Category Archives: Vacations

Vacations

Disney's All Star Resorts

In this continued post on Disney Vacations, I will address some of the resorts that I’ve stayed at in Walt Disney World in Florida. For a review of why you would want to stay on Disney property, please see my post on Disney Vacations.

Disney’s All Star Music: Our first trip to the magical world of Disney brought us to Disney’s All Star Music, one of 4 properties for the budget conscious traveler. The other value properties are All Star Movies, All Star Sports, which is different then the Wide World of Sports, and Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

Restaurant: Our first time down, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, so we bought the standard meal plan at the time of booking which got us 1 table service meal and 1 counter service meal and one snack per person per day. This meal allotment doesn’t seem sufficient at first, but if you’re in the parks at all, you couldn’t possibly eat 3 meals per day. We’re late risers so we almost always missed breakfast and got there just as lunch was being served. The selection in the restaurant was good, there were sufficient choices for all taste buds, but unfortunately the value resorts don’t offer a sit down, menu service restaurant, it’s all counter service, kind of like going to McDonalds or Burger King etc. Each day the menu varied slightly, but the basics were always available like hot-dogs, burgers, chicken fingers etc. On a personal note, their hamburgers are probably one of the best restaurant burgers I’ve ever tried! I’ve never regretted getting one and always make sure that I order it at least once every trip. On a final note, if you’re a pop drinker or like having coffee at all hours of the day and are staying more than 3 days, you’ll be well served to buy the resort travel mug which gives you unlimited fountain pop, coffee and tea at your resort. The only thing they don’t offer at the service counter is milk, you have to ask for it for your tea or coffee. Milk is always available for sale at the restaurant.

Room: The room we had, featured two double beds, a television, a decent sized bathroom and an optional fridge (a daily charge is applied to your room bill). High speed Internet is available in every room at an additional daily charge, which at $10/day is ridiculous, and there is no WiFi available to date; although they keep telling me and they advertise that it is in fact available; I inquired and was told that it is currently available at Coronado Springs and the Grand Floridian but that it is being rolled out to all the resorts, hence the advertising. Each room also features a wall safe, hair dryer and heating/air conditioning unit that actually keeps the room very cool. The beds are comfortable and although it is a value property it is bigger and better kept than some hotel/motels I’ve stayed in.

Staff: Amazing. That pretty much sums it up. The people that work at Disney, are there because they like being there. Everyone is always smiling and happy to assist you no matter what your need. The room service is excellent, the always leave a towel figure on your child’s bed and if they see plush toys, they will try to integrate them with the towel figure which my daughter really loved.

Property: Being a value property, you don’t get a lot of fluff. It’s clean, well thought out and organized but not a lot to do unless you’re going to lay by the pool side. The pool is very big, but doesn’t go deeper than 4.5 feet, and goes as shallow as 3 feet. There is a wadding pool for wee ones and there are plenty of chairs and loungers to go around. You can sun bathe all day if your skin could take it. There is a coin-op laundry on site which sells a variety of laundry products, or bring your own to save a few bucks. The laundry is situated near the pool so you don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The arcade is big with lots of game choices, some classics like PacMan and Galaga, as well as the newer stuff utilizing big screen t.v.’s.

Parking: Lots and Lots of it, well thought out so you’re not walking miles to get to your room after a long day in the parks. But why drive, one of the best perks is Disney’s Bus Service, more on this later on. There is no cost to park, you just have to get a pass to put on your dash.

Summary: In my experience the Disney All Star resorts offer incredible value for your vacation dollar. The rooms are spacious and clean, the staff is extremely pleasant and professional, your needs are taken care of in a very timely manner and you will love the little extras that staying with Disney offers.

Cruising…

Navigator of the Seas
Navigator of the Seas


until our next cruise!

The tickets are bought, the room picked and the countdown has begun on this our second cruise. We are cruising with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, RCCL, on its transatlantic eastbound cruise from Ft. Lauderdale Florida to Barcelona Spain. It is a 14 night cruise with 8 of those nights being spent crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Its stops in Europe include, Tenerife, Canary Islands; Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Malaga, Spain; with disembarkation in Barcelona, Spain.

Our first foray into cruising began this past March when we took the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Sun for a 7 night cruise on the Western Caribbean.

NCL Sun
NCL Sun

We embarked the ship at the Port of Miami and set sail for a number of exotic locations including Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan and Great Stirrup Cay (a private island owned by the cruise line). It was quite neat to be on a floating hotel. We had a room with a private balcony and absolutely loved that! There is nothing to compare to the sounds of waves crashing against the ship while you rest, or simply smelling the air and sea while you cruise from destination to destination while setting on your private balcony, it was quite intoxicating, and addictive enough that we can’t wait to do it again.

NCL is a “freestyle” cruise line, which basically means that you eat what you want, when you want, where you want and you don’t have to dress up like you’re at a wedding. While they do have restaurants with a dress code, I personally don’t go on holidays to have to get dressed up, I have no problem eating whenever the need presented itself and loved that I could.

The Good….

  1. Loved the freestyle concept.
  2. Food was good, basic staples were the same day after day, but enough new stuff to keep you interested. We ate at the buffet most of the time, no problem getting a seat.
  3. Loved the private balcony, don’t think I could cruise without one.
  4. Staff was pleasant and plentiful.
  5. Ship excursions were good, well organized but expensive.
  6. Rooms were decent sized and clean. Shower could be bigger, but I guess that is how they get you to pay for the Suites…   🙂
Sunset over Roatan
Sunset off the coast of Roatan

The Bad….

  1. Expensive. Not the actual cruise, but everything else. I don’t drink but if I did, I would be wild, 5 beers for $25USD, that was the special, $12 for a mixed drink, $4 for a bottle of water, albeit it was a 1/2 litre size.  A game of Bingo cost anywhere from $50 – $80, and could last as little as 5 minutes, because it is for only 1 card.
  2. Forced Tipping. I believe that tips should be optional, given for good service, the better the service the better the tip. The policy on ship is that you are automatically charged a per diem amount which is added to your onboard account. This, while absurd, might be more palatable if it was for everyone, but it doesn’t include your maid service, that you tip extra. Of course, they will reverse it if you ask, but you have to go to the front desk and request it in person, talk about intimidating. Oh, and by the way, this tidbit is disclosed to you at your disembarkation meeting, usually the night before you get off the ship, so if you tipped while you went along, too bad for you.
  3. Poor selection of cigars in the cigar lounge.
  4. They really need to implement a sign up system for ping pong tables, basket ball courts and batting cages. Some people have no class and will stay in their all day long.

The Ugly…

  • I would never go on a cruise during Spring Break again! Too many drunk college kids for me… It was impossible to get into the pool as it was always full of loud kids who try too damn hard to impress the young ladies on board, but only succeed in making complete fools of themselves.
  • Cozumel. Not a place you bring a child. If it wasn’t for the submarine trip we had paid for, I would have returned to the ship. It’s every bit as bad as you see on TV and then some. The people are rude, bossy and in your face from the moment you disembark the ship to when you get back on. Stay away! Couldn’t imagine being there at night.
  • Getting from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami Cruise port is an exercise in futility. The cruise lines should really consider charging a couple bucks more for the tickets and providing transfers. They should take a page from the Disney play book on this. Disney makes it painless getting to and from the airport.

In summary, the cruise was great, the warm weather was wonderful and getting away the day before 15″ of snow fell is superb. I enjoyed cruising with NCL, Norwegian Cruise Lines, in spite of my comments above, it just would have been better to know those things going in.

I cannot wait until April 16th to do it all again!