There is less than a month left to take advantage of this fall Disney World offer. Applicable dates include Nashville fall breaks and the beginning of Christmas break. Call today to start planning your Disney World vacation!
After Tuesday's Ocean Safari tour, we decided to take a break on Wednesday. We spent the day swimming and snorkeling in the reef around our house. We drove to Little Exuma for dinner and ate lunch at the open-air restaurant, Santana's. On our way back to the house, we climbed a large dune with fabulous views out to the Atlantic. It also had an old salt pillar (it was used to show ships where to pick up salt) and a cannon from the island's days as a popular pirate hangout. Little Exuma is a good 30+ minute drive from Georgetown and it was getting dark by the time we returned to the house. It was at that point we realized we lost our house key. We checked with the gatehouse and they, after asking us why we would lock our door, told us the only other copy was with the maid and no one could locate her. There is no locksmith on the island; only "a guy who can make keys" and he wasn't available until the next day. By this time is was quite dark and we decided to drive back to Little Exuma to look for the key. Driving in the dark, on the left hand side of the road, dodging giant crabs was an interesting experience. We stopped at the dune first and looked and looked and didn't find it. Right before we got back in the car, I spotted the key chain under a board. Happiness! We were so excited (and thankful - thanks for praying for us St. Anthony)! This was a good bonding experience for us and I was a hero for a solid 12 hours.
We rented a boat for 2 days (Th & Sat) from Minn's Water Sports. They allow you to take the boat around Great Exuma and the cays surrounding Elizabeth Harbour (not into the open Atlantic). We loved our boat rental days! Both days we ate lunch at Chat 'n Chill on Stocking Island. They have stingrays that come close to shore hoping for a bit of conch from the conch salad shack. The children loved petting them. We enjoyed a lot of good snorkeling and found large starfish and sea turtles.
We recently returned from our family vacation to Great Exuma, Bahamas. It was fantastic and I'm excited to share our adventures with you.
Great Exuma is the largest of the Out Islands, also called the "Family Islands" in the Bahamas. The Out Islands consist of 360 islands, or Cays (pronounced keys) and are located Southeast of Nassau.
Great Exuma has a permanent population of around 2000 residents. It has been a popular yachting and sailing destination for awhile, but is still relatively unknown to many. It shouldn't be, though; it is amazingly gorgeous, a neat cultural experience (it is the anti-Atlantis) and, with direct flights from Atlanta lasting under 2 hours, very easy to get to from the Southeast.
We started our trip early on a Sunday. Our flight out of Nashville was at 6:30 and then we had an hour and a half layover in Atlanta. We were in Georgetown, Great Exuma by 12:30 EST. We rented a car (as a former British colony, people drive on the left side of the road) and drove for 15 minutes to get to our house in February Point. We spent the afternoon getting settled and then headed to the beach. This is a good place to mention that there is very little open on Sunday (including the grocery store) and I brought a lot of food from the U.S.
After an afternoon on the beach and in the pool, we turned in early and enjoyed the beautiful "supermoon" from our balcony.
Tuesday was a big day for us. After spending the morning on the beach, we went on a 4-hour "Ocean Safari" boat tour. The tour takes guests to some of the uninhabited Cays in the area. As the name suggests, we interacted with a lot of animals on the tour. You can see the pictures below (click to enlarge); the highlights included the swimming pigs (cute, but not my favorite), the endangered iguanas (loved them), snorkeling and climbing a peak for amazing views of the Atlantic.
This is a good place to pause; look for the other two parts of my trip report later this week - they will include such stories as, "the lost key in the land of no locksmiths" and "the giant tarantula under the life vest". :) Thanks for reading!
For everyone considering a 2015 Disney World vacation, bookings begin July 30th. To make sure we are able to book the best resort for your family, it is best to book early. Don't forget, you can reserve your package with a $200 refundable deposit and if Disney releases special offers for your travel dates and resort, I'll get them applied to your vacation package. Call or email today to plan your magical Disney vacation!
I've been working on a business' 2015 incentive travel trip and it is really interesting. Incentive travel is a fantastic way to reward high-performing employees. It can be as simple as a long weekend in the Caribbean or as elaborate as chartering a cruise ship (Turner Classic Movies has chartered a Disney Cruise ship the last couple of years).
If you are considering an incentive travel reward, it is helpful to plan fairly far in advance. This is particularly important if you are considering a cruise as the best group amenities are available around a year before sailing. The process is very easy and you don't have to know which employees will be attending when you book the trip. The first step is to contact me with a general idea of how many employees you need to accommodate. Then we can discuss budget and desired locations. I'll get some quotes together and we'll talk through them until you've found the perfect incentive travel award for your company. Some popular incentive travel locations include: all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, cruises (a 4-night Disney cruise is the perfect award travel for employees with families) and city trips in the U.S (Las Vegas, New Orleans, etc.).
Call or email today to learn more about awarding your best employees with incentive travel.
Many people like longer vacations, but don't like the idea of spending 7+ days at theme parks. Of course, the Disney resorts have many options for recreation and entertainment, but even outside the resorts and parks, there are a lot of other things to do on Disney property.
Disney park tickets have a couple of add-on options. Your base ticket allows a visit to one major park per day. A park hopper add-on allows you to "hop" between the 4 major parks. The Water Park, Fun & More add-on is a bit more complicated. This add-on permits entry into several additional venues. These include:
The number of times you can visit one or more of these attractions is based on the number of days on your park ticket. If you have a 5-day park ticket, you have 5 "fun" visits. What does this mean? You can potentially have 10 days of activity with a 5-day park ticket. You could go to the major parks for 5 days, then spend a day at each water park, a day playing golf at Oak Trail, a day at Disney Quest and a day playing miniature golf (guessing you'd want to supplement that with something else :)). If, however, you want to spend a morning at one of the major parks, then the afternoon at the water park, that uses up 1 park day and a "fun" day. Understand? Let me know if you have questions and, please note, all tickets and options must be used within 14 days of first use.
It has been a busy couple of weeks (many people are planning summer vacations), but I'm finally back to finish my Disney Cruise spring break post.
Our next cruise day was a sea day. People often wonder what there is to do on days the ship isn't visiting a port. You can do as much or as little as you like. We spent a lot of time on the sports deck. The kids loved playing soccer and foosball. They also swam quite a bit (it is best to get in the pools early, before they get crowded). The children also went to the kids' club where they were involved in some organized activities, like building cars out of soap and racing them, and they also enjoyed the free play. The boys went to an origami lesson while I took DD5 to a Princess Gathering. The Princess Gathering is your opportunity to visit with multiple princesses at once. The crowds are pretty minimal and the princesses are very good about taking time to talk with each girl. My own "Princess Anna" was delighted when cast members bowed to her in the halls and asked her questions about her life back in Arendelle.
That night, instead of eating in the dining rooms, we ordered room service for the children (they were thrilled), dropped them off at the kids' club, and then proceeded to dinner at Palo. We enjoyed a fabulous, Italian-inspired dinner, with excellent service. Palo's view from the top deck, forward is amazing too. After eating too much at dinner, we collected the children from the club and went to see Toy Story, the Musical. This resulted in another late night, but everyone adapted well to the change in routine.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of the ship docking at Castaway Cay. DS10 was awake and we went up to the top deck to grab coffee (for me, smoothie for him) and watch the procedures. I always wake up early on vacation and apparently I'm the only one, because there are very few people out in the morning.
I went to meet the running group for the Castaway Cay 5k while the rest of the family ate breakfast. We were quickly off the boat and to our start line. The group seemed larger and more competitive than last time I ran the race.
The day was gorgeous and, consequently, a bit warm to run a 5k. I really enjoyed it, though, and was happy with my time. Many people don't run the 5k as a race, so it is perfect for all types of runners/walkers.
After the run, I grabbed some pictures with characters and met the rest of the family when I was walking back to the ship. Being able to easily walk on and off the ship is a nice perk of Castaway Cay. Everyone got set up at the family beach and I joined them shortly.
We enjoyed the nicest day at Castaway Cay. We explored the island, everyone but DD5 went on the snorkeling trail, we all played in the water and on the beach. Quite a few fish came up close to the shore. DD5 even spotted a large stingray (and she promptly turned around and sprinted away).
Lunch was an open-air BBQ and after dining we returned to our spot at the beach for the rest of the day. We went back to the ship around 4, then dressed for dinner at 5:45. The show that night was Dreams, a favorite of little girls because there are many princesses in it. By the end, the children looked exhausted. The girls in front of us were sleeping in their seats. It was a long, but very fun day.
You don't sleep in on the day you disembark, the cruise intercom system makes sure of that. We didn't get up and go to a sit-down breakfast. Instead we grabbed food from the buffet and ate in our room. Then we walked off with our luggage and got in the line to go through customs. When we left the cruise terminal, we went to catch the rental car shuttle to Avis. Avis was not awesome. When we got there, they didn't have any cars yet and one of their workers was late. It was extremely chaotic and people were very unhappy. We decided to walk around the area (ok in the daytime) and grabbed some snacks. After an hour, some cars came in and we were upgraded, so that was nice. Then we were off to the Everglades.
We drove to Homestead and the Ernest F Coe Visitor's Center. After deciding where we wanted to go, we quickly drove to the Royal Palm Visitor's Center and walked on the Gumbo Limbo and Anhinga trails. They gave an interesting overview of the ecosystems of the park. The number of different plant and animal (notably fish and bird) species was amazing.
We spent a couple of hours exploring. There were quite a few visitors (most speaking a foreign language), but the number of people did not detract from the experience. We really enjoyed our time in that strange and fascinating landscape and wholeheartedly recommend it to others visiting South Florida.
We explored the area a bit more before returning to Miami and the Embassy Suites airport for the evening. The next morning we drove to Palm Beach and walked around the Breakers and made a couple of other stops. We flew out of Ft. Lauderdale in the middle of the afternoon.
We had a fantastic time. I'd love to help you make your next vacation the best ever - call or email today!
Last week was our family's spring break and we spent most of it on the beautiful Disney Wonder cruise ship. It was a fantastic trip and I'm happy to finally have the time to share highlights with you.We surprised the kids with the trip (their first Disney cruise) and made the big announcment about an hour before we left the house. The excitement level soon got of hand; we were glad they didn't have a lot of time to think about it.
We flew from Nashville to Fort Lauderdale. The flight was in the late afternoon and I wouldn't do that again. I took a later flight to save money, but we didn't get into Ft. Lauderdale until almost 10 and didn't get to our hotel (Homewood Suites Miami Airport-Blue Lagoon) until nearly 11. It was too late for the kids (and me); next time I'll just pay more money to arrive at a reasonable time.
The next morning we ate a nice breakfast and enjoyed a walk in the gorgeous weather to St. Dominic's Catholic Church in Miami. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We went to one of their Spanish Masses and it was neat for the kids. Did I mention the gorgeous weather? DS7 announced he is going to college in South Florida. After Mass we packed up and headed to the Port of Miami.
We waited a bit after check-in and were allowed to board around 12:15. The ship was in great ship and we spent some time exploring before heading to lunch. I registered for a Mixology class and we got the children bands for kids' club. We grabbed some pizza for lunch and then the kids got in the pool. Mid-afternoon we checked out our nice stateroom on deck 8, port side, forward. It was roomy enough for the 5 of us, had a great view, was extremely quiet (at the end of the hall and under the spa) and was very convenient to the amenities on decks 9 and 10.
Hmmm... it seems like this is going to be long. Perhaps I should've done 3 parts. Anyway, we went to the sailaway party with the characters and enjoyed the amazing Miami skyline. It was such a treat to depart from the city. After sailaway, we got ready for dinner and headed down to Triton's. We all enjoyed dinner (each night it was very good, though it got a bit "heavy" for me after a couple of days). DS7 is, ahem, "working" on his manners, so sitting through a formal(ish) dinner every night was a good challenge for him. He was always rewarded with a Mickey bar at the end.
We skipped out on the Sailaway show because I wanted to get the kids to be fairly early. We knew we had a big sea day the next day.
Our first sea day was a lot of fun. Allen and I enjoyed brunch at adults-only Palo. We spent time by the pools, watched Frozen in 3D, visited with some characters and played soccer on the sports' deck. Cruising, for me, is about relaxation and destinations. I like going somewhere interesting and I like relaxing on the boat. The children were with us most of the day, but spent a couple of hours in the kids' club. There were some neat activities there.
The second night was pirates' night and everyone was looking forward to it. This leads me to the low point of the cruise. :)
A storm came through the gulf (we were sailing to Cozumel) and the waves were moving the boat a lot. The crew said they hadn't experienced waves like that in many months and I've never felt the motion that much. With the exception of Allen, the rest of us have a propensity to motion sickness and the movement was making us feel less-than-stellar. We went to dinner that night and DS7 looked terrible. He finally admitted he needed to leave and I whisked him back to the stateroom. Allen and the other children followed 10 minutes later. He said glasses were falling off tables and other families were leaving too. I distributed the Dramamine (knowing it would knock everyone out) and we settled in for the evening. The wonderful waitstaff sent up dinner (which we eventually felt like eating), but with the exception of Allen, we all went to bed early. The kids were not happy to miss pirate night, especially since I made them go to bed early the night before.
All was fair and bright the next morning in Cozumel. We docked around 7:30, ate breakfast and took a taxi to Chankanaab Park. We were one of the first there and we had fun snorkeling, swimming and exploring the grounds. The kids saw several iguanas and the lagoon had gorgeous fish. We played all morning and then the boys experienced the Manatee Encounter. They got to pet and play with a couple of manatees. I wish I had pics, but they were around $200, so you'll just have to imagine it. After the Manatee Encounter, we took a taxi back to the ship for lunch. *Note - DS7 has a peanut allergy and I felt more comfortable eating on the boat with him (Disney was great with the allergy).
After a quick lunch, we set out to explore the town. If your cruise docks in Cozumel, it is essential to get away from the port area and the main street that borders the ocean to have an interesting and authentic experience. Otherwise, it is icky and Cancun-party-like. We walked into the main area of town and enjoyed exploring. We visited little San Miguel (St. Michael's Church) in the heart of downtown and stopped nearby for a drink and people-watching. It was a good cultural experience for DS10.
We went back to the ship in the late afternoon and we were all very happy about our fun day. After dinner at Animator's Palate, we loved our first Broadway-style show, The Golden Mickeys.
This is a good point to stop. Next time I'll post about the remaining portion of our cruise (sea day and Castaway Cay) and our time in the amazing Everglades. Please contact me with any questions!
I've heated my coffee for the fourth time and I'm going to try to get this knocked out. :)
The second part of my Agent Education training took place on the beautiful, "reimagined", Disney Magic®. Disney Cruise Line® has four ships. The Disney Wonder® (our family is sailing on it for spring break) and the Disney Magic® are the two "classic" ships. They are older and smaller, but very pretty with excellent service. The Disney Dream® and the Disney Fantasy® are the two newest ships. They are considerably larger and have lots of neat interactive experiences and a slightly broader range of activities.
Disney Cruise Line transfers picked me up from the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World® at noon. It was an easy hour-long drive to Port Canaveral. We checked in and boarded immediately. It was very stormy that first day and I had a strange dizzy-causing cold, so I rested in the room before exploring the ship.
I soon got out and started my adventure. There was a deck party (complete with characters) before we left port. It was a lot of fun, but I left before we embarked because I wanted a good view of our departure and my lovely balcony provided just that. Soon it was time to get ready for the evening show (all the shows were excellent) and late dining (also very good). There were many activities offered into the late evening, but my cold got the best of me and I went to bed after dinner.
The next morning I awoke to bright sunshine and warm breezes. I felt better, the seas were calm and we were heading to Nassau. I had meetings all morning, so I didn't schedule a port excursion in Nassau. I got off the boat for a little while in the afternoon, but there really isn't much to see near the port (with the exception of some phenomenal yachts), so I spent the afternoon by the adult pool. It was very quiet and relaxing. That brings me to an important point - I would absolutely take a Disney cruise without children. There are many adults-only areas of the ship and they were really quite serene. My dining rotation (time and order of restaurants) and the early evening show had few children present. All the children I was around (and they were many on the ship as the Northeast had a winter break) were very well-behaved. And yes, there were Disney characters, but you had to go out of your way to see them.
Anyway, I went to the show again in the evening and had a delicious dinner. Then I got ready for pirate night (ok, I put on the provided bandana) and went out to the top deck. The pirate show was cute and the fireworks were really neat, but I left a bit early because I had to be ready for the Castaway Cay 5k in the morning
Castaway Cay day! Castaway Cay is Disney's private island in the Bahamas. It is gorgeous and mostly left in its' natural state. There are water sports opportunities (including a fun snorkeling trail), plenty of dining options, a family beach, an adult beach and a teen "activity beach". There is also a branch of the kids' club on the island. (*Note - kids' club activities are free for potty-trained children ages 3 and up. Disney will even feed your children meals in the kids' club. There is a nursery for those under 3, but there is a charge.)
Disney cruise ships dock at Castaway Cay (no tendering required), so you are able to walk on and off the ship at your leisure.
I met up with the 5k group at 8:15 and we walked to the starting line. Most people were not off the ship yet, so I got many nice pictures of the island. The 5k is a casual Run Disney® event. The course takes runners all around the island, but there aren't many water views (it is run in the interior). It was pretty warm that day, but Disney had plenty of water stations. The 5k was a lot of fun and a great way to start the day.
After the run, I went back to the ship and changed. Then I explored the island for awhile before heading over to the adults-only beach, Serenity Bay.
Serenity Bay was uncrowded and there were plenty of umbrellas and chairs. I thought it would be too cool to get in the water, but it was actually ok. I got in twice and saw some huge starfish and a handful of colorful other fish.
I had lunch at the bbq at Serenity Bay and enjoyed visiting with other agent education program participants. I had to go back to the ship in the late afternoon for a wrap-up session and then I got ready for the show and dinner. I even went out after dinner and enjoyed the guitarist in the Irish pub. :)
Debarkation was as easy as embarkation. I ate breakfast in the dining room and walked off the ship (all luggage except carry-on bags was taken the night before). The Disney cruise transfer bus took me to the airport and I was on my way!
The Disney cruise experience is fantastic and I'd love to help you plan your family's vacation. Call (615)415-4728, text or email and let's get started making your next vacation the best ever!
Hi friends! I'm back from Disney's Land and Sea Education program and I have so much to share! It was a fun trip and I got to experience the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World® and the reimagined Disney Magic cruise ship.
I have a lot of new material for blog posts (resort reviews, port reviews and a review of the Castaway Cay 5k), but for now I'm just going to write a 2-part post sharing the highlights of each portion of the program
I arrived at the Orlando International airport around 3 in the afternoon and quickly boarded the Magical Express bus to Disney. It was strange to be on the bus by myself with all the couples and families excited about their Disney World vacations.
After waiting for the bus to fill, we departed for Disney's Coronado Springs resort. Coronado Springs is considered a moderate resort and has a convention center attached. The grounds are beautiful and I was so excited to be in a warm place with spring blooming all around. The resort has a Southwestern theme and it is very large and spread out.
I settled into my nice room, checked in with my program coordinator and then headed off to the Magic Kingdom.
It was a fairly busy day at the Magic Kingdom (especially in the afternoon). Apparently a lot of Northeastern schools had the entire week off.
I was excited to see the new Fantasyland and I experienced both "Storytime with Belle" (so sweet) and "Under the Sea" (a lot like the Nemo ride at Epcot). The expansion is very pretty and well-done. I also tried out the Magic Bands (very neat) and Fast Pass+ (not so neat). The Magic Bands are bracelets that allow you to enter the park, enter fast pass+ rides, pay for items, etc., all with a swipe of the wrist. Fast Pass+ replaces the old Fast Pass system and allows you to choose fast passes for 3 attractions per day. If you are like me and used to getting fast passes for most rides, the 3 choice limit is disappointing. Anyway, after enjoying a couple other rides, the parade and the fireworks, I took the bus back to Coronado Springs and went straight to sleep.
I enjoyed an early morning run around Coronado Springs (their running trail is great) and then got ready for a full day of meetings and site visits. One area I enjoyed learning more about is Adventures by Disney®. Adventures by Disney® is the fantastic guided tour segment of Disney. They have tours throughout the world and they combine the power of the Disney brand with a respectful look at the local culture. The tours are well-known for appealing to both children and adults and they have unique features that you won't find elsewhere.
After the morning of meetings at Coronado Springs, we left for resort site visits. We visited the Contemporary resort and Bay Lake Tower, Art of Animation family suites and Little Mermaid rooms, Port Orleans- Riverside (Alligator Bayou and Royal Rooms) and the Yacht and Beach Club. The Art of Animation rooms were new for me, so it was good to see just how they were laid out. I'll leave my opinions for another post, but as far as the Little Mermaid rooms go, I would recommend upgrading to a moderate resort if possible.
I walked over to Epcot after our Yacht Club visit and enjoyed my time there. It was fun having the time to shop in the World Showcase. I turned in early, though, because the next day was cruise day!