Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Savannah and the Disney Dream

Fall has been filled with travel and family, and I’m now hoping to catch up a bit during an airport layover. Our first trip in September was not actually related to our cruise and travel business, but I mention it anyway simply because Savannah, GA, always merits mention! Although Ben and I visited another Southern charmer, Charleston, SC, several years ago we’d never made it to Savannah. This year it was the site of our annual Aviano Reunion Association gathering, hosted by some of our members, and proved just as captivating as we imagined. From gracious hospitality and beautiful historic sites to scrumptious meals, Savannah immediately became one of our favorite little cities.

Festival of the Lion King
 The CruiseOne national conference this year took a different turn with the addition of a land component beginning with four nights at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World followed by a quick three-night cruise on the Disney Dream. The resort is lovely, though quite sprawling around a small lake. It is located close to Animal Kingdom, so Ben and I arrived early enough Sunday to make a brief visit there to see the Festival of the Lion King show and go on the Kilimanjaro Safari. Very cool. Conference kept us pretty busy otherwise, except for a quick call on the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studies and a big conference event hosted by Disney for us at EPCOT. As always, it was a pleasure meeting with our corporate staff and cruise line and travel executives, as well as networking with our fellow agents in the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc communities.

It had been several years since our last cruises on the Disney Magic and Wonder so we were excited for the opportunity to sail on the Dream, which just made her debut last year. She’s bigger, for starters, weighing in at 130,000 tons versus 83,000 tons each for the Magic and Wonder. She also incorporates super cool features than only Disney imagineers could create: the AquaDuck, the very first water coaster at sea; inside cabins with a “Magical Porthole” showing real-time exterior views and animated characters “swimming” by; artwork throughout the ship that comes to life with a simple touch and is part of a scavenger hunt-type challenge; and changes to the Animator’s Pallet restaurant that involve more animation in the artwork than the black-and-white to color transformation made popular in the same restaurant on the Magic and Wonder.

Disney Dream at Castaway Cay
 Most cabins on all Disney ships feature those wonderful split bathrooms: sink and tub/shower combo in one part, and sink and toilet in the other. If you book an inside Disney cabin, be sure to ask for this feature since the lowest category cabins do not include them. Cabins are generally spacious with plenty of storage. Guests migrate to a new restaurant each evening, with their wait staff following them. I must say that Disney’s food has much improved since our last sailings, but our favorite place to eat on Disney is the adult-only Palo--one of the best alternative restaurants at sea. Delicious Italian menu selections and an absolutely amazing chocolate hazelnut soufflé for dessert.

We can’t offer personal observations about children’s and teen programming, but Disney offers clubs, labs, activities, and hangouts for kids and teens of all ages that garner excellent reviews. The ship honors adult space, too, however, with an adult-specific pool area and adult-only beach on Disney’s famed Castaway Cay. Hooray for that one, since our Castaway stop was our only truly relaxing day of the conference…and then only after Ben and I completed the 5k walk as part of our agency’s Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser! A worthy cause, indeed.

Our Disney rep and the entire Disney family did an amazing job as our hosts this year, and we look forward to getting YOU to one of the parks or on a Disney ship or BOTH soon. With the Dream and even newer Fantasy now added to the fleet, there are more opportunities than ever to try a Disney cruise with year-round itineraries to the Caribbean and Bahamas and seasonal departures to Canada/New England, Hawaii, and Mexico; through the Panama Canal; and in the Mediterranean. Take note, however, that Disney just announced it would pull out of Galveston the end of 2013, even though it had originally scheduled 19 cruises during the first months of 2014. The line will move four ships back to Florida during the first half of 2014. A big disappointment for us in the central and western parts of the country!

And please don’t forget about the Adventures by Disney program that can give your children or grandchildren topnotch travel experiences in the United States and all over the world. During our conference we were most impressed with the presentation given by one of the programs top guides. 

Next up in our travel schedule was an inaugural sailing of the brand new Celebrity Reflection, which I’ll write about next. It was preceded by a great Thanksgiving week with our family. We hope YOURS was lovely, too!

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