Recently, a poignant story came out about an autistic boy’s positive experience with a Disney Character at Walt Disney World Resort. I must admit, this is not a unique experience amongst guests with special needs at “The Place Where Dreams Come True”. It’s commonplace, as Disney continually strives to afford all guests as enjoyable, enriching, and as inclusive a vacation experience as possible — and to this very day, I can honestly say that every single Disney vacation holds a unique and special moment, and compassionate accommodations for our son that ensured he had a magical visit.
So, this is why…
to Winnie-the-Pooh who was easy-going about Andrew nuzzling against his snout…
to Buzz Lightyear who captured and maintained Andrew’s attention in mere seconds…
to Simo, our delightful server at ‘Ohana who knows exactly what to bring Andrew and when…
to Eeyore who lets Andrew pull off his tail and thanks him for noticing…
to the Guest Relations Cast Member who nods with understanding with no further explanation…
to Donald Duck for not losing his feathers when Andrew stepped on his big, yellow webbed feet…
to Cinderella for her feather-light embrace and the first girl that Andrew smiled at…
to Mickey Mouse for noticing Andrew’s shyness and for stepping out of the tent to tickle Andrew’s feet and make him giggle…
to the countless Cast Members for making us feel like a ‘normal’ family…
to the Cast Member who spotted us on the Monorail platform and who came over with Mickey Mouse stickers and a set of FastPasses…
to the place where Andrew told me he loved me and gave me a peck on the cheek for the first and only time in 2012…
Great customer service with The Walt Disney Company stems from their “Four Keys”, which guarantee exceptional Guest experience – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Experience!
They’ve unlocked the magic when it comes to customer service.
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 the fun and informative videos and much more! As well, you can Watch Free Disney Vacation Planning Videos which are perfect 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 motorcoach 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!
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!
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.
Andrew led the Port Adventures group to the Athens Acropolis
This is what keeps us coming back for more with the cruise line where “there’s something for everyone.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…