Celebrating Beaches & Dreams Travel Co, The Disney Cruise Line & The Disney Magic 15th Anniversaries
By Marie A. Lovas, President of Beaches & Dreams Travel Co.
In January 2013, Beaches & Dreams Travel Co. celebrated its 15th anniversary. One of my most exciting memories of 15 years ago, in this month of July, was the birth of the Disney Cruise Line. In July 1998, the Disney Magic made its transatlantic crossing to Port Canaveral, its new home and where it was scheduled to be christened on July 25. Somehow I, with my very lucky family, was invited to participate in what was called the VIP Christening Cruise. It was one of the most exciting and spectacular events of our lives. The Magic had two 2-day cruises scheduled, one with travel agents and one with the press, followed by the exciting christening on the pier and one 2-day cruise following the christening with a handful of travel agents (we were part of the handful), a lot of press, the WDW board of directors, many designers of the ship, many celebrities like Sidney Poitier, George Lucas, Denise Austin, Drew Carey, Michael Eisner, Roy and Patty Disney, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and all of the other characters and stars. The cruise itself was going to the fantastic Castaway Cay and back. It was meant to give us just a taste of how wonderful it would be.
The inaugural christening itself was done the way Disney does things … spectacular, in true Disney style! The ship was designed to replicate the luxury ocean liners of the 1930s, something Walt and Lillian would have cruised on. The Magic pulled up to the dock, and Disney cast members, dressed with hats and outfits reminiscent of that same time period, performed and danced before the crowds. It looked as though the complete Navy was there in their whites, standing next to Captain Tom. Live music, vintage automobiles, kites, doves, power boats and fireworks in the sky entertained us. The Disney Magic horn sounded the tune of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” One of Walt’s dreams unveiled before our very eyes.
The whole Broadway production reminded me a little of the old 1942 Jimmy Cagney Broadway musical, “Yankee Doodle Dandy/Give my Regards to Broadway.” Disney Chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner and his lovely wife, Jane, drove up in one of the vintage cars as did Roy Disney, vice chairman and animation chief with his lovely wife, Patty Disney, the designated godmother and godfather. Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in the “Little Mermaid” was on hand to sing. Patty Disney pulled a switch and a 3-foot-bottle of champagne crashed against the side of the ship. There was not a dry eye in the audience and the program ended with a standing ovation. There was champagne and hors d’oeuvres for everyone. It was an experience of a lifetime and we had not even yet gotten on the ship.
The whole experience gave me that same feeling I used to get in the Disneyland Park as a child: a strong feeling of patriotism. Something about being in a Disney park always made me feel very patriotic … like this was really America and where the whole world could come together in peace. I never tied my feelings to the song and attraction of “It’s a Small World,” but I suppose it was a part of it. The lyrics as a whole, share this, but the one part really gets the point. “There is just one moon, and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.” Long before Epcot, guests from all nations came to Disney and the world was peaceful in the magical Land of Disney. Maybe it was because everyone was smiling, no matter where they came from.
The brand new terminal at Port Canaveral was beautiful and unlike any other terminal in the industry. It featured a one-of-a-kind 13,000 square foot poured terrazzo tile floor map of the Caribbean, and the sailing route of Disney Cruise Line’s first ships. In the middle of the “ocean map,” guests encountered a museum-quality model of the Disney ships. The terminal was big, roomy and had plenty of area for the 2,400 passengers. Checking in was simple. Walking from the registration area onto the ship, we passed through a Mickey shaped entrance and were greeted … Disney style ... by several of the cast members who welcomed us onboard and offered help and directions to find our cabin. We did find the cabin easily … and what a cabin it was; can you believe there were two bathrooms in each room? They called it split bathrooms. One with sink and toilet and one with sink and tub/shower. Something else that impressed us, then and continues to impress us with each cruise we take, is that all our luggage was already there waiting for us. (Only on a Disney ship will you see this.)
The dining was unbelievable with three different themed restaurants. The food and venues were incredible. We went to a different restaurant every night and our wait staff followed us. This had never been done in the cruise industry before and yet continues on all of the Disney ships today and gets even better with Disney’s newer ships. There were five restaurants (rotational dining was introduced between three restaurants where the wait staff followed us), many quick-finger-food locations, three adult-only night clubs, two family night clubs, a Broadway production theatre, a first-class movie theatre, clubs for kids 3 through 17, basketball, ping pong, shuffle board, room service, four swimming pools (one adults only) and much, much more.
The Broadway style productions shown in the Walt Disney Theatre were and still are better than Broadway. My favorite and the one that Broadway wanted, but Disney would never let it off the ship, was Disney Dreams. They have made it even better and by the time I took my transatlantic crossing in May 2007, they had changed the name to “Disney Dreams, An Enchanted Classic.” “Disney Dreams” was a brand-new bedtime story with a young lady named Ann Marie, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and others. The show was for the whole family: adults, teens and kids. We thoroughly enjoyed it and we had teenage boys with us. In fact, we liked it so much that we all went to two of the three showings. We saw the late show ... and most of the audience were adults and teenagers. The applause and cheering was deafening at the end of each performance and there was always a standing ovation. On that christening cruise, in a conversation with Michael Eisner, he told me I was going to really like this production and yes, he was right as he so often was. Every time I have the chance to go on the Magic or the Wonder, this is a must see for me. Can you believe I have taken a 3-day Disney cruise just to see this production, not once but numerous times?
There were many opportunities to speak with the celebrities. I had a fun, touching and humorous encounter with Roy Disney in the gift shop. My son, Tim, got a private tour of the spa from the daughter of the owners of all of the spas on all of the ships. Michael Eisner was in the spa and having a private hot tub soak where Tim and he had a great 15-minute conversation. Castaway Cay, the private island is probably as close to heaven on earth as one could get. It was wonderful on that hot sunny July day in 1998 and is even better today. The barbeque is delicious and hearty. The waves were just right and the water looked like someone painted this beautiful scene and laid it down for our enjoyment.
Writing about and recalling this memory has brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I have always been very passionate about Disney, having been raised in the middle of the Magic when Disneyland was in the planning stages and opening in July 1955. I was there. But that is a story for another day.
There are now four beautiful cruise ships as part of the Disney Cruise Line fleet. The Magic, the Wonder, the Dream and the Fantasy. Try just one and you will be hooked. Call any one of my very qualified and experienced agents, Pam, Amanda, Bob, Kristen, and Anita or partner support staff William, Tim and Rodney at 1-877-R-Dreams (877-737-3267). They have all of the answers and experience to get you a great Disney Vacation or cruise. Our agency is a designated “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.” I am also a Certified Sandals Specialist (CSS), Oahu Destination Specialist (ODS), AM Resorts Specialist, Outrigger Specialist and Master Cruise Counselor.” This July, we may get out the video of that exciting day in 1998, and watch it together and laugh and smile and be happy. For today, we just want to say Happy 15th Anniversary to Beaches & Dreams Travel Co, The Disney Cruise Line, The Disney Magic and, oh by the way, as of print date of this story, there are only 4 more shopping days till my birthday!
Everyone Should go on a Disney Cruise and Here's Why
By Rachel Strong
In November of 2015, my partner Gabe surprised me with a vacation to go on a Disney Cruise. I was a little confused as we were not planning on taking his four year old son. I was curious about the options available for traveling without children but our Disney Travel Agent Marie Lovas, of Beaches & Dreams Travel Co. assured us we’d have the best time. And much to my surprise…we did.
We decided on a five night all inclusive cruise which was perfect for us. We left port in Miami, FL and headed off. Since I’m new to the cruise experience, I didn’t know what to expect. Of the five days, three were at sea, one day at Cozumel, and one day at Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Kay located in the Bahamas.
First things first after checking in, we explored the ship. Everyone was very warm and welcoming. The ship is so big that it doesn’t really feel like you are on a ship. We found ourselves scoping out the “adult only” areas. The one thing about this Disney Cruise line in my experience is that if you have kids, there is a ton to do and trust me the kids will have a blast, but if you are traveling alone with your spouse, partner or a friend, you are sure to have an equally great time.
We made our way to the Adult Only pool and found ourselves chatting with another couple. Turns out they were on the same dining room rotation as us. It is a small world after all!
So if you are ever thinking of going on a Disney Cruise, you should, and here’s why.
When you go on a cruise you are assigned a dining rotation. Turns out our friends from the hot tub were not only on the same dining rotation as us, they sat at our table. We were paired with 4 other adults and we had a blast. Each night for dinner you rotate to one of three different dining locations each boasting a unique menu and all enchanted with their own themes. Each night you received instructions on where you were to dine and the attire required. Most of the time it was casual dining but if you wanted something more upscale you could book a reservation at Palo, offering Italian cuisine for both Brunch and dinner.
I found there is always something to do on a cruise. They have youth clubs for kids, pools, sports and fitness, movie theaters, gift shops, meet the characters, themed party nights and so much more. While the kids have plenty to do, there is also plenty for the adults. You could enjoy the spa and salon, adult only lounges like the Cadillac Lounge where premium mixed drinks are a must. Or one of my favorites was Wavebands. At night they had dancing, karaoke, and games. This became a nightly hangout with the friends we made at our dinner table.
I was beyond impressed with the Deck Parties that Disney has. One of my favorites was Pirate Night, where lots of folks and kids dressed up like pirates and enjoyed the “Pirates in the Caribbean” Deck Party. In case you were like us and forgot your pirate costume at home, a party “pirate” bandana was provided so you wouldn’t feel left out. The party ended with a spectacular Fireworks show. What really amazed me was how all the staff dressed up for the occasion as well. All of our servers during dinner were dressed up like pirates and all the characters. It was really amazing at how much you could tell the staff enjoyed working on the cruise line. Everyone was in the pirate spirit.
Live shows were also something truly spectacular to see. Each night a different live show came to life right before your eyes. Live productions like Toy Story, the Musical, The Golden Mickey’s and Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic performed on stage with some of the best live characters I’ve ever seen. Toy Story was my favorite.
Each day they also had Character Greetings. This was a part that we missed doing as the lines were really long and I felt this was more for the kids anyway. However, some of our table mates enjoyed this and didn’t miss a one. They had a blast.
Something I didn’t think I’d do while on a cruise was catch a movie, but the latest Star Wars movie was out and we got an opportunity to see it in 3D so that was amazing.
Castaway Cay – Disney’s Private Island
A private island located in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay serves as an exclusive port for Disney Cruise Line ships. That’s right! You can only visit this spectacular island by traveling on a Disney Cruise.
We started off in the morning by exploring the island. You can walk or hop on the tram to explore the island. The beaches sandy white and the ocean is clear blue. It’s truly spectacular. The crew set up a BBQ for us on the beach and the food was amazing. There are a few bars to enjoy and gift shops to shop in. There are several excursion activities that you can sign up for as well.
If you are ever thinking of going on a cruise, I highly recommend a Disney Cruise. I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was. Book your next Disney Adventure by calling my good friend Marie at Beaches & Dreams Travel Co. You won’t be disappointed.