Disney Magic Cruise Ship Planning Guide


This guide to the Disney Magic provides tips for the newly re-imagined Disney Cruise Line ship, which is especially popular because it’s frequently used on Caribbean itineraries. This Disney Magic Cruise Ship Planning Guide covers the basics of things to know before you go, plus our recommendations for activities, dining, and other things you should try to do once you’re on board the ship.

Originally debuting in 1998, it was the original ship in the Disney Cruise Line, and likely built at a time when there was some uncertainty as to how Disney would do against established cruise lines. Disney Cruise Line was a smash success from the beginning, as evidenced by the 3 additional ships that have joined the fleet in the last decade, with each one also being larger in size. Oldest and smallest is problematic when it comes to cruise ships, so the Disney Magic received a fairly comprehensive overhaul in 2013 to, in a way, keep up with its sister ships.

We had the chance to sail on the Disney Magic a few months after its re-imagining, and we can safely say that it feels like a brand new cruise ship. By way of overview, the ship is 964 feet long and holds 2,700 passengers (plus ~950 Cast Members).  This is a fair amount smaller than the newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, which is 1,115 feet and holds 4,000 passengers (plus ~1,500 Cast Members). Because of its smaller size, the Disney Magic mainly sticks to itineraries in the Caribbean. While the re-imagining couldn’t make the ship longer, it could improve the overall look and freshness of the Disney Magic.

This overall look is evident the moment you step aboard the Disney Magic, when you walk into the Art Deco lobby. The lobby is a signature area of each Disney Cruise Line ship, with each having a one-of-a-kind chandelier, beautiful design and detail work, and great use of color and lines. Now, this isn’t new to the re-imagined Disney Magic–the original design was stunning, too–but it just goes to show how well-designed the Disney Cruise Line ships are.

We will cover other elements of the Disney Magic’s gorgeous design in the sections that follow. Let’s get started with planning your voyage aboard this great Disney cruise ship! (more…)

1-Day Magic Kingdom “Daily Trip Blueprint”

If we were looking for the perfect way to spend one day in the Magic Kingdom, these are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, and the quiet moments we would stop to enjoy. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short. Get it? It’s like the website name! (Yes, we are dangerously corny. But knowing you have a problem is the first step, right?)

This Daily Trip Blueprint isn’t a touring plan or strategy guide for efficiently experiencing every attraction in the Magic Kingdom. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions, read our comprehensive Best Magic Kingdom Attractions & Ride Guide post. This is only a 1-day “sample” itinerary of what we would (reasonably) accomplish in a day at the Magic Kingdom. If you’re for something more comprehensive to plan every aspect of your Walt Disney World vacation, from where to purchase discount tickets to when to visit and more, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Instead, this is Daily Trip Blueprint is an itinerary of our favorite things to do during our “ideal day” in the Magic Kingdom with moderate crowds (on busier days, doing this all will be tough), and when you should do certain things for the ‘best experience,’ but not necessarily the most efficient experience. It’s a rough, subjective itinerary rather than an objective one. Emphasis on rough–the blocks of items below are not in any sort of concrete order, meaning that if you want to break up a block of rides with one of the snack times below, you can do it early. You can also skip the snacks, meals, etc., entirely.

We aren’t your mother (this much should be clear by the morning ice cream break!); we aren’t trying to tell you what to do or not to do. Just don’t you dare use the restroom unless that’s specifically called for in the plan. ;) You get two restroom breaks per day…use them wisely! If you’re looking for a statistically-efficient plan of attack, consult TouringPlans.com for Walt Disney World, which has been developing excellent plans exactly like that for years. Their structured plans might provide a nice compliment to what we have here.  

FastPass+ sort of throws a monkey wrench into this whole thing, and not every guest is going to have access to all FastPass+ selections based upon when they make their ride reservations (read more about FastPass+ in our MyMagic+ FAQ). In the interest of keeping this guide concise, we are going to assume no FastPass+. Obviously, it is in your best interest to get FastPass+ and use them as you can to get more out of the day. Our picks for the “objective” best FastPass+ choices are the Anna & Elsa Meet & Greet, Enchanted Tales with Belle, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Other strong options include the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train). Personally, I also like the FastPass+ location for the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and I hate staking out parade spots way early, but as an objective pick, this one probably isn’t the best.

We’re going to start out each of these DTBs with a recommended hotel ideal for that park. Chances are, you won’t want to change hotels every night, so this is only meant to be mildly influential. Pick one hotel for your entire Walt Disney World stay based on your “most important” park. For the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the easy choice for its 10 minute walk to the Magic Kingdom, plus boat and monorail access. If you are willing to stay slightly farther away but still in the Magic Kingdom area, my top pick is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. It has better theming and a lower price point, and is one of Disney’s coolest hotels. Plus, you still have boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom. (When searching for a Magic Kingdom-convenient hotel, the goal is to avoid having to take a bus or drive to the Magic Kingdom.) I’m not-so-secretly hoping you choose Wilderness Lodge.

Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, here’s what to do… (more…)

1-Day Disneyland “Daily Trip Blueprint”

If we had one day in Disneyland and were looking for the perfect way to spend that day, these are the attractions we would do, the restaurants where we’d dine, and the metaphorical roses we would stop to smell. The idea behind this post is to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We are starting with Disneyland for the first post in this series of “Daily Trip Blueprints.” (Or DTB for short. Get it? We thought about calling it the “DTB by DTB.com,” but felt that would cross that line from clever into lame and corny territory…but we probably are so far across that line already that we can no longer even see the line.)

Note that this Daily Trip Blueprint isn’t a touring plan or strategy guide for visiting Disneyland, nor is it a thorough listing of every attraction at Disneyland. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions (which will give you a better idea of what to prioritize), read our comprehensive Best Disneyland Attractions & Ride Guide post. If you need comprehensive help for planning every aspect of your visit to Disneyland, from where to purchase discount tickets to transportation from the airport and more, read our Disneyland Resort Trip Planning Guide.

Instead, what we are providing is a rough blueprint of our favorite things to do in an “ideal day” at Disneyland with low to moderate crowds (on busier days, it will be more difficult to accomplish all of this), and when you should do them for the ‘best experience,’ but not necessarily the most efficient experience. In other words, this strives to be subjective rather than objective. If you’re looking to develop a plan of attack for visiting attractions in the most efficient order, you should consult TouringPlans.com for Disneyland, which has years of experience and the statistical expertise in terms of “attraction order.”

If budget is no issue, we recommend staying at Disneyland Hotel (our favorite) or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel (closer to the parks) for your visit. If you only have 1 day for Disneyland (hopefully you also have a day for Disney California Adventure), your time is fairly limited and you won’t be able to see it all, but at least staying at one of these hotels puts you in a good position to utilize Morning Extra Magic Hours to see more (make sure to consult the official Disneyland Calendar to see when these are offered). Plus, these hotels have great location and are just flat out fun. If these hotels are outside of your budget, our pick is the Anaheim Desert Inn, an off-site hotel that is about a 10 minute walk from the parks.

Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, here’s what to do… (more…)

2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Info & Tips

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Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September 19, 2014 through November 10, 2014. During this culinary celebration, guests can taste (and drink!) around Epcot’s World Showcase.  The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World, and is one reason why we love visiting Walt Disney World during the fall.

Although this article will provide tips for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there are a lot of things we recommend doing in the fall; make sure to read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Tower of Terror 10-Miler runDisney event, and our When to Visit Walt Disney World posts to get an idea of what else to do this time of year. As you may know, fall is the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World! Well, my personal “perfect” time of year is Christmas (nothing beats Christmas at Walt Disney World for me!), but fall is a close second.

We’ve been to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for each of the last several years, spending more money on snacks than we care to think about! While Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival can be a pricey event, it can also be an a ton of fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right approach (we’ll cover how to save money at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival further down this post).

If you’re looking for what’s new for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival or what our recommend plan of attack is for the festival? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our preview of what’s new, what we recommend doing, and strategy for keeping your sanity at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! (more…)

Disney World Hotel Reviews

Thinking about staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, but not sure which is right for you? In our Disney hotel reviews, we share the strengths and weaknesses of each hotel, give our opinion as to whether they are worth the money, and offer an idea of what type of guests (families, honeymooners, commando tourists, etc.) will like or dislike each hotel.

Each full Walt Disney World hotel review contains photos from the hotels, including room photos and photos of main areas of the hotel, to give you an idea of whether the decor of the rooms and the theme of the hotel will appeal to you. In addition to this, the reviews offer Walt Disney World resort hotel tips, information about amenities, and dining recommendations at the hotels.

We have stayed at every on-site hotel at Walt Disney World, so unlike many hotel review sites that crowdsource or aggregate information from other sources leading to inconsistent ratings or uninformed “opinions”, our reviews are all first-hand accounts of our personal stays at each of the hotels at Walt Disney World. You may totally disagree with our opinions, but at least you’re getting the actual opinions of the same two people who have stayed at each of the hotels.

We are missing full reviews for a couple of Walt Disney World hotels because we either forgot to take room photos of the hotel or last stayed at the hotel before we started taking room photos (hey, how many of you take hotel room photos?!). Additionally, Disney has been aggressively refreshing its hotel rooms in the last year or so, and we haven’t yet had a chance to stay in every new room and update the photos. Our goal is to have this completed by early 2015.

Off-site and third party hotels at Walt Disney World like the Swan & Dolphin, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels, and other similar hotels are next on our list of places to start staying at and reviewing, so check back regularly and stay tuned for those reviews.

Below we have blurbs with quick-hit pros and cons of each Walt Disney World hotel if you just want basic information. If you want to know more about each hotel and see Walt Disney World hotel photos, click the name of the hotel to go to its full review! (more…)

Tips for Fourth of July at Disney World

Walt Disney World is a popular summer vacation destination, and that’s doubly true during the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday, when there are added crowds at Disney as Floridians and Southerners take the long holiday weekend and head down to Walt Disney World. Add to that the fact that Disney and America go together about like America and apple pie, plus great celebrations and fireworks shows, and it’s easy to see why a lot of people visit Walt Disney World for July 4th.

This post will offer tips and tricks for visiting Walt Disney World around the Fourth of July, and help you make the most of the experience! If you’re already in Walt Disney World and are looking for ways to avoid the heat, humidity, and crowds and for the best experience on and around July 4th, we’ve got you covered. If you’ve wanted to do the “Distinctly Patriotic” thing and go to Walt Disney World for the Fourth of July, but have always been afraid of the chaos and crowds, this post might just present an attack plan to convince you to go

Since we are distinctly patriotic (or crazy…your pick!), we’ve visited Walt Disney World for the week leading up to the Fourth of July (and Independence Day itself). While it was busy and hot, it didn’t feel all that much busier than normal–because we knew what to do to avoid the crowds. It was incredibly fun, and something we’ll likely do again. While the crowds and heat are a downside, the atmosphere and fireworks are some of the best in the United States.

Here are our tips for having a great Fourth of July at Walt Disney World!

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