Posted in Autism, Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Parks, Disney Social Media Celebration On The Road, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Special Needs, Travel, Vacation Planning

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

Posted in Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Parks, Disney Social Media, Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, Disney Vacation Club, MagicBands, My Disney Experience, Travel, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

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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Posted in Disney Parks, Disney Social Media, Disney Social Media Celebration, Disney Social Media Celebration On The Road, New Amsterdam Theatre, New York City

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-The-Road” in New York City 2015

I had the honour and privilege of being invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration “On-The-Road” in New York City on June 15, 2015. I was thrilled beyond my wildest dreams for the invite and was super excited!

The event this year had a different venue. It was the Disney owned New Amsterdam Theatre where the hit musical Disney’s Aladdin is currently playing. What an incredible venue!

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Bright and early on Monday, June 15, I hopped in a cab and arrived nice and early to check in. I received a warm welcome by Maria Bailey, CEO at BSM Media, followed by a bountiful, hot breakfast. It was there that I had the opportunity to meet fellow social media influencers/bloggers as well as many of my Disney loving friends from years past. As well, I had the opportunity to meet  people who I respect and follow in social media named, Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan, Jamie Neilsen-Langdon and Danielle Bellini (Madden NFL Sideline Reporter & Emmy Award-Winning Host-Electronic Arts, The CBS Dream Team, The Walt Disney Company). Meeting these inspirational women was such a thrill for me as a Disney Parks Moms Panelist hopeful for 2016.

After breakfast, we were led to our seating area directly on the stage facing the audience seats. I can’t tell you what a stunning view that was of the magnificent New Amsterdam Theatre with all of its Art Nouveau splendour. The stage area had a podium and the presenters used the power point presentation style. I will outline the presenters in the order they appeared and briefly discuss their topics.

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Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan

Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan, Director, Social Media; Walt Disney World Resort, led the dynamic and exciting event for the entire morning, keeping the pace fun and filled with *Pixie Dusted* surprises at every turn. Available for questions, information, greets and photo opportunities was a highlight for all attendees, including myself.

Jamie Nielsen-Langdon

Jamie Nielsen-Langdon, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World, talked about the DisneySide campaign, Disneyland Resort’s Diamond Celebration and the new entertainment awaiting Guests. Great information was shared about Disney Cruise Line’s news such as new sailings to Northern Europe, sailings from New York City into the Canadian Maritimes, vacation pairings between Adventures By Disney and Disney Cruise Line and new shows aboard the ships, such as Tangled: The Musical, which will debut on the Disney Magic this November, 2015. Finally, Jamie discussed how much fun it is to bring children to the Disney Parks at any age, through the initiative that ‘pre-schoolers love Disney’.

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager, Disney Parks Blog, shared many insightful and informative tips on writing to capture an audience. Jennifer expressed how ‘finding the story in every situation’ is important towards inspiration in writing. How to tell stories using creativity and brainstorming techniques using ‘listing’ strategies and expanding real stories to capture creativity. Jennifer stressed, “pushing past logic, is where creativity begins”. A wonderful #GrandDisney video of grandparents taking their grandchildren to the Disney Parks was a useful tool to augment this type of creative story-telling.

Victoria Lim

Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations, expanded on the usefulness of incorporating videos in a blog which supports visual story-telling. Great tips and advice was shared on capturing the best images and filming. Useful information was shared on popular equipment editing apps used to aid in photo taking and the filming of videos.

Greg Josken

Greg Josken, Digital Marketing Manager at Disney Theatrical Group, discussed creating digital content in promoting live theatre by building strategies, content creation and trend watching. It’s important to mix old with new, create new stories in the same story and how engaging an audience is vital. Tactics discussed included how to increase social mentions with a positive sentiment, how to strengthen brand affinity and how to increase engagement across all platforms.

Babble

Representatives from Babble, an online magazine geared to urban parents which was acquired by Disney Interactive Media Group in 2011, discussed strategies on projecting oneself in social media in an effective and dynamic manner. All social media platforms were dealt with and the tools and techniques in reaching a greater audience shared.

Barby K. Siegel

Barby K. Siegel, the CEO of Zeno Group, presented an energetic account of her persistence and “fearless” approach to life. Her inspirational message and attitude instilled motivation and a great desire to keep trying. “The glue that holds us and allows us to go big. The fearless pursuit of the unexpected.” Truly, an inspirational person!

Marissa Kraxberger

Marissa Kraxberger,‎ Creative Director at Ivanka Trump, presented many useful, effective ideas and tools on how to transform a brand through social media and elevate that brand to a broader spectrum of people. Tips were shared on how to attract and connect across all platforms and how to maintain interest.

Beyond the Conference

When the conference was completed, the fun and surprises continued with a personal meet and greet with Mickey Mouse and a personal tour of the theatrical prop archive room at the New Amsterdam Theatre. There we saw past set designs and primary costumes for hit theatrical Disney productions and had the opportunity to try outfits on and handle some of the props.

Below, Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan and Mickey Mouse.

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Here I am meeting Leanne Jakubowski-O’Reagan (left photo) and Jamie Nielsen-Langdon (right photo).

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The set designs and props in Disney’s Theatrical Group Prop Storage, from Disney’s The Lion King, Disney’s Mary Poppins and Disney’s Tarzan.

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Here I am trying on one of my favourite character outfits from Disney’s Mary Poppins, and posing for a photo with Mickey Mouse.

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The description of the history and restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre was so informative and interesting. Here are photos of the stage and balcony seating depicting the accuracy of the Art Nouveau genre.

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Making a wish,……a big, big wish for one of my biggest dreams to come true.

OTR 31I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for having had the opportunity to be a part of such an informative, inspirational and exciting event.