In less than 60 days, Norwegian Cruise Line's Bliss makes her big debut sailing the Alaskan Inside Passage before heading to New York City, her home from November to April. Once upon a time, you'd have to go to Miami or Ft Lauderdale if you wanted to sail on the newest and best ships at sea. But thanks to the cruise industry's support of New York's Manhattan Cruise Terminal, those days are gone!
Today, it's hard to upstage Norwegian Cruise Line in NYC. They currently have a total of eight ships docked there and offer plenty of itineraries that appeal to just about everyone. NCL gives Northeast cruisers what they're looking for - younger, state-of-the-art ships, exciting itineraries, comfortable accommodations, affordable, all-inclusive vacations from an easy-to-get-to port. In fact, all four of NCL's newest ships - Bliss, Escape, Breakaway and Getaway, sail from Manhattan Cruise Terminal. Not sure which cruise is right for you? Here are some of our favorites:
Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) - Restaurant reservations that guests can make up to 180 days in advance for restaurants found at all four parks, resort hotels and Disney Springs.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) - A magical salon where you guests under 12 years old can get a magical princess or character makeover.
Character Dining - Meet Disney characters while you enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at special locations within a theme park or resort.
Child Switch Program - Allows parents of small children to take turns enjoying a thrill ride without waiting in line twice.
Disney Dining Plan (DDP) - Pre-paid Disney Dining program with many options for meals and snacks. Depending on your needs and appetite, this plan can save you a lot of money on food at the parks.
Extra Magic Hours - On designated days, a Walt Disney World theme park will be open an hour early and two hours later for Disney Resort guests only and includes guests staying at the Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Hotels and the Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort.
FastPass + - Allows guests to avoid long wait times and reserve access to select Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and Character Greetings in advance. You can begin making your FastPass+ selections up to 30 days in advance of your visit. If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in. Guests can reserve up to 3 FastPass selections at one time.
Magic Bands - MagicBands are colorful, waterproof wristbands that you can touch to a sensor called a touch point.
You can use your MagicBand or card to:
Magic Your Way - Walt Disney World Resort package program that allows guests to choose the options they want to add to their vacation, including tickets, park hopper, dining plans, Memory Maker, etc.
Magical Express - Complementary airport shuttle for Disney resort guest
Park Hopper - Allows guests to access to more than one park of Disney's four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) per day.
Park Hopper Plus - Allows guests to access to more than one park per day and it also includes the same number of Plus Visits, which are admissions to:
from Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando unwraps a resort-wide celebration that will elevate your holiday season. All your beloved favorites are here. Experience Christmas in The Wizarding World as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are transformed by festive decorations and special entertainment. Watch the live retelling of Dr. Seuss's classic holiday tale starring The Grinch as the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular returns. Merry and Mayhem combine as the Minions join Santa Claus in Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's along with characters from Madagascar and Shrek. Let your clients celebrate the season like never before at Universal Orlando Resort. They've Never Had a Holiday Like This.
Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Both The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be transformed by festive decorations, treats and special entertainment. And as the stars begin to shine, a stunning projection, The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts, wraps the castle in spectacular holiday spirit.
Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's
Merry and Mayhem combine as the Minions join Santa Claus in this all-new incarnation of a holiday favorite that also features characters from Madagascar and Shrek.
Seuss Landing is home to the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of Dr. Seuss's classic holiday tale starring The Grinch. And this is the perfect time of the year to start your day by enjoying breakfast with The Grinch & Friends.
The best-selling holiday artist returns for live performances on select nights.
EVE - The Event You Can’t Miss
To round out the fun, you can be a part of EVE, Universal CityWalk's eye-popping, mind-blowing, jam-packed New Year’s celebration. Enjoy signature drinks. Revel in six awesome CityWalk clubs with live bands and DJs. Feast on unlimited gourmet cuisine. And you can rock out on Orlando’s biggest outdoor dance floor. (Beverages not included. Separately ticketed event*.)
Holidays at Our Hotels
Put a bow on your Holiday season with a stay at one of Universal's on-site resort hotels. All hotels host holiday activities including:
Splash, Stay and Play Vacation Package
The best way for you to experience the Holidays at Universal Orlando Resort is with a Splash Stay and Play Vacation Package, which includes 5-Night hotel accommodations at a Universal Partner Hotel along with a 3-Park 5-Day Base Ticket to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure AND Universal’s Volcano Bay. Guests will also have Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay one hour before the park opens (valid theme park admission required).
Starting at $99** per adult, per night, tax inclusive.
After waking to a blanket of snow here in the northeast this morning, it was such a nice surprise to find this message from Walt Disney World in my inbox. Not one, but three incredible promotions for guests this summer, including a free dining offer for kids!
The best part about Disney summer promotions is that there really is a way for everyone to save. Past promotions have been a bit of a disappointment because there were so many exclusions and black-out dates that left some guests unable to qualify. But between the three promotions released today, it appears that most guests this summer will save.
See for yourself:
With the grand opening of experiences in all four parks coming this summer, it looks like Disney is ready to celebrate! And if you've been putting off a Disney vacation, now is the perfect time to celebrate and save! It just might be the best vacation ever!
Adapted from Royal Caribbean Blog
Royal Caribbean introduced us this week to an incredible expansion project at CocoCay, their private island in The Bahamas. Perfect Day at CocoCay will roll out in phases, beginning Sept. 2018 with the completion of the pier, and the majority of the island will launch spring 2019. Coco Beach Club, the final experience to be completed, is set to open Nov. 2019.
Here are some our favorite highlights from the project:
Splash & Play
You'll have the chance to thrill and chill as soon as you arrive in CocoCay (on the newly added pier). The shipwrecked Galleon features 30 water cannons to play with, along with Sprayaway Geyser, spraying water 82 feet in the air.
Royal Caribbean has been upgrading their fleet by adding a new aquatic adventure parks to their ships and we're happy to see that they are mirroring it with a grand version of the aqua park, Splashaway Bay on the island paradise. Splashaway Bay will feature fountains, pools, sprinklers, geysers, water cannons and whirlpools – plus five kid-size waterslides and two massive drench buckets.
At Captain Jack’s, the island hangout and meet-up spot, guests can grab a drink at the rowboat bar and enjoy waterfront views or chow down on chicken wings and crispy steak fries – the house specialty. For a nautical, world-traveled vibe, guests can opt to head to Skipper’s Grill for lunchtime favorites like burgers, sandwiches, tacos and salads.
For more adventuresome guests, Thrill Waterpark, will be in the middle of Perfect Day at CocoCay. It is home to two brag-worthy water towers with 13 slides – the most slides found in any waterpark in the Caribbean – as well as the Caribbean’s largest wave pool and a kid-friendly obstacle course pool.
Key features of Thrill Waterpark will include:
Up, Up and Away! This colorful helium balloon will take guests 450 feet above CocoCay to provide the highest vantage point in The Bahamas and offer views all around the island.
Largest Freshwater Pool
Royal Caribbean is planning to add the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean at Oasis Lagoon where guests can find a spot among three distinct coves, each with their own vibe. There will be a swim-up bar, zero entry pool access, or three mini swim-up islands with in-water loungers.
If you are looking to enjoy time on the beach, Chill Island may be the place for you. Royal Caribbean promises vacationers can find pristine, crystal-clear tropical waters and white powder-like sand
Chill Grill, the largest dining venue on the island, will offer beachside dining with fresh bites. Guests will also find beach day favorites here, including wave runner excursions, boat tours, snorkeling to see the spectacular marine life, as well as plentiful cabanas and daybeds for relaxation under the shade. There will also be beach bars with roaming bartenders.
South Beach will offer many activities to do while at the beach, such as volleyball, beachside basketball, soccer, paddle boarding, glass-bottom kayaking and zorbing in an inflatable zorb ball.
You can grab a bite at the Snack Shack or wade out to the floating bar to cool off with a drink.
If relaxation is more their speed, photo-worthy teepee cabanas, as well as daybeds, are perfect for napping and snapping in the shade.
A Luxury Retreat
The Coco Beach Club will offer the first and only overwater cabanas in The Bahamas that seeks to offer guests with an additional level of luxury. Cabanas at the Coco Beach Club come with an overwater hammock, waterslide and private attendant.
In addition, beachside cabanas and daybeds will offer up a private slice of paradise. Elsewhere, guests can find zen at a freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning an expansive 2,600-plus feet, or enjoy an exclusive dining venue that serves up freshly made Mediterranean fare with a side of ocean views.
Kids stay, play & eat free at Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa with Limitless All-Inclusive!
Two children (3 thru 12 years) can stay, play, and eat free with 2 paying adults now through 12/31/18.
Tell me more:
Does the cold and snow have you daydreaming about a lush, tropical vacation? Consider Dreams Resorts & Spas.
Dreams, an American owned an operated resort with locations in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Panama, has very, very high standards of quality. Mid-priced resorts with 5-star quality, Dreams raises the bar with what they call a Limitless Luxury package which means you get more included in the cost of your vacation than other all-inclusive resorts.
Spacious rooms and suites, graciously appointed and luxuriously equipped provide a picture-perfect vacation experience with welcoming service and romantic inclusions. Beautiful and exciting destinations provide a lovely setting for a wedding, honeymoon, romantic getaway or family vacation. Best of all, most every amenity is included as part of Unlimited-Luxury.
The Explorer’s Club for Kids with Red Cross certified staff and Core Zone Teens Club provide supervised day and evening activities. And beautiful and exciting destinations provide a lovely setting for a wedding, honeymoon, romantic getaway or family vacation. An Unlimited Luxury package includes:
Disney Cruise Line unveiled it's 2019 schedule this week with an incredible lineup of destinations for summer 2019. With more than 60 sailings to choose from next summer, Disney plans to make the biggest splash in June with three amazing new itineraries.
Disney Cruise Line's 8-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary on June 22, 2019, tops out list of favorites. It's a new twist on our favorite Eastern Caribbean itinerary that adds a visit to beautiful Antigua! Disney has designed this itinerary from Port Canaveral, FL to include 3 Caribbean favorites and Castaway Cay in just 8-nights. It's appropriate that this cruise is aboard Disney's Fantasy because you'll feel like you are on Fantasy Island at each port - St Thomas, St Kitts, Antigua and Castaway Cay.
For a more Mexican inspired cruise, we think you'll love
Disney's 6-night Western Caribbean itinerary with stops at Cozumel, Costa Maya and Castaway Cay. This cruise is the perfect blend of authentic Mexico, convenient all-inclusive vacation and paradise Disney-style at Castaway Cay. Mark your calendar for June 30 and book this cruise early. Disney is only sailing this itinerary one time in 2019, and due to the Fourth-of-July holiday there's a good chance this cruise will become sold out.
A European vacation is one of the best gifts you can give your family. Whether your dream European vacation is by land or by sea, it can present challenges when traveling with kids. A land tour can limit you to one small geographic region, while most cruise ships that sail the Mediterranean rarely cater to kids. Disney Cruise Line offers an impressive list of Mediterranean cruises that are convenient and affordable for parents and educational and fun for kids.
Our favorite itinerary revealed this week is Disney Cruise Line's 8-night Mediterranean Cruise aboard Disney's Magic. The cruise begins and ends in Rome's port at Civitavecchia and visits three countries - Italy, France and Spain. For the first time, you can experience the rich history of Rome as a bookend experience in a single Disney cruise, giving you more time to explore iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Vatican.
For a fully immersive experience, consider an Adventures by Disney land tour as an add-on experience where you will embrace a simpler way of life and watch history come alive. Whether you choose just the cruise itinerary or to extend your vacation with some time in Rome, one thing is certain - you will come home with a lifetime of memories!
Brenda Ajay is a travel adviser and travel writer based in Central Pennsylvania. She specializes in family and educational travel.