes done ever so effortlessly – truly a marvel at sea. Our second-seating dinner saw us at the lavish “Royal Palace”, filled with touches of regality from all our beloved fairytale, princess Disney stories.

Royal Palace

Day Six brought the sunshine into our stateroom from beautiful Disney Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, exclusively for Guests sailing with Disney Cruise Line, on many itineraries. The island offers a Family Beach, Teen Beach and Adult Exclusive Beach called, “Serenity Bay”. All Guests are invited to enjoy a fun, beach barbecue and later relax on complimentary loungers under shady umbrellas, to enjoy views and refreshing swims at the pristine beach. For the adventurous at heart, many Port Adventures are offered which will leave those Guests with many memories for years to come and even keep most coming back. I boarded the ship a bit early to see if I can book what is called a Placeholder towards a future sailing which saves me a lot of money in the long-run, especially for those new Summer 2019 itineraries coming out this week. I’m itching for a another European sailing!

Dinner that last night was greatly enjoyed at the epic Animator’s Palate – featured on all four ships in the fleet. We enjoyed an interactive experience “Undersea Magic” with Crush on the screens surrounding the restaurant, which was decorated in the true style of an animation studio. This is my favourite restaurant, which on the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy Guests can also enjoy the dynamic, “Animation Magic” show, as they become animators themselves and have their sketches come to life on the interactive screens surrounding the restaurant, and “Drawn to Magic” where the evolution of animation unfolds in an entertaining journey right before Guests eyes.

I love my dining experiences sailing with Disney Cruise Line because of the revolutionary, “Rotational Dining” where each night, my personal wait staff rotated with me to one of 3 themed restaurants – what a convenience this was enabling me to share my dietary concerns/preferences only once and all was taken care of for the rest of my sailing. The Sailaway Celebration and Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party with the revolutionary, Buccaneer Blast fireworks at sea are just some of the unique activities that keep us coming back, time and time again.

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May I share a secret with you? If you have a sweet tooth and especially love ice-cream, you can order the Mickey Mouse Premium Ice-Cream Bars for dessert in all the dining rooms and through Room Service (subject to change).

The morning brought forth many hugs and poignant farewells from old friends and new ones, as we all branched out to our final destinations with the help of Disney Cruise Line motor coach transportation, some home and some back to Walt Disney World Resort to enjoy more magical moments.

I wish to thank the entire Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Team and Walt Disney World Special Events Team for their tireless efforts, stellar communication and organizational skills in presenting “The Most Magical and Happiest Conference” in 2018 – I was humbled and most grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a conference and will treasure my experience always and forever!

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The Presentations at the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

The 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort staying at the popular conference Resort hotel, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and with Disney Cruise Line, sailing the third ship in the fleet, the Disney Dream, was a huge success. This conference provided a massive learning, collaborative and networking opportunity for all attendees, empowering them with the motivation and tools needed to create meaningful content to grow their following.

At Walt Disney World Resort, while staying at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, presentations in the spectacular Conference Halls were presented, after a warm welcome by George Kalogridis- Walt Disney World Resort President;  Leanne Jakubowski O’Regan- Director, Communications and Public Relations, Walt Disney World Resort and Mark Daniel – Social Media Host, Disney Parks & Resorts.

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Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, oversees The Walt Disney Company’s travel and leisure businesses including Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, six resort destinations in the United States, Asia and Europe. Mr. Chapek provides successful leadership over 145,000 Cast Members, Crew Members and Imagineers who help to create magical Disney Destinations vacations for millions of Guests every year.

Photo below courtesy of Lisa Arneill, founder of GrowingYourBaby.com, World Traveled Family and TheWorldWeShare.com.

Bob Chapek Lisa Arneill

 

Mr. Chapek emphasizes that each Disney vacation affords Guests unique and immersive experiences, bringing families together to enjoy fun for all creating the feeling that sets Disney vacations apart from anything else. The magical memories created on each Disney Vacation affords Guests a true Disney experience.

 

Minnie Vans

Walt Disney World Resort recently introduced another new mode of stylish, private transportation Resort-wide and it was so popular that Disney decided to double the fleet number of the Minnie Van service.

The Minnie Vans are driven by Cast Members and can be ordered using a mobile device, currently with the Lyft app from many Disney Resort hotels, all four Walt Disney World Resort Theme and Water Parks and from Disney Springs and the service transports Guests throughout Walt Disney World Resort for a fee. The majority of the vans can accommodate 6 Guests and standard vans offer up to two car seats with front and rear facing capabilities. The service offers accessible vans which can accommodate up to 4 Guests. For more information, please contact the Minnie Van Service at (407) 828-3500.

“Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do.” –Bob Iger

Photo below of the Minnie Van vehicles is courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.

MinnieVans

Disney Skyliner

Yet another unique mode of transportation featuring Disney Characters in true gondola style is coming to Walt Disney World Resort – the Disney Skyliner which will add more magic and convenience to a Guest’s vacation by affording them a birds-eye view of the pixie-dusted land connecting Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Disney’s Pop Century Resorts and some other Resort locations with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway.

Photo below courtesy of Disney Parks Blog.

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Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

“It was all started by a mouse.” Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse’s big-screen debut in “Steamboat Willie” took place on November 18, 1928. At the D23 Expo Japan, and during the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, announced that in honour of Mickey Mouse’s 90th year, there will be worldwide celebrations. Mickey’s first attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort!

On this new attraction, Guests will enjoy a catchy theme song along with a new “2 1/2-D” experience requiring no glasses as they head out initially driving alongside a train conducted by engineer Goofy and in a magical moment Guests are immersed into the movie, riding in Goofy’s train for a wild and wacky experience as stars in the unpredictable world of a Mickey Mouse Cartoon Short.

Photo below courtesy of Disney Parks Blog.

Runaway Railway WDW

Hong Kong Disneyland

There is great excitement in the air for the  expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland through 2023! Get ready for themed attractions bringing Disney Characters and stories to life, entertainment and attractions that will immerse Guests in Disney experiences like no other. Guests will be transported to the kingdom of Arendelle, with a new, “Frozen”-themed area bringing Characters to life, ample opportunities for shopping and dining.

Moana fans will revel in a new entertainment area, an “Adventureland Show Place,” inviting Guests to “Moana’s Village Festival” featuring a lively stage show and interactive entertainment environment.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Hong-Kong-Disneyland-Moana

Marvel-themed areas will captivate Guests with thrilling attractions and entertainment and will continue to grow as Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters will be reimagined into a new experience allowing Guests to fight alongside the icons of the Marvel Universe. As well, a captivating and thrilling attraction themed after one of Marvel’s most popular franchises will be added to expand the epicentre of Marvel Super Heroes.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle will be transformed to showcase the new daytime and nighttime spectacular entertainment that will highlight every princess and prince who dared to follow a dream and wish upon a star.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Hong Kong Disneyland

 

Star Wars News

A new Star Wars-themed hotel is coming to Walt Disney World Resort and it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – the upcoming Star Wars-themed land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This uniquely themed Resort hotel will immerse Guests in the Star Wars experience as they board a starship for their galactic adventure while they enjoy outer space views from their Resort hotel Guest Room – stay tuned for an opening date by the Disney Parks Blog.

 

Star Wars Hotel

The outstanding Star Wars-themed land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will blast into both Disneyland Park and as an extension to Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort. This new land will offer Guests opportunities to fly the Millennium Falcon, they’ll find themselves inside a Star Destroyer for the battle between the Resistance and the First Order and many other epic galactic experiences. This amazing land is set to open in 2019.

Disneyland Paris

There will be a multi-year expansion for Disneyland Paris which will include a transformation of Walt Disney Studios Park with three new areas building on Marvel, Frozen and Star Wars live entertainment and attractions. This will prove to be one of the most ambitious projects since the Theme Park opened in 1992.

Disneyland Paris is re-imagining one of their Resort hotels into Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel, set to open within 2020, which will be designed to reflect the world of Super Heroes such as The Avengers, Spider Man and Iron Man in the style of a contemporary art gallery. Only Disney Imagineers will be successful in affording Guests an immersed experience in the Marvel universe.

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Disneyland Resort in California

Pixar Fest” begins on April 13, 2018 at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park  with a first-ever celebration of friendship and beyond which will feature an all-new fireworks spectacular and the return of the beloved “Paint the Night” parade and Pixar Play Parade.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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California Adventure Park’s Paradise Pier will become “Pixar Pier”, which will feature the highly anticipated, Incredicoaster, themed after “The Incredibles”.

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Disney California Adventure Park will expand the Food & Wine Festival to a glorious six weeks this year and will feature more activities and experiences for Guests to enjoy the delights of the Golden State with more than a dozen Festival Marketplaces offering demonstrations, presentations and the opportunity to enjoy California-inspired sips and samples, entertainment and live music.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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David Roark – Manager at Creative Photography

David Roark offered many creative tips and useful advice for creating images that are effective in carrying out a message. Capturing the perfect setting and ensuring background sound levels are optimal which will foster success with both video and photography. The perfect location and time of day is critical for photography at any Disney Destination. Disney photographers utilize many composites and photoshop techniques to optimize their photo messages. Capturing a more spontaneous moment that evokes a feeling is effective and powerful, rather than a stiff, posed, manipulated image, because people will readily identify with the feeling evoked. The mid- 80’s saw the emergence of World-wide Disney visuals which became more prominent.

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Terry Cox, Manager, Search Engine Marketing

Terry Cox “joined Disney 13 years ago as the first Cast Member dedicated to paid search advertising and search engine optimization at The Walt Disney Company” and is currently the head of search marketing for Disney Destinations. Terry and his team strive to maximize Disney’s presence in online search results and stressed the validity of adding proper links where necessary to facilitate this goal and discussed strategies to incorporate in a Blog post, such as:

  • Classify -for the phrases consumers are looking for (keywords). Write an individual post for each announcement (classify).
  • Weight -add links pointed to that piece of content (votes of confidence) to build a website…and quality.
  • Utility –Google determines results how fast your pages load …create security with “https”. Use the “H1” tag which is critical informing Google that title has emphasis.
  • Image -optimization is key – make sure the image is a good size and is named.

Terry Cox shared a powerful and timeless quote: “You don’t build the social media content for yourself. You know what the people want and you build it for them.” Walt Disney

Amy Stanford, Sr. Editor, Babble

Real parents can share real moments that help you think, help you learn, and help you laugh. Babble is geared to Millennial parents.

Taking content to next level to build growth by:

  • Selecting four core words such as: be real, be authentic, be inclusive, be stimulating to form a connection.
  • Create a mood board of images that visually represent your brand.
  • Which platforms are you willing to invest in?
  • Incorporate Podcasts which are popular.
  • Pick a social media platform and do it well.
  • Find out where your audience is most engaged (which social media platform).
  • Think beyond the blog post.
  • Remember that the content must be social first and be mobile friendly.
  • Built for the feed and be engaging.
  • Create microcontent > shareables, GIFs, Memevids, Infographics, Pinnable Images.
  • Stay informed and be up to date.
  • Be flexible because this keeps you constant.
  • Develop partnerships to create new content and grow readership like Babble, consider partnering with Babble.
  • Take a look at the content from @aspiringkennedy on Instagram, which is good example.

How to Pitch?

  • Write a concise, stream-lined concept.
  • Proofread.
  • Learn from feedback as it has a strong message.

 

Vera Sweeney:  Lady and the Blog (Alamo) The Importance of Family Travel

Vera Sweeney grew up with the love of travel, adventure and exploration, who founded, “Lady and the Blog.” She is constantly on the search for new content, upcoming trends and her Blog covers a wide range of topics such as beauty, fashion, recipes, travel tips and personal notes. Her Blog, “Lady and the Blog” has been featured on Oprah’s O Magazine, The Today Show and Rachael Ray Magazine. She stresses that travel with children is a must and to simply adjust, fine-tune and lower expectations during travel. Focus on the more spontaneous, simple moments in your photography and don’t stage, focus on engagement.

 

Kristin Burr, Producer “Christopher Robin”

What an extreme pleasure it was to see and hear from Kristin Burr, a producer with Burr! Productions, a film production company based at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Her current project includes the live-action adventure “Christopher Robin”. We had the pleasure of hearing about the production, captivating characters and set design for this adorable, soon-to-be-loved film.

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Sharon Siskie – Senior Vice President of Commercial Stategy

Sharon Siskie leads marketing and sales for high-growth businesses with Disney Parks & Resorts and supports Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and Disney Cruise Line.

Disney Vacation Club just opened the newest magical Resort at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and is looking forward to the upcoming, Disney’s Riviera Resort which will be adjacent to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, will offer its own dining –including a rooftop restaurant offering spectacular views of the nighttime shows at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, and recreation experiences. The new Disney Skyliner transportation service will have a stop at Disney’s Riviera Resort which will transport Guests faster access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

Photos below of Disney’s Copper Creek Villas & Cabins and artistic rendering of Disney’s Riviera Resort respectively, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Adventures by Disney

Adventures by Disney has had great success with the variety of destinations and will be adding new adventures, such as Berlin to the German itinerary. They’ll be adding “Short Escapes” to both Spain and Denmark, Costa Rica, Iceland and River Cruise experiences in partnership with AMA Waterways, along the Rhine River.

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Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa – a most family-friendly resort, continues to immerse Guests in the Hawaiian culture where they can begin their legend as they relax and enjoy their adventures on Ko Olina Beach.

Photo below courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Aulani

Disney Cruise Line will continue with more enchantment at sea with three new ships on the horizon, seeing the fleet nearly double by 2023, taking Guests to incredible destinations around the World. All three new ships will be constructed at Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany with scheduled completion in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The three ships will offer their own unique experiences, they will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas and they will all be the same size, 135,000 gross tons and offer 1,250 staterooms. As well, itineraries for the summer of 2019 will be released in early March 2018.

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Tom Warburton- Producer, “Muppet Babies”

Best known for “Codename: Kids Next Door”, “Doug,” “Schoolhouse Rock!,” Disney’s “Pepper Ann,” ”Fish Hooks” and “The 7D,” Tom Warburton was excited about discussing the reimagined animated series, “Muppet Babies” geared for an audience aged 4 to 7, that will air on Disney Junior in March 2018.

The show will follow the hilarious playroom antics and will retain younger incarnations of our beloved, classic Muppet friends – Baby Kermit, Baby Fozzie Bear, Baby Piggy, Baby Gonzo and Baby Animal and will see the return of “Miss Nanny”. A new, adorable character will come forth, by the name of Summer Penguin.

Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Muppet Babies

 

John Breckow- Director of Corporate Citizenship for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

A most poignant and heartfelt session was presented by John Breckow, who oversees the philanthropic efforts throughout the Disney Parks worldwide. A touching wishes story about a special man named Richie was shared leaving no dry eye in the conference hall. The Walt Disney Company has a huge heart and was there to help with disaster relief by bring aid and hope to the people affected by this devastation. The Walt Disney Company has granted over 120,000 wishes to children and families.

Photo below of Richie and John Breckow, courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Richie Story Disney

 

Ashley Eckstein, Founder of Her Universe

A dynamic and inspirational session was presented by Ashley Eckstein known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Ahsoka Tano on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Ashley highlighted her life’s milestones with overcoming hardship, pursuing and achieving her dreams with her evolutionary Fangirl fashion. Her Universe is a licensee for Disney/Star Wars and Marvel, BBC/Doctor Who, CBS/Star Trek, Studio Ghibli and many other properties.

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Bob Hitchcock, Editorial Content Director.

Bob Hitchcock offered sage advice for projecting effective content with:

  • Try to make a connection by featuring emotional content to create a bond, such as touching people’s hearts, making them laugh and motivating them.
  • Video is popular – statistics demonstrate that there are more than five million viewers per day and more than 60-70% of the video content is viewed on a mobile device.
  • Try to engage your audience with emotionally based stories.
  • Find your act and build it. Determine what emotion you wish to evoke and determine what message you wish to send out there.
  • Incorporate a character to be a part of your message and find a location to create authenticity.
  • Create fun, bite-sized content.

I am truly grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration because I came away equipped with tools, techniques, many new passionate friends and a renewed sense of hope to help grow my social media platforms.

Thank you!