Royal Caribbean Vacation

HI! Oh my gosh, I’ve been gone so much this month, it feels SO GOOD to be back home. I was gone one full week for Disney World, and another nearly full week for this cruise — so two weeks I’ve been gone from home & work. I can’t wait to settle back into my routine!

Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas

I’m so excited about this blog today because it’s something a little different for me! I’m so used to being in my Disney bubble that I never really talk about anything else. But, fun thing: I book way more than Disney, I just never talk about it. Like I said, Disney is my comfort zone - it’s what I know, it’s what I love, so I stick to it and don’t advertise that I’m a legit travel agent that can book far beyond the gates of Disney.

An opportunity recently fell into my lap and I was invited to a Seminar at Sea with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. This came at a PERFECT time as my parents and their friends were just about to sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise (the week before mine!) and my boss is about to sail over an upcoming holiday - so this was the perfect time to get some hands on learning since I’m starting to book it more often - and hopefully, in the future, I’ll be booking it more than just my family and my boss. ;)

So, first and foremost - Thank you SO MUCH to Royal Caribbean for inviting me and planning SUCH an amazing week for us. Second, thank you to Travel with the Magic for trusting me to represent our company. Let’s get this review (review? story time? work brag?) started!

Oh man, I’m going to make so many Disney Cruise die-hards so mad, probably.

The Ship & Cruise Itinerary
It’s a ship. Not a boat. ;) I was on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas on the 5 day Bahamian itinerary with stops at Nassau, Bahamas & Perfect Day at Coco Cay (RC’s private island), as well as a sea day, departing from Miami, FL. I was glad to try a 4 night cruise, because on the 3 night Disney cruise I did last year, it felt short… but the 4 night was a little too long for me? I think if I was with Casey, 4 nights would be great, though. Not sure I could do any longer lengths. The ship felt about the same size as the Disney Dream, but seemed like SO MUCH MORE was packed into the ship than the Dream.
Navigator of the Seas was recently “Royally Amplified” earlier this year, which is a new program they are committing to - updating 10 ships in 4 years. This is a MASSIVE project and based on what I’ve heard, was super necessary on some of these older ships. I’ll get into the details of each sections, and what was “amplified” in a bit. But, everything felt clean, trendy and just all around NICE.

My Cabin

I was in a Category D3, Spacious Ocean View Balcony Cabin, specifically room #6370 on deck 6. It was a great location, in terms of convenience to everything - I was one deck away from the Royal Promenade (which is where a lot of the fun happens!), and the pool deck(s), where a quick elevator ride away. It was also very quiet, given that I was so close to the Promenade. There were a couple of times that I could hear my neighbors, but only when they were out on their balcony. In terms of movement - we were *very* blessed with calm waters and only on the first night did I feel much movement. I think this was really just me getting used to it, though, more than anything else. Even on our sea day (moving at full speed a couple of times), I didn’t have issues with movement.
The rooms felt like they could use a bit of a design update, in terms of artwork, curtains, maybe some cute throw pillows on the couch (?! Maybe I’m asking too much LOL), but it was a very comfortable room. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, and your cabin felt very “cruise-like”… same for this room. Nothing special, but was clean and comfortable.

Dining
Okay, so here’s the bad news - I never experienced the main dining room. I KNOW, I know. I should’ve sucked it up and tried it at least once, but I didn’t. I have an incredibly weak stomach when I get anxious, so sitting for dinner made me freak out a little. However, I did order room service twice as well as visit the Windjammer (the complimentary buffet) a bunch.
First, room service — room service is technically “free”, but they do charge you a $7.95 service fee and 18% gratuity. That said, I ordered a whole pizza & chicken tenders/fries, and it was only $9. So - not the worst use of $9 when I didn’t feel like leaving my room to get dinner. The chicken tenders were not great, but the fries and pizza were so good I ordered it another night, ha!
Windjammer - LOVED IT. They had a great selection and everything was so tasty! The transition from breakfast to lunch/dinner is pretty seamless, they just section off one side of the buffet while they transition so you can’t enter from that side, and then open it all back up when it’s fully operational during the dining period.
They do have a bunch of specialty dining - none of which I did this visit, but will definitely do in the future. My pal Tonya and her husband did Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, which was an additional $35/person, but judging by the photos she sent me, it looks to be WELL worth the added cost. Pre-sailing, they offer a bunch of discounts on the specialty dining, as well as dining packages so you can bundle and save on multiple specialty restaurants.

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Lounges & Beverage Packages
One thing that, pre sailing, I was not a fan of was the idea of “needing” a beverage package. I am a soda drinker in a bad way - like, wake up, drink a coke first thing kind of soda drinker. Before sailing in your cruise planner, you can buy a beverage package & often, it’ll go on sale. I had the Classic Soda beverage package in my cart for SO LONG and then forgot to purchase it & was subjected to purchasing it while on board, which raised the price- don’t make my mistake. That said, it ended up totaling $47 for the 5 days for me to do the soda package and man, it was worth it. They give you a cup that has a chip in it, and you can go to any of the Coke Freestyle machines around the ship and fill up your cup as often as you want throughout your stay. They also tag your SeaPass card with a sticker that denotes which beverage package you have so you can get a soda that way, if you don’t have your cup with you.
Other beverage packages include the Refreshment Package, which includes smoothies, specialty coffees, bottled water, sodas, etc. and the Deluxe Beverage Package which includes the same as the other packages, as well as alcohol. I think if I were to go on another cruise with Casey and it was more of a vacation than work trip, I would go for the Deluxe package. It’s pricey, but it does have pre-cruise sale prices, too.

The lounges on board are SO great. I went to 4 of them (lol) — Playmakers - a sports bar/arcarde, Bamboo Room - a tiki bar with tropical, fruity drinks, Schooners - a run of the mill bar, it was only okay, but located right outside of the Casino, if that’s any interest to you on your sailing, and Copper & Clover - an English style pub featuring tons of scotch and whiskey. My favorite aesthetically was probably Bamboo Room, for obvious reasons, but Playmakers was a really fun place to just hang out, especially when a game was on.
The one I didn’t get to enjoy (mostly because I just didn’t drink too much on this trip), was The Lime & Coconut, which was the Deck 11 pool bar - it was SO adorable, and featured a frozen rose’ machine! Next time, I’ll *definitely* make time for it.

The pools
Deck 11 is where everything was mainly located, pool-wise. There was the main pool & the solarium/adult pool. I never had a difficult time finding a lounger to sit in, even on sea day when EVERYONE is on board the ship. I think this just speaks to the sheer volume of activities they have going on throughout the day - there’s so much to do and see that it spreads everyone out a bit and doesn’t make the ship feel crowded with people.
There’s also a fantastic slide (reminded me of the AquaDuck on the Dream - it goes out over the edge of the ship!), a rock climbing wall, basketball court & the FlowRider (a surf simulator). Seriously - so much recreational activities to keep everyone active and happy.

Onboard Activities
So, we didn’t so much have “themed” nights, but on the first night, they did have a 70’s dance party and on the last night, an 80s dance party. I missed the 70’s party (lol, I was fast asleep before it even started!), but I did make it to the 80’s party and it was SO cute. 80’s music, dancing and even an appearance by PacMan ;)
I also made it to the tail end of the Hush Dance Party, which is where everyone is given headphones with two music channels (and DJs controlling them on a stage!), and you have the choice of what music you’re listening to - so everyone on the dance floor isn’t all listening to the same music - it was SO fun & hilarious to watch!
On the pool deck, I caught a bit of Aladdin playing on the big movie screen - again, so easy to find a chair, even though it was movie time on the ship. They played a handful of movies, a couple of family friendly movies & then a couple of more adult, thriller/action movies late in the evenings.
I didn’t go to any shows, but trusted Tonya’s reports on the shows. She went to an ice skating show (which also doubles as open ice-skating as an onboard activity, as well as laser tag arena on other days), and she said it was great, but that some of the other shows were silly, borderline stupid. Shows aren’t really my thing, so I’m not too bummed that I missed any of them - even on the Disney cruise, I only went to a show on one of the 3 nights! HOWEVER, I did learn that on the Oasis Class ships (those are the huge ones you see in all the Royal Caribbean commercials), they have actual contracts with Broadway shows and they do the full length show with intermission and everything - now THAT is something I’m interested in!

(the 80s party on the Royal Promenade….. so fun & so hilarious)

(the 80s party on the Royal Promenade….. so fun & so hilarious)

Onto the main event —

Perfect Day at CocoCay
What. A. Perfect. Day. Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean’s private island - it’s been there for a while, but recently underwent a MASSIVE $250 million upgrade to include not only the island/beach experience, but also pools, zip lining and a water park. Seriously - it was amazing. Comparing to Disney’s Castaway Cay, this beats Castaway EVERY DANG TIME. Not only was it so fun, but it was beautiful, well kept and again with the chairs — plenty of seating!

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It was totally family friendly, though the swim up bar on one of the pools did get a little rowdy at a few points in the day - but nothing totally inappropriate. The other ends of the pool were a lot more quiet and calm. The beach areas had cabanas to rent, which is nice if you want a nice place to relax throughout your day, and I noticed, they don’t sell out the way Disney’s does - probably because there’s *plenty* of them!
The Thrill Water Park looked so neat - though I didn’t go in because I’m not a big water park person. Though, I can tell you, the water park features 21 slides, including Dare Devil’s Peak, which is currently the tallest water slide in North America, and the zip line is 1600 feet! Both the zip line & the water park cost extra, but from what I heard, they’re pretty well worth the added cost.
The only thing missing, in my opinion was an adult beach - if they had that, it would be absolutely perfect. But, at 100 acres, there’s plenty of space and a lot of quiet areas regardless of an adult area.
Another thing to note, when we were at Coco Cay, there was another Royal Caribbean ship docked. While this is pretty off-putting at first (especially for Disney Cruise fans, who are used to having Castaway all to their one ship!), I did learn that the upgrades made to Coco Cay are enough to accommodate 2 Oasis Class ships, or 9000 guests. However, even with the 2 ships docked, we were probably in the vicinity of 5,000, maybe 6,000 on the island, and it didn’t feel packed *at all*.

Overall….
I loved it. I would classify myself as “not a cruiser” and I REALLY enjoyed it. Comparing to Disney, I much preferred the Royal Caribbean sailing. Don’t get me wrong - Disney offers so much for everyone, especially fans of Disney (which, um, hello, that’s me), but as an adult without kids, who has interests outside of Disney - this was absolutely perfect & I wouldn’t hesitate to go on another Royal Caribbean sailing.

I think I’ve hit all the major points I wanted to talk about, but if you have any questions at all, please ask! I have another blogged planned about anxiety + cruising, because ooh boy, it’s a doozy, and I’ve come up with some tips on how to handle that. Stay tuned!

So, with all that said, I can book a Royal Caribbean sailing for you, too! I’m so excited to share in all that I’ve learned & experienced, so if you are interested in going, just holler at me — you know how to reach me!

Until next time!

split stays @ wdw

A few weeks ago, I visited Disney for a quick two night stay. Because the trip was so short, I thought, WHY NOT split up my stay with two different resorts? So that’s exactly what I did. For this trip, I picked a value resort - All Star Movies - and a deluxe resort - The Grand Floridian. So this is kind of going to be a Q&A on doing split stays PLUS reviews on these two resorts.

Although I’ve stayed at All Star Movies before, it had a) been two years since I’d last stayed and b) gotten a room remodel since then. So I wanted to check out the new rooms there. The remodel is exactly the same as the Pop Century remodel that happened in 2017. I LOVE these rooms - they feature laminate hardwood (no more gross hotel carpet!), a really nice vanity area in the bathroom (though, no double sinks like in many deluxe resorts), a huge TV, and the biggest change of all - QUEEN size beds (they used to be full size!!). They have one “regular” bed and one murphy bed that folds up in the wall. Having slept on the Murphy bed at Pop Century on more than one occasion, I can confirm that it is actually comfortable.

Staying here was nice! The room is at a value price without looking like a value. The grounds of the resort definitely feel like a value, though, so keep that in mind when considering this resort (the buildings are motel-style, the pool is very basic, etc) . Comparing it to my last stay at All Star Movies (in September 2017), this was a MUCH better stay.

So I checked in here on April 30th and out on May 1 - just a one night stay! After checking out, I requested a Minnie Van through the Lyft app to pick me up right outside my building and take me to my next resort, The Grand Floridian! Upon arrival, I got checked in and settled in at the pool. It was that easy. This transportation comes with a price tag (for my specific pick up and destination, it was a price tag to the tune of $40…), but in my opinion, it was 100% worth it because I was able to keep my luggage with me, I felt in control of my timing & I felt like an absolute VIP rolling up to the Grand Floridian in my private transfer. ;)

Now, the Grand Floridian was an EXPERIENCE. I didn’t want to go to a park this day because I wanted to just walk around, sit at the pool, eat the food at the resort and really just enjoy being a guest at the Grand. The grounds are gorgeous. The pools are amazing - especially for kiddos (splash pads! zero entry! fun theming!). The quick service dining is top notch, as well as the table service offerings (I’ve done 1900 Park Fare a couple of times on previous trips, as well as Grand Floridian Cafe & the Afternoon Tea at the Grand - all of which I highly recommend!). This is just a fabulous resort.

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I was put in the Sago Cay building at the Grand, which is right next to the quick service dining and just a 2 minute walk from the main building - I loved this location! Though, if you are facing the opposite direction I was, I imagine it can get quite loud upon occasion, as it’s located near where they pick up trash. The building itself is accessed only by Magic Band after a certain point in the evening, which feels very secure - I did love that. The building was quiet. Eerily quiet! I’ve never stayed at a Disney resort that was this quiet!

The room was AMAZING. I was in a dormer section of the building, so on the 4th floor, I was the top floor, with vaulted ceilings and a gorgeous deck that faced the lagoon and the monorail. The room had 2 queen beds, a gorgeous desk with a big mirror (perfect if you have more than a few people getting ready at the same time), as well as a couch that folded down into a single sleeper (so this room sleeps 5!). The bathroom was huge and so nice - double vanity here!

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I highly recommend BOTH of these resorts - but which one you go with 100% depends on the type of experience you are looking for as well as your budget. The Grand Floridian is notoriously on the steep end of pricing, so it all depends on what you are looking for and what you are willing to spend!

SPLIT STAY FAQ

Q: What’s the best way to be transported between hotels? Any good complimentary transportation?
A:
My favorite is honestly the Minnie Van - it’s not free, but it’s a major time saver as it can take you directly from one to the next, and allows you to keep your luggage with you - which is a perk, to me (bit of a control freak…ha!). A free option would be to have bell services move your luggage for you and use Disney’s bus transportation, the only issue with this is that you’d have to take the bus to a park, then switch to the next resort’s bus to get to your final destination - it’s a bit of time suck.

Q: I’m guessing bell services takes care of your luggage transfer?
A:
Correct!! You can take your luggage to bell services at Hotel #1 and tell them that you are checking into Hotel #2 and need it transferred. It will then be left for you at Hotel #2’s bell services for you to pick up later. This could take a couple of hours, though, so be aware of that!

Q: If you have a car, do you pay the parking fee at both resorts?
A:
Yes, you do, since Disney bases the parking fee on a per night basis that is tacked onto your room charges at the end of your stay, not just a one-time fee. So, in my situation, if I’d had a car on this trip, I would’ve paid $13 to park at All Star Movies one night, and $24 to park at The Grand Floridian the next night.

Q: Are you able to use the hotel amenities for the full day you check in and the full day you check out?
A:
Amazing question, because the answer is a resounding YES. The moment you check in, you are officially a guest & can begin using the amenities such as pool & resort activities. When checking out, you still have full access to everything except your room.

Hi, it’s just me, living my best life as a guest at the Grand Floridian! This was taken about an hour after checking in, but before my room was even ready! I left my luggage at bell services and had a swimsuit in my day bag.

Hi, it’s just me, living my best life as a guest at the Grand Floridian! This was taken about an hour after checking in, but before my room was even ready! I left my luggage at bell services and had a swimsuit in my day bag.

Q: How does it work with park tickets, now that they are date based?
A:
This is where things get tricky BUT with someone on your side that knows the in’s and out’s of Disney (that’s me!!), it’s a lot easier to figure out the logistics. When I have clients that want to do split stays, we put the tickets that they need for their entire length of stay on their FIRST resort reservation, that way, you can make FastPasses for your entire length of stay on one date, instead of only being able to make FastPasses for a few days at a time. Then, since they don’t need tickets on the second part of their stay, we simply do a ticketless package for the second resort — so, so easy!

Q: Can I still use Magical Express?
A:
Yep, sure can!

Q: Will I receive more than one set of Magic Bands?
A:
Yes - but you won’t need both. Magic Bands are linked to the person, not just the reservation. So any Magic Band can be used for any reservation. :)

Q: Is there any benefit to doing a split stay?
A:
It’s a fantastic way to not only try more resorts, but also to maximize the budget. Say you want to stay at the Polynesian, but it’s just not in the budget to stay there all 7 nights - split your stay with a moderate or value to bring down the price a little on the first half of your stay!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I am now super obsessed with split stays - I 100% recommend trying sometime!

Until next time!
Haley