Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ice at Gaylord Palms, Orlando

We had heard so much about the annual 'Ice' show at Gaylord Palms but had never managed to get ourselves together to visit for ourselves. But this year on Milano's 9th Birthday, he chose not to have a party and to go somewhere special instead. After weighing up his options- which are many when you live in the middle of Florida- he decided on 'Ice' If you are unfamiliar with this seasonal show you can view a video on it HERE  We booked for the combined snow tubing and Ice sculpture show.
For our family of five it was a total cost of $200 including tax. However, beware, as Gaylord Palms charge a whopping $20 parking fees! Luckily our friend came with us and warned us in advance.
Here are some highlights of our visit. I'll give you some tips for going, after the album.

We were advised by friends to wrap up well beforehand. So we tried our best to find the boys ski suits at short notice. Only Milano's was handy. The temperature in the Ice display is a freezing 9 degrees!

They provide these dashing blue coats that have snap fasteners, so if you don't have warm outerwear with you, you are covered. Everything you see here is carved from ice!

How amazing is this? A whole team of artisans from China came over and carved these Ice sculptures. This guy was working in the exhibition. I wouldn't like to work in this room for long. Brrr.

I had to get a shot next to the 1950's housewife of course.

 The final sculpture was this amazing nativity. So much detail. It was awesome.

It was truly wonderful and yes, very, very cold! We were relieved when we exited the display, to see a stand selling hot chocolate.

We soon warmed up and were ready to do some serious snow tubing!

That's my good friend who was crazy enough to join us.

So... my tips for a great visit. I guess we were lucky because we went after school on a Monday night. So we had the place pretty much to ourselves. It's open until 3rd January I believe. Now with the snow tubing, we realized pretty quickly that as our boys are almost 8, and 9 & 10, we didn't need to purchase our own tickets as there are spectator benches at the side of the chutes/ slides where we could keep our eyes on them at all times. However, in busy periods I imagine you'd have to stand at the rail to see your children. Next time we go, we will save ourselves some cash and just watch.
If you visit the Ice show, take gloves! You really need them. Those fetching blue coats are provided but gloves are not. The snow tubing is open from 10a.m. and your ticket covers unlimited rides. that part is great value. Finally I'd say just watch out for those extra costs. A round of 6 tiny hot chocolates and 3 cupcakes cost us $40. There is the opportunity to decorate gingerbread houses too, which looked so cute, but we passed as the boys were more interested in the snow tubing. I think the gingerbread house cost $29.99 for the decorating kit.
Altogether a wonderful fun time was had by all. If you are visiting Orlando in this season, please check it out. Florida residents get $4 discount on tickets. We made some very special memories at Gaylord Palms, we came home exhausted but happy. Its something different from the theme parks and also a great place to go if you get rained off for the day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

We are just loving the new Spring/Summer line from Bobochoses this year. Well we love their  line every season, but this one is just awesome. The boys had an awesome time trying everything on and modeling it for you. 

Rio really got into it! i think this top is my favorite of all. We can't wait for the weather to heat up so we can get some milage out of these threads!

This is the first drop. I'll be adding pics of the second drop soon. The colors are so vibrant!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Disney Dream Vacation

This was our first Disney Cruise.
It will not be our last!
We usually take three or four short cruises a year rather than a full vacation, as we are self employed and we find that cruises are just the perfect length of time to kick back and relax, without having to worry about our business while we are away.
We booked almost a year in advance, wanting to make this Christmas extra special for the boys.

It was!
We sailed on the Disney Dream from Florida where we live.
The weather was not good on the day we set sail but there was so much to do on-board, it just didn't matter. The boys of course insisted on stripping off and jumping in the pool regardless. They lasted around twenty minutes.

Milano's face cracks me up! it's cccc cold!

The ship was all decked out for Christmas (pardon the pun)

This made it extra special.
I'll show you some more and then I'll tell you what I liked best in comparison to other cruise lines.
This was just one room in the kids club.

We were astounded to see that the Children's area took up almost half a deck! It is a huge ship, so that's a lot of space, just for our children.
All ages are catered for. There is a separate room for toddlers so do not worry. Ages 3-11 are catered for in a huge space but age groups tend to congregate together.
One thing that really impressed us was the amount of staff there. So many. Around five times the amount than on otter cruise lines. This made us feel that our boys were safe.

Here is another area where they played computer games. They are plotting the course of the ship. There are alcoves all over with computers, this was just one small area,

 Rooms shoot off in both directions to other activities.

We had a Stateroom upgrade, and to be honest I initially was disappointed as it seemed quite small. We did have a balcony though. However, we soon realized that everything we needed was in the room and to be honest, I think we used the balcony twice for a short period.

The top bunk has a night sky with stars above it! 
The bottom bunk is turned into a sofa when you arrive back in your room after breakfast.

I loved this pillow so much, my husband bought me it!

All day every day there are tons of activities for all ages. Children can go into the kids club all day if they wish and it closes at midnight. There are several pools and also an adults only pool too. 
There are bars and clubs on the lower decks too if that is your thing.
lots of stores.
We were so impressed with the Theatre productions. They are Broadway quality. Try and catch at least one.
On deck at night they have parties. We enjoyed the pirate party.

We even got to see Santa!

Of course there were character meet and greet's all over the ship, every day, all day!

( I love that Rio's shirttails are out in this picture. The characters wouldn't let me tuck them in)

The restaurants were amazing. All are themed differently. You rotate restaurants each evening. The first night we were in Nemo's underwater world. There are characters interacting with the diners. Yes they actually talk back to you too!
There is an enchanted garden Restaurant, and a Palace. All are just beautiful.

There wasn't a formal night as such, but we dressed our boys up for the final night.

We didn't want to come back home!

Now read on for the pro's and cons....

We did not get to visit the private Island Castaway Cay. The ship tried twice to dock but the sea was rough so we couldn't. We were so disappointed and were not reimbursed at all even though we allied them later. They could care less. 
Our problem was that we did not get off the ship at the Bahama's as we had visited so many times in the past, that we just wanted the private Island as our main point of interest, so it was a huge disappointment all around when it didn't happen. 
The crew were wonderful and created several new activities to compensate in a small way. We chose to go to the movie theatre and catch a showing of big Hero 6.

In the future we will book earlier in the year to cruise when there is less chance of the climate affecting the visit.It was never pointed out to us that there was be a chance of us NOT going to the Island. We felt cheated to be honest. 

The pro's are many.
We have cruise with both Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past.
We personally feel that Disney outshines the other Cruise lines in so many ways for families.

Some things we noticed right off the bat:

All the railings around the outside of the ship have perspex sheeting inserted in them. This gave us an extra feeling of security. The children cannot climb up on the railings to look overboard, and hence, should have less chance of falling. We were impressed by this.

Being Disney, the cruise is totally family centered. The focus is on the children's entertainment. 

One area that I was really unhappy with on the Carnival cruise line was the swimming pool area. Our children did not get a chance to swim, as they were pressured out of the pool by teenagers, and young adults who took over the area and who were drinking alcohol. It was rowdy day and night. Most parents had to use the splash pad upstairs instead. After several cruises, and seeing this happen we changed to Royal Caribbean for this reason.

It was certainly better with Royal Caribbean but the pool area was still so full all the time. This cruise line had an adult only pool which eased the pressure somewhat, but only Disney managed to totally nail it.

Disney have so many pool areas and also a big screen projector showing their movies constantly. Parents could watch their children play and be entertained too!

Also very important: Disney were the only cruise line where I noticed there were Life guards present around the pool! There were several constantly patrolling. I actually noticed my boys fighting, with Rio pushing his brother under the water a little too roughly, and before I could be out of my seat, the life guard was there and dealing with it. SO impressive!!

So I could go on forever, but in a nutshell here are the best bits:

*more pools for each age with life guards on the children's ones*

*Safer guard rails around the perimeter of the ship*

*Kids club is approx. four times larger than any other cruise line we have used *

*Kids club have more activities than the other cruise lines we have used~ cooking club, making comics, are just some of them. On past cruises our boys didn't want to spend much time in the kids clubs, on this one we had to drag them out of it!*

*More shops that cater to all ages~ other cruise lines we used had a limited number of stores and catering 90% to adults. *

*Huge movie theatre~ two storey*

*Broadway quality shows~ far superior*

*Staff do not give 'sob stories of how they have to send money to their poor families', and thus make you feel pressured to give more money on top of the gratuity for the service they gave. Disney staff told us they had good wages with benefits. We tipped generously because we were impressed with the service and not because we felt guilted into it*

*The quality of food was the highest of all cruise lines we have used. Royal Caribbean was very good also, but Disney was the best by far.*

I'm sure there are many things I've forgotten but these are good to know!

My advice:

The buffet on Disney is fabulous for breakfast. We ate a buffet breakfast every morning.

We preferred the Restaurant for lunch. After a couple of days of pizza, pizza and more pizza, we began taking the boys to the Restaurant for lunch. The buffet was also so packed, especially when we couldn't get off the ship. Lines and lines for food and not enough tables. Use the Restaurant guys!

Also (mainly for girls) When you board, get straight in line to book for the 'Meet the Princesses'. Apparently they get full real fast and if your child wants to see all her/ his  favorite Princesses, this is the only way to do so. We caught Snow White, just by luck.

Disney is much more expensive than the other cruise lines we have used, but was worth every single penny. You can pay minimum deposit and spread the cost over nine months. Take an empty credit card though. We spent far more than ever in the past. Usually we spend between $300-$600 per cruise. For us this includes perfume, jewelry, Island visits, and hairdressers (the only time I have to visit) but on Disney ~  well, I'm not going to say, but it was a whole hill more because we bought many souvenirs
 . (and I didn't get my hair done) lol.

I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of booking a Disney Cruise. We will book our next one right after Christmas is over. I'd rather cruise less, and do Disney again!