Embarkation day for your Disney cruise is quite exciting. If you’re like me, you want to get to the port early even if you have a later check-in time. But where will you go? Is there food available? Will you have to lug your luggage around with you? These were all questions I had the morning we were to set sail from Vancouver to Alaska. I’m happy to tell you that Canada Place is in a great location set up to help keep you comfortable and entertained while you wait to board.

  • Food and a Quick Break: Immediately across the street from Canada Place is the Waterfront Centre Food Court, complete with Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, and plenty of other offerings where you can grab a bite to eat and relax. Restaurants open early, wi-fi is available, and youcan make a quick stop to the restrooms.
  • Stowing Luggage: Make sure you have secured your luggage tags to all bags you plan to check in. Cross the street to Canada Place and veer down the ramp to the right. You will find guests who have just come off their cruise and are exiting the port. As their luggage is cleared out, Disney Cruise Line will accept your luggage to check-in. You may be able to check your luggage in as early as 10 am depending on how busy the port is. Be sure to keep all your travel documents, id/passport, medication and all other necessities in your day bag that you will carry onto the ship with you.
  • What to Do: The port has great views across the bay if you like to sit and watch boats and sea planes go by.
  • Checking In: Have your documents and passports ready to check in. You will also be asked to fill out a quick survey regarding recent illnesses or symptoms. This is all part of Disney’s on-going commitment to guests’ health and safety.
  • Waiting to Board: Once you are checked in, you can advance into the general boarding area where you will sit until your group number is called. You can usually find Mickey and a couple of his pals for a quick photograph. There are bathrooms available, but there isn’t much else to do. Bring a book, a game for the kids, or talk to your neighbors.
  • Make New Friends: If meeting other people from all over the world is part of your fun while on vacation, take the time to chat with other guests around you. You will likely see many of them again on board, and you can compare adventures and highlights during your trip.
  • Just Have Fun! Getting all set and settled is just part of the process to getting to your adventure. As soon as you embark on your cruise, you can go straight to the buffet or the restaurant for a good meal before you start exploring the ship and the real fun begins!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

 

It all started with … a mouse? Well, yes, but it also started with a family visit to a local carousel in Griffith Park, California. Sitting on a park bench, Walt imagined a special place a whole family could visit and enjoy together. A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps takes you step by step with a very hands-on Walt Disney as he envisioned and created a very magical new world, Disneyland.

Meeting up at the guided tour booth at the entrance to Main Street, U.S.A., you are greeted by your guide and welcomed into a small group of fellow guests. Groups are generally less than twenty people so you can stay tight and stick together as your guide walks you through some of Walt’s favorite areas. Everyone is fitted with an earpiece so the guide is able to walk with you, pointing things out and explaining the history and decision-making behind various areas.

You will spend time in Fantasyland as well as New Orleans Square, two areas Walt had huge involvement in. You can feel like a VIP as your guide walks you past lines of some of the most iconic attractions where you board immediately. On our tour, we experienced Alice in Wonderland and the Haunted Mansion and got a bit of history and trivia about these areas that added to the fun.

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The tour usually visits one of two rarely seen areas in the park – Walt’s apartment above the firehouse on Main Street, or the family apartment – also known as the Dream Suite – which sits perched atop Pirates of the Caribbean overlooking the Rivers of America. The Dream Suite was our treat for the day, and it was more than I had imagined it might be.

Over the years, this area has been converted for different uses. Walt never actually got to stay here as he passed away before it was completed. It was designed for Walt’s family and also as a space to entertain his guests (in combination with Club 33). In the early 90’s, I remember walking through the rooms as it was set up as an art gallery of original drawings and Disney history. The Dream Suite now is quite a lavish and charming apartment complete with parlor, guest bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, and enchanted details that will surprise and delight any guest. You will have to walk in Walt’s footsteps to see for yourself!

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While the visit to the Dream Suite was definitely an amazing opportunity, the highlight of the tour for me personally was our last stop. A bit more backstory and one of Walt’s favorite songs playing through the earpieces left everyone in our group affected and moved, many to tears.

We ended with a special lunch (pre-selected before the tour began) with our tour mates at the Jolly Holiday Bakery (one of my favorite places to stop for a bite to eat). We had our final opportunities to ask questions and chat with each other and our guide. We were each handed a beautiful collectible pin to commemorate the tour. A perfect ending to an incredible tour.

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This tour is great both for a first-time visit, giving you an introduction and details of Disneyland that most guests do not experience, and also as a moving journey for guests like myself who had literally visited Disneyland over a hundred times before ever taking a tour.

That old bench from Griffith Park now sits where you can see it inside the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction, and the old carousel? Still turning in Griffith Park!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

A Disney cruise to Alaska – something for everyone in your family with the HUGE added bonus of exploring some of the most gorgeous, natural beauty in the world.


Our family checked off a huge item on our bucket list – exploring the Last Frontier: Alaska. The beauty of Alaska is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. For fellow travelers we met on our journey, many of them were returning to Alaska for their 3 rd , 4 th , even 7 th time, and now I understand why. Combine a journey into the wilds of Alaska up the Pacific Ocean with the service and entertainment on board a Disney cruise ship, and you’ve got a perfect family vacation.

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Before we had even boarded the ship, we were meeting friendly faces from our cruise group Facebook page where we had all shared plans and hopes for our families’ vacations. We continued to run into each other and meet other new friends throughout the voyage.

For our dinners, we requested to be seated with another family. We were paired with a family with kids about the same age as ours, and it was nice to look forward to seeing them each night, enjoy a meal together and chat about what we had done or seen during the day. They can easily become friends just as your serving team does as they travel with you each night to a different restaurant, and you may also see them at breakfast and lunch at various locations.

On-board fun included Disney shows, the music and comedy of Buckets and Boards, Disney trivia, Disney animation classes, dance parties, cooking classes, Bingo, tween and teen clubs for the kids, 80s Trivia at the pub, movies, and of course relaxing on the pool deck, taking an occasional nap, and food. Lots of food.

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After a day and a half of sailing north, we finally arrived at Endicott Arm where we had an amazing viewing of not only the glacier but also all the lazy sea lions floating by on chunks of ice. Whales were also spotted on our way to the glacier, causing everyone to run for their cameras. Having a verandah was a highlight of our stateroom as we were able to enjoy the glacier and the marine life from the comfort of our own private sitting area.

Exploring just Southeast Alaska, we had three ports of call to look forward to:

  • Skagway – a gold rush town now full of shops and small eateries and a great place to
    catch the salmon spawning. Hike to a lake up on a mountain, or visit the old Gold Rush
    Cemetery and learn about Soapy Smith, Skagway’s very own con-man who finally paid
    his dues.
  • Juneau – the capital of Alaska and accessible only by boat or air, this sprawling town has
    lots of shopping for tourists, tours to Mendenhall Glacier, and a tram up the mountain
    to a great view and a raptor rescue center.
  • Ketchikan – also a mining town, Creek Street was a red-light district filled with brothels whose buildings now serve as shops on a quaint wooden boardwalk lining Ketchikan Creek.

While we enjoyed all three ports, Ketchikan was easily our favorite port. With a Native tour guide and just a small group of us discovering the town, we saw the greatest amount of wild life of any of our port stops with eagles, bears, and otters. We were also treated to a special visit to a totem pole park where our guide appeared out of nowhere in his regalia, complete with a wolf head and beautiful red robe.

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No matter where you were in Alaska, and though it didn’t matter which direction you looked, the waterways, mountains, lush trees, beaches, snow-capped mountains, wildlife,…it was with you everywhere you went.

I have traveled all over the world and have seen some amazing places. Australia still reigns at the top of my list, but Alaska is coming in close behind it, and I’m already looking forward to my next adventure back!

Nancy Wideman
Travel Specialist

A huge part of our family’s experience when we visit any Disney destination is enjoying so many amazing restaurants. Good food allows us to relax and simply enjoy the moment together. Great food keeps us coming back!

When we’re back home, we’ll think back on that special something and wish we could have just one bite! For me, the bread pudding at Ohana’s at the Polynesian Village is one of those “aaaaah” foods. Lucky for my family, it’s also pretty easy to make!

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Nancy Wideman
Travel Specialist

Starting November 18, 2017 and running through January 6, 2018, you can celebrate the holidays at Universal with special entertainment, including an exciting new transformation in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Hogwarts

Included with your admission ticket to the Universal theme parks:

  • Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is extra magical. It will include festive decorations, special sweets and treats, entertainment, and a beautiful new projection show up on Hogwart’s castle that is sure to delight all Muggles.
  • Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s as Santa Claus is joined by the Minions. You’ll also see some of your favorite characters from Madagascar and Shrek!
  • A live re-telling by the Grinch of the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular.
  • Mannheim Steamroller returns with live performances of Christmas classics on select nights.
  • Holiday activities and exclusive benefits at Universal’s on-site resorts.

A separately ticketed New Year’s celebration, EVE, is sure to be the biggest party of the year at Universal’s CityWalk.

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Minions

Included in your Universal package:

  • A stay in one of Universal’s beautiful on-site resorts. Choose from Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
    • Guests staying at the Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, or Portofino Bay hotels also received unlimited Express Passes for participating rides and attractions.
  • Early Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – one hour before the general public!
  • Free transportation within the resort. A water taxi is a convenient and fun way to explore other resorts. The parks and CityWalk are all in close proximity to each other.
  • Charging privileges throughout the resort.

Universal Orlando Resort Holiday Activities - Grinchmas

BONUS inclusions if you book the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Exclusive Vacation Package.:

  • 4 night hotel accommodations
  • 3-Park, 4-Day Park to Park ticket
  • Breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron in Universal Studios
  • Breakfast at the Three Broomsticks in Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • One Shutterbutton’s Photography Studio session in Diagon Alley.

Packages for the holiday celebrations include visits to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s exhilarating new water park, Volcano Bay.

Holiday packages are booking now, so contact a Me and the Mouse travel specialist to reserve your favorite resort! To make your visit even more magical, combine visits to Universal Orlando with Walt Disney World and get the best of both resorts during the holidays!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Planner

Meeting a Disney LegendWhat makes Disney so magical? The Cast Members! While Disney would still be an amazing place to visit, it’s the cast members who spread the magic to all the millions of guests who visit the parks every year.

For our family, we enjoy meeting cast members and getting to know a little about them and where they come from. These special encounters happen spontaneously throughout the parks and at the resorts and often start with a simple “hello.”

My most favorite cast member of all is Mr. Richard who greets guests at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. I’d seen lots of posts on Facebook of photos with guests, so when I pulled up to the Grand Floridian and saw him standing there, I had to meet him. He is quite literally a Disney celebrity or legend!

We had a wonderful conversation about his life and where he’s been.

Here are just a few of the things I learned about him:

  • Mr. Richard (Gerth) has been a greeter at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort since 1991. His wife had passed away the previous year leaving him to wonder, “What will I do now?” He decided to pack up and move to Orlando, and he’s been there ever since!
  • He will be celebrating his 92nd birthday this year!
  • Mr. Richard served in World War II under General Patton! (This is a whole story in itself!)
  • He especially loves escorting brides and helping them with their trains during their weddings at Walt Disney World.
  • A Facebook page was created for him {Check that out, HERE}. He admits he never gets online, but he is happy to pose with guests and enjoys when they share their photos on his page.

Take time to stop for a chat with a cast member. Ask them where they’re from, how long they have been helping to create Disney magic, what their favorite things are. You never know who you’re going to meet and what amazing stories they can share with you. Several Me and The Mouse Agents have worked as Cast Members. They have some great stories and tips from their time working at the Happiest Place on Earth!

 

Special note: In addition to his truly sweet nature that immediately makes you love him, he is such a classic gentleman! He was happy to take a photograph with me and immediately extended his arm to wrap mine in his. I think that’s what I’ll remember most about our first meeting!

Ready to meet the legend, Mr. Richard? Contact a Me and The Mouse today to book your next trip!

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

I am not a runner…at all…but that didn’t stop me from joining friends in my first runDisney marathon weekend! Whether you are up every morning for that morning run, or if you simply want to experience a runDisney event, here are several reasons to love runDisney races!

The Challenge!

Hopefully all races are a challenge no matter your level of experience. For this girl, I’ll admit I didn’t train nearly enough knowing what I do now. Disney recommends a pace time of 15 minutes or under per mile whether you run or walk {or a combination of both}. “Balloon Ladies” {and sometimes Balloon Men!} keep the pace from the back and encourage you to keep going. If you fall behind, you will eventually get picked up and taken to the finish. I was able to stay ahead of them, but I saw faces of defeat on those who were not so lucky. The race itself is challenging, and there are so many people who attend these events who have personal challenges they are overcoming. My motto is simple –  Do your best and have fun!

Train with Jeff Galloway!  https://www.rundisney.com/training/running/

The Camaraderie!

It’s amazing all the people you will meet, everyone cheering each other on, and the excitement in the corrals and along the route. You have the opportunity to sit and chat with people from all over the world as you wait for your corral to be released for the race. You’ll meet plenty of first-timers as well as marathon pros who have been running the circuits for years.

For Your Health!

Whether you walk, run, crawl,….it doesn’t matter! Get out in the fresh air and get some exercise in! It does your body and your brain good! If you have any health concerns, consult your doctor prior to beginning training. Use a Fitbit or smart watch to monitor heart rate and have fun watching that step counter tick away!

The Outfits! runDisney event for Non-Runners!

It’s fun to see all the people who come dressed as Disney characters, Disney foods, or maybe even as an attraction! That’s a huge part of the fun – people get extremely creative and go all out which also makes for fun photos!

The Bling!

Because really…..don’t we all want that medal at the end? And the DISNEY medals? I’ve got my eyes on a Star Wars event just for that!

runDisney event for Non-Runners!The fun characters you’ll get to meet along the way!

I have always loved meeting Disney characters, and at a runDisney event, you’ll run into characters that aren’t often seen in the parks. For the 2016 Food & Wine race, we got to meet Remy and Emil from Ratatouille!

The After-Party!

If you still have energy the night of the big race, Disney throws a fun after-party which includes more characters and entertainment!

And let’s not forget…The Destination!

Disney races are held at Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disneyland Resort in California, on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas during Bahamian and Caribbean Disney cruises, and even at Disneyland Paris!


These are all great reasons to participate in a runDisney event, and I did absolutely love my weekend. I did my best and had a blast!

For upcoming events, check the official runDisney website!  https://www.rundisney.com/

 

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

The Magic of Bounce Back Offers

Disney's Best PromotionMaybe you have heard the term “bounce back” on Disney chat boards but aren’t quite sure what that means. If you are someone who would love to be able to visit Disney World every year but can’t quite fit it in your budget, this tip could help make it more possible to make that dream come true.

Hidden in the literature in your Disney resort room will be a special offer for current guests to book a future trip.  You will have to look for the flyer as it is usually tucked away with other resort information. (If you cannot find an offer in your room, you can call 407-939-1923 from your room and ask what bounce back offers are currently available). Offers will vary as will timeframes. It might include free dining, a room discount, or some other incentive.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably not carrying your calendar around with you while on vacation. That’s okay! Choose a date that you think might work for you, and place the required $200 deposit on the reservation. Once you return home and can check calendars and work or school schedules, you can call back and adjust the dates as long as they fit within the offer timeframes and assuming rooms are available for the new dates.

The key is you must book your trip BEFORE you check out by calling the number on the flyer from your room. (You can also have your travel specialist call for you, but you must still be checked in at a Disney property).

Disney's Best PromotionThe benefit of booking in advance with the Bounce Back offer is that you have the opportunity for a great discount that you can determine later if it works or doesn’t work for you. If it turns out that the trip won’t fit into your schedule at all, you can cancel the reservation up to 30 days prior to your check-in date with no penalty. If a new promotion is announced to the public, and either the dates or the promotion end up working out better for you, you can adjust the reservation.

Without promotions like these, many of us could not afford to take Disney vacations as often as we would like. This is an excellent way to save money on a future trip!

Extra tip: Did you work with your favorite travel planner for your current vacation? Great! You can book the Bounce Back offer and request that your travel planner be rolled over to the new reservation. (If you forgot to mention it while you were making the reservation, you can easily transfer it to your travel planner so he/she can continue to provide you with great planning services. Alert your travel planner upon you return home while the transfer window is still open).

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

{& Why These Cast Members Will Be
Some of Your Favorite Faces!}

 

Baby Care StationI have done what so many other moms like me have done and what so many others have thought me crazy for.  I have taken my very young children to enjoy the Disney parks. My kids were both under 1 year when we started taking them to the Disney parks regularly. I understand how we want to share our love of Disney and all the magic that that entails with our children, and I also understand how tiring that can be. Disney has created a place even for the smallest guests (and for those caring for them). It is called (*the sounds of angels descending* and cue the spotlight) the Baby Care Station.

With one Baby Care Station located centrally in each of the Disney theme parks (both at Walt Disney World and at the Disneyland Resort), you can find a quiet retreat to nurse or feed your baby, change diapers or visit the toilets, or just grab a quiet corner to escape the bustle and weather outside. They are staffed with the sweetest cast members who are there to help you take care of your little one.

The main room has tables and chairs, as well as high chairs. Forgot something? They also have a small area where you can purchase some of the essentials, such as diapers and baby food.Baby Care Station

When my kids were little, this was one (of many!) of the bright spots to our visit. They loved the pint-sized potties made just for them, and I loved knowing the wonderful cast members were always there for me to offer a smile (or help avoid a diaper emergency!).

Sure, it might sound silly, but when you spend a full day playing in the parks with your young ones, anything that can help keep everyone comfortable and happy is a blessing.

If you are traveling with Littles on your next visit to the parks, grab your map and locate the Baby Care Station for later. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist

Adventures by Disney – 8 days, 7 nights

Featuring two amazing cities rich with history, the Adventures by Disney England and France departure is ideal for families exploring Europe together for the first time. There are several recognizable sites from your favorite books and films. You will be in awe of the beauty and excitement of the highlighted cities. Europe Vacation - Adventures by Disney

Starting off in London, you will experience some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This includes a private tour of Westminster Abbey, witnessing the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, touring the Tower of London and meet a Beefeater, and taking a speed-boat ride up the Thames!

You can explore the English countryside, take in an archery lesson, and stroll the grounds of Windsor Castle. A special experience here includes scone-making and tea at Guildhall. Guildhall is a stunning setting where dignitaries and the Royal Family have gathered since the 12th century.

Travel on to Paris by train in the Chunnel under the English Channel. After an introduction to the sites of Paris, experience the Eiffel Tower with a Behind-the-Scenes tour. This includes access to the rooftop of the Le Jules Verne restaurant for a 360-degree panoramic view of Paris {one word, breathtaking}. Your Parisian adventure continues with wine tasting, bicycling and walking tours.

You will end your adventure in Paris by visiting the Louvre and the Notre Dame Cathedral! This is a day full of beauty and art. There are activities for both adults and children. The adults will enjoy a tour of the Louvre with a private guide. It includes a viewing of the Mona Lisa.  The children can play Art Detective to discover some of the Louvre’s most famous works. Europe Vacation - Adventures by Disney

As always with an Adventures by Disney tour, you will experience 5 Star accommodations, VIP access to historic sites, immersion into local customs and traditions, and world class service. Adventures by Disney promises you will leave feeling a connection to the land and the people.

With the journey culminating in Paris, extending your family’s visit to include a few nights at Disneyland Paris before heading home is a great add-on to add a little extra Disney magic.

For assistance finding the ideal Adventures by Disney tour for your family, contact your Me and the Mouse Travel Specialist!

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist