5 Reasons for Adults to Cruise with Disney

Most people think of a Disney Cruise as a family vacation.  There are lots of activities for the kids; youth clubs, character meet and greets, and water slides to name a few.  Let me tell you the 5 reasons why an adult only Disney Cruise should be your next vacation.

  1. Adult Dining

While on board a Disney Cruise you can get dressed up and enjoy a delicious meal at one of two adult-exclusive restaurants.  Palo and Remy offer adults only dining options with incredible food, exceptional service and a romantic atmosphere.  Palo offers an Italian theme while Remy creates a French style restaurant setting.  It may be hard to choose one, so I suggest trying both.

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  1. Exploring New Places

Disney Cruises stop at many wonderful destinations in the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and Mexico.  You can spend the day touring beautiful ports, find a quiet beach, or hit the local hot spots.  Disney Cruise Line offers exciting port adventures but you can also enjoy visiting the area on your own.   My husband and I love to find a nice restaurant on the beach to try the local cuisine and relax together.


  1. Superior Service

As with all Disney destinations, Disney Cruise Line will exceed your expectations.  Your room steward will go out of their way to make sure your room is well taken care of and just the way you like it.  We always ask for our ice bucket to be kept full and not only is it always filled to the top there is never even water at the bottom.  On a Disney Cruise your serving staff travels to each restaurant with you.  They are the best at what they do and by your second meal you will have the drinks you like waiting when you arrive.  The entire crew, including the officers, go above and beyond to ensure your vacation is truly magical.

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  1. Adult-Exclusive Activities

From morning to night, you will find activities just for adults.  Do you like to wake early to get in a good work out?  Disney Cruise line offers a state of the art fitness center aboard each ship, as well as daily organized fitness classes.  Maybe you would prefer a relaxing couples massage overlooking the ocean at Senses Spa.  You will find drink tasting classes like tequila/margarita, martini, and our favorite, mixology.  You will not want to miss the adult only pool, with a bar nearby for a tropical cocktail, the adult pool is a great place to catch some rays.  At night you will find several bars and nightclubs to fit your mood.  Feeling like a quiet night, head to the Cadillac Lounge or Pink: Wine and Champagne Bar.  If you are up for fun then you can visit Azure or the Tube for hilarious adult themed game nights.




  1. Feel like a kid again

This is our favorite part of a Disney Cruise vacation.  Meeting characters, riding the AquaDuck water roller coaster or watching a Disney animated movie by the pool are just as much fun for adults as for the kids.

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A Disney Cruise without the kiddos should be your next vacation and I would love to help you plan it.  You can follow along on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jruss.wft or email me at julir@wishesfamilytravel.com for much more information on an adult only Disney Cruise.

Weekend at Universal Orlando


January in Michigan can get really cold.  Where to go for a long weekend with a 12-year-old boy in January?  Hey, how about Universal Studios Orlando?

The only time I had visited Universal Studios Orlando was in the early 90’s so I decided it would be the perfect place to take my son for our getaway and his first visit.  I looked at all the resort options and decided on Lowe’s Royal Pacific.  I chose this resort for its moderate pricing, location, and the Unlimited Express Pass, an $80 per person value.  The Unlimited Express Pass allows guests to bypass long stand by lines on many of the park’s popular rides.  Early entry to the parks is another benefit of staying at one of the Universal Resorts.


Royal Pacific is an absolutely gorgeous resort, we felt like we were on a tropical Pacific island.  My son loved the large pool, and spent most of our first night swimming, even though it was pouring down rain.  After his swim, we had a delicious dinner at Jake’s American Bar.  There are many dining options at Royal Pacific, including Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, Islands Dining Room and the Orchid Court Sushi Bar. jr-blog-universal-d

We woke up early the next morning to make sure we were at Universal Studios for early morning hours.  The water taxi picked us up and took us right to Universal City Walk.  From City Walk it is an easy stroll to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure.


When Universal Studios opened we went right back to Diagon Alley to ride Escape from Gringotts.  Walking in to Diagon Alley felt as though we were walking right into one of the Harry Potter movies.  The attention to detail is simply amazing.  When we reached Escape from Gringotts there was very little line, we only had to wait about 5 minutes.  We loved the ride so much that we rode it again as soon as we got off.  Riding the train into the vault, running into Voldemort and Bellatrix then finally being saved by Ron, Harry and Hermione was a lot of fun!


My son was looking forward to picking out his wand at Olivander’s, so off we went.  The shop has every wizard’s wand as well as interactive wands that activate spells at many locations throughout The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Kyle chose the interactive wand and had a blast following the included map to all of the interactive locations.  One of our favorite spells was in Knockturn Alley which allowed Kyle to control a skeleton in the window.


As soon as it was time for us to visit Islands of Adventure Park, we made our way to King’s Cross Station for a ride on the Hogwarts Express.  To travel on the Hogwarts Express, which takes passengers over to Hogsmeade you must have a Park to Park ticket.  Once inside King’s Cross Station, passengers cross through Platform 9 ¾ where the beautiful Hogwarts Express awaits.  We had so much fun running through Platform 9 ¾, just like Harry and Ron do in the movie, that we did it several times, you may want to also!  On the ride to Hogsmeade we saw scenes from the English Countryside, and a few familiar faces.



Exiting the Hogwarts Express was as exciting as walking through the brick wall into Diagon Alley.  I was looking around for Harry, Ron and Hermione, expecting them to pop out of Honeydukes!  Kyle and I wandered through Hogsmeade on our way to ride Flight of the Hippogriff, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and the Dragon Challenge.  All three rides were fantastic!   The Frog Choir, which is made up of students from each house and their frogs, was singing as we walked to breakfast and they were great.  Kyle wanted to try the Three Broomsticks but wasn’t so sure about trying porridge or black pudding so he opted to stick with pancakes.  I tried the Traditional English Breakfast, the black pudding was delicious.

After breakfast we walked back over to Hogsmeade Station and took the Hogwarts Express back to King’s Cross Station.  We spent more time exploring Diagon Alley, trying more spells and looking in all the shops.  Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was fun, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions had some unique souvenirs, Sugarplum’s Sweetshop had some yummy treats.  OH, and then there was our first of many stops for Butterbeer!  Did you know that there is no recipe for Butterbeer in any of the Harry Potter books?  Universal Orlando came up with 6 different recipes to send to J.K. Rowling in England.  She chose her favorite which is now served exclusively at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


When we finally left the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the day we were excited to start riding all of the other rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  The only ride remaining from my visit in the 90’s is ET’s Adventure and it was as fun as I remembered it!  Kyle loved the Transformers: The Ride-3D and Men in Black, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, but we both agreed that our favorite Universal Studios ride was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  If you like rollercoasters you do not want to miss this one!  Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit reaches heights of 17 stories over the park and speeds of up to 65mph all while rockin out to your favorite music.



After a quick burger from Krusty’s Burger in Simpson Land and a GIANT donut at Lard Lad we were on our way back to Islands of Adventure.   Instead of riding the Hogwarts Express we walked over to Islands of Adventure, a quick and easy walk.  We rode some great rides, our favorites were The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.  Suess Landing looks like a lot of fun for younger kiddos, especially Caro-Seuss-el.  Since we were back at Islands of Adventure we thought we should go back to Hogsmeade for some spell casting and another Butterbeer.


Our first day ended back at Universal Studios to watch Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, a nighttime show in which movie scenes are projected on to waterfall screens.  It was a nice way to end a full day of fun!  The water taxi took us back to Royal Pacific, such a convenient way to travel.

On day two we were up bright and early to get to the parks right when they opened.  Kyle had two goals for today, completing his map of spells in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to get another giant donut from Lard Boy.  I was looking forward to riding all of our favorite rides again and seeing some of the shows we had missed on our first day, oh and more Butterbeer!

At the end of our second day Kyle and I were both exhausted but had such a great time, we can’t wait to go back.  We both decided we would like to stay at Royal Pacific again for a little longer next time.  If you are thinking of a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, I can help you plan the perfect vacation for your family.  My Wishes Family Travel Facebook page and Twitter page both have useful and fun information about Universal Orlando.  For a FREE, no obligation quote contact me at julir@wishesfamilytravel.com.

Healthy Eating at Walt Disney World


Many people are trying to eat in a healthier way.  My husband, Kevin, and I are no exception.  We have changed our eating habits over the past five months opting to not eat processed food, white flour and sugar.  When our recent Walt Disney World vacation arrived we were wondering how we would continue to eat the way we wanted to.



The first night of our trip was spent at the All Star Movie Resort.  When we arrived we walked in to the dining area to see what was available for dinner.  We noticed the usual burgers, chicken fingers and pizza, but then discovered a cooler containing a great selection of fruit, salads, cheese, yogurt and hard boiled eggs.  Kevin and I were both pleased to see we had multiple options that worked for us.


Magic Kingdom was the first park we visited where some of our very favorite treats can be found!  Dole Whips and Mickey Bars are two treats we always enjoy while at Magic Kingdom, but were going to skip on this trip.  As much as we wanted a Nutella Waffle, we thought it would be best to look around for a healthier lunch.  Have you ever seen the giant turkey legs in Frontierland?  We had seen them over the years, but never sampled one so we gave it a try.  The turkey leg was delicious and enough to share.  As we walked through Liberty Square we found the perfect food stand!  The Cast Members were grilling corn and there was a large variety of fresh fruit.   The grilled corn was delicious, a good compliment to the turkey leg.

The International Food and Wine Festival had begun at Epcot just prior to our arrival.  The Food and Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World where every country has sample-sized food and drinks to try. For Kevin and me, this was the best place to eat many of our meals because we could choose the food that worked best for us.  Our favorites were the filet in Canada, the beef skewers from Morocco and sweet & spicy shrimp that we found at the Australia stand.

While we were at Epcot we had dinner at Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion, a wonderful sit down hibachi style restaurant.  Our chef was very accommodating and gave us extra veggies instead of rice to go with our steak and shrimp.  The food was incredible and the experience was very fun.


One of Kevin’s favorite meals of our whole trip was a salad at Wolfgang Puck Express which is located at Disney Springs.  Again, the staff was very accommodating and offered fruit in place of the dessert which accompanies a quick service meal on the Disney Dining Plan.  Kevin found the salad to be delicious and big enough to share.


Buffets are another ideal place to dine when you are looking for healthier options.  Our breakfast buffet at Cape May had so many delicious items to choose from that we were stuffed when we left.  There were several types of eggs, which were all very tasty.  The meats like bacon, sausage and smoked salmon, along with the fresh fruit rounded out our breakfast nicely.  We discovered that the chef will make gluten free Mickey waffles for those who cannot have gluten.


On our last night we had dinner at the Cinderella’s Happily Ever After buffet at 1900 Park Fare in Grand Floridian.  We both ate way too much while we waited to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Step Family.  I gave the famous Cold Strawberry Soup a try and loved it, it was incredible.  Kevin and I both thought the Mongolian Beef was very good, as was the prime rib.  There were many salads and a very nice variety of veggies.  It was hard to walk past the desserts, they looked wonderful.


Overall we found the selection of healthy food options to be extensive at Walt Disney World, especially if you ask questions of the Cast Members before ordering.  Everyone was happy to substitute vegetables for potatoes and fruit for dessert.  If you are looking for healthier options I would love to talk to you about our experience and help you plan a healthy trip to Walt Disney World

Why use a Travel Agent?

Why Use a Travel Agent?

The internet provides a sea of information for you to use when planning your next vacation.  It’s great that there is plenty of information, but this sea can get overwhelming!  When you use an expert to help plan your vacation you can save valuable time, because a Travel Professional can wade through the sea and offer choices that will work best for your family.

I am an expert in helping families create fabulous vacations to Disney and Universal.  I have traveled extensively to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Orlando, and have sailed on most of the Disney Cruise Ships.  I can offer you first-hand experience on the destination that you choose.20160405_162340595_ios

It is my job as a Travel Professional to help you plan every part of your vacation.  We will start by talking about what you are looking for, the dates you have in mind and what kind of vacation you want for your family.  Once we have those particulars nailed down, I will go to work finding suggestions that I think will be the best fit for your family.  We will also talk about additional items such as dining options, shore excursions, show tickets and special events that you may want to add on to your vacation.

Once your trip is booked we get to have some fun!  We will work together to choose any dining reservations your family would enjoy.  I will get up early to make those reservations for you.  You get to sleep in, get to work or get the kids off to school while I do all the work.  We will talk about which rides or shore excursions you would like to reserve in advance.

During the months leading up to your vacation I will send you tips, suggestions, and information on everything from the ports your Disney Cruise will visit to details on shows and attractions in the parks.  I love getting to know my clients and recommending special activities that will make their vacation extra magical like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Fireworks Dessert Parties or a special adults-only night out.

Often, Special Promotions are released during the year.  Most travelers are unaware of when a promotion has been released.  That is ok for my clients, because I will already be in the know. By using my concierge level travel planning services, you do not need to watch for these special offers!  I will know in advance that the promotion is being released and will get any discounts that apply to your reservation.  I will work diligently to save my clients money on their vacations!

My services do not end once you arrive at your destination.  If you have any issues at your resort with dining or tickets, or once onboard a cruise ship, I will be on the phone trying to get the problem resolved so you can enjoy your vacation.

What is the best part of using my professional travel planning services?  All of these extra services do not cost you a dime!  You will pay the same for your vacation whether you do all the planning or if you let me take care of everything for you!

I would love to help you and your family plan your next trip to Disney or Universal!  Contact me, julir@wishesfamilytravel.com for your complimentary, no obligation quote.

Castaway Cay, My Favorite Disney Cruise Port

Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, is a favorite stop for our family on every Disney Cruise.  This 3-mile-long, 1000-acre island has something for everyone, just like on the ship.  We love watching the ship pull into the dock and looking at all the fun we will have for the day.


For runners and walkers there is the Castaway Cay 5K.  Registration for the 5k is available on the ship at the Port Adventures Desk. The 5K does fill up, so registering early is a good idea.  Those who register for the 5K gather together first thing in the morning to disembark before all the other passengers.  The run takes you on a lovely early morning tour of the island, then you have the rest of the day to relax or join in all the fun!  You will find a water station at the starting line and on the course.  At the end of the 5K all participants receive a medal!


Castaway Cay has a family beach which includes a great water playground for the little ones and a fun water slide called Pelican Plunge.  Check your personal navigator before leaving the ship to check for any play area closures.  My kids can’t get enough of either area, it’s hard to get them out of the water.  While the kids play in the water, I like to relax in one of the hammocks under the palm trees while I can!  It doesn’t take long for one of my family members to come get me to play in the water.   For passengers without children, Serenity Bay, the adult only beach, is the perfect place to spend the day.


Cabanas are available for adults and families who would like a little more privacy.   The cabanas come with all the equipment that might normally be rented: snorkel gear, floats, and bikes.  Every cabana has a refrigerator stocked with cans of Coke products and Evian water.  Snacks are also provided in the cabanas.  Cabanas are booked just like an excursion, but they do fill up early with Platinum members.

There is no shortage of food or beverages on the island.  Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too serve up delicious BBQ style food with selections such as ribs, burgers, coleslaw, chicken, and cornbread.   Dessert is also available; ice cream, cookies (my favorite) and cakes.  Serenity Bay offers adults their own restaurant which serves entrees not available at the family restaurants like, steak and mahi-mahi.  There are bars located throughout the island where you can get a refreshing cocktail or cold beer.  Keep an eye out for the two for one specials often available later in the afternoon, you can often find two for one drinks before the bars close!  All of the restaurants and bars are staffed by Cast Members from the ship, so look for your favorite dining room attendant.


Excursions are plentiful on Castaway Cay from fishing, parasailing, and a sting ray adventure to snorkeling, biking and float tube rental.  Our favorites are the snorkeling and bike riding!  While following the under water snorkel trail you will see boats, Mickey & Minnie and a reef filled with fish.  Renting bikes is a fun family activity which takes riders across Castaway Cay.  There is even a stop at an observation tower where a beautiful view of the entire island awaits.

If you are in the mood for a little shopping, you won’t be disappointed.  Traditional Bahamian items can be found at Cultural Illusions as well as Castaway Cay only souvenirs at She Sells Sea Shells…and Everything Else and But the Sea Shore.  We always stop by the shops before getting back on the ship for a little something to bring home.


A stop on Castaway Cay would not be complete without visiting without some Disney characters!  We love to see Mickey and his pals in their beach attire greeting guests as they enter the island.  My kids would like Mickey to hang out with them on the beach all day!


Our very last stop as we leave Castaway Cay for the day is dropping post cards off at the Post Office.  It’s fun to send mail that we have written on the ship to family and friends from the Bahamas!  We have even sent mail to ourselves as a souvenir.


Disney’s Island is the perfect way to spend a day during a Disney Cruise.  I look forward to this day more than any other during our cruise.  Whether you want to relax on the beach or experience the many excursions, Castaway Cay really does have something for everyone.  I would love to tell you more about the Disney Cruises and all the wonderful places the ships visit.

Conquering the Walt Disney World Mountains

“Mom, when we go to Walt Disney World this year can we park hop and ride all the roller coasters?”  It’s finally happened, my son is old enough to go from park to park and ride the big rides!

“Of course we can, that will be a lot of fun!”

Our family had two quick days planned at Walt Disney World while we visited family in Florida over Spring Break.

On Day 1 we drove about an hour from Grandma & Grandpa’s house in time to check in at Port Orleans French Quarter, hop on the bus and make it to Hollywood Studios before opening.  While my son, Kyle, and I enjoyed Hollywood Studios, my husband, Kevin, had a special morning with his parents at Magic Kingdom.   I had made our advanced FastPasses for Hollywood Studios, we were both excited to ride our favorite Hollywood Studios rides; Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania.

We arrived at Hollywood Studios right as the park opened.  Since we had not gotten a FastPass for Star Tours, we went right to it and did not have to wait at all!!  Kyle was thrilled to ride Star Tours and see that scenes had been added from the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.  Then we were off to the Star Wars Launch Bay to meet Kylo Ren.  After meeting Kylo Ren it was all about the thrill rides, with Rock ‘n Roller Coaster first, then Tower of Terror.  Our last stop was Toy Story Mania before going back to the resort for some pool time and meeting up with Kevin, Grandma & Grandpa.

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The evening began with a delicious dinner at Biergarten in the German Pavilion at Epcot.  Not only did we have a delicious dinner, but a wonderful dinner show, both reasons I enjoy returning to Biergarten year after year.  We followed dinner by meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out!  It wasn’t part of our original plan, but they had just started their meet & greet and we couldn’t resist.  By the time we were finished with Joy & Sadness, Illuminations was about to begin.  Riding a popular ride during the nighttime shows almost always guarantees a short line. This was no exception as we only had to wait 10 minutes Test Track.   On our way out of Epcot we stopped to ride Spaceship Earth, the perfect way to end Day 1.

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We all woke up before our alarm on Day 2, we were so excited to get the day started.  Animal Kingdom was the first park and our first ride was our favorite, Expedition Everest.  Early in the morning is the best time to ride Expedition Everest if you don’t have a FastPass.  The line was very short, we only waited about 5 minutes so we got off and decided to ride one more time!  Next on the list was Kali River Rapids and Kyle was hoping we would all get soaked!  We lucked out again with a short line, so after our family ride, Kyle rode again as a single rider.  Kevin and I waited on the bridge to shoot him with water from the elephant fountains near the end of the ride.  I’m not sure which was more fun, the actual ride or shooting people with the water.  On our way out of Animal Kingdom we went in to see Bug’s Life, we never get tired of Bug’s Life.  Not only is it a cute show, but it’s a great way to cool off and relax for a few minutes.


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Hollywood Studios was our next stop so Kevin could ride some of his favorite rides.  We had decided when FastPasses became available 60 days prior to our arrival that we would get our 3 advanced FastPasses for our afternoon in Hollywood Studios knowing that arriving early at Animal Kingdom would be good for short wait times.  Our first FastPass was for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, which is a favorite of the whole family.  Tower of Terror followed Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, then we were off to Star Tours.  By mid-day we were all very glad we had FastPasses for all three of these rides.  Our lunch at the Sci Fi Diner was at the exact right time after a very full morning of riding rides.   Having a trained, traveled and trusted travel agent to help navigate making FastPasses and dining reservations can really help make your day smooth and enjoyable.

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We chose Magic Kingdom as our last park because it was open to Resort Guests until 1:00am.  Up before 7:00am to get to Animal Kingdom right at opening, then attempting to stay at Magic Kingdom until 1:00am, we were nuts!  After a few afternoon hours at the pool, we made our way to Magic Kingdom feeling refreshed and ready for a late night.  We rode all of our favorite rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, you know, the staples.  During the Electrical Light Parade we got in line for Big Thunder Mountain.  As we hoped, the line during the parade was not very long, only about 15 minutes.  It was almost time for Celebrate the Magic, an amazing light show that is projected onto Cinderella’s Castle, so back to the front of the park we went for a great view of Cinderella’s Castle.  Kyle had not seen this show yet, he was mesmerized!

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We had a few more rides to hit and we couldn’t miss seeing the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor.  We wandered through Tomorrowland just before midnight on our way to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland, we were all excited because none of us had ridden this ride yet.  I’m not sure how long the wait was, because the interactive cue was so much fun we didn’t pay attention to the time.  The ride was a lot of fun and if we weren’t on a mission to ride all the roller coasters we definitely would have ridden it again.

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We left Fantasyland and walked back to Tomorrowland for our last roller coaster, Space Mountain.  It was raining now and we were glad the line for Space Mountain was all inside, at least we thought it was!  As we got closer to the ride we saw a long line outside and a thrity minute wait.  UGH, none of us wanted to wait that long especially in the rain and we were debating just skipping Space Mountain and going back to the resort.  We thought we would go ride Buzz Lightyear one more time then see how the Space Mountain line looked.  Luckily when we were done riding Buzz Lightyear the line for Space Mountain had moved inside and was only about 15 minutes.

We did it, we made it until 1:00am and rode all the roller coasters!  Having a plan ahead of time made it very easy to visit all four parks, use our FastPasses most effectively and ride all the rides we really wanted to.  As a trained, traveled and trusted Wishes Family Travel Concierge Agent, I can help you make the most of your Disney vacation too!

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Our Stay at the Marriott Stanton, South Beach

Are you looking for a hotel before or after you sail on a Disney Cruise ship out of the Port of Miami?  Look no further than the Marriott Stanton South Beach.  This hotel is conveniently located to all the hot spots of South Beach and a short ride to the Port of Miami.

The staff at The Stanton was extremely friendly and helpful.  Before we could ask if there were upgrades available, our room was upgraded to a beautiful ocean view.  We were also given many recommendations for places to eat or enjoy a cocktail in South Beach. I suggest the Yardbird Southern Table and Bar for delicious southern food.   When we came back to the hotel for the evening we found a note wishing us a fun cruise with two pairs of sunglasses.

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We had looked for a hotel right on South Beach and discovered The Stanton to be the only choice.  We walked right through the hotel, past the pool, and down to the beach.  The pool was closed for refurbishments so we were given wristbands for two free lounge chairs on the beach.  The beach and the water were wonderful and I would have loved to spend more time just relaxing on the lounge chairs or building sandcastles with my kids.

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Our room was beautiful, comfortable, and very clean.  The décor is modern and tasteful.  I loved the shower which had a showerhead that rained down on top of my head.  The bathroom also had a closed off toilet, and two sinks which is helpful when trying to get ready to leave.

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There are several restaurant options at The Stanton, including an Italian restaurant, raw bar, and a steak house.  My favorite was Deco Blue Restaurant and Bar which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Deco Blue has a beautiful view of the beach and offers American selections as well as many fresh seafood choices.

Our favorite part of The Stanton was the location, it was walking distance to many South Beach restaurants and bars including the world famous Clevelander.  It was also easy to travel from the airport and to the port.  We are looking forward to going back again and spending more time.  I would love to help you chose the perfect hotel for your pre or post cruise stay, my Wishes Family Travel Facebook page always has great tips.  Contact me via email, julir@wishesfamilytravel.com for more Miami and Disney Cruise Line information.

Disney Cruise Fish Extenders

What in the world is a Fish Extender?  I asked that question before my first Disney Cruise and the answer opened a door to a lot of fun, new friends and great gifts.

Outside of a Disney Cruise Ship cabin is a decorative hook that looks like a fish, starfish, or seahorse.  The Cruise Cast Members leave notes for your cabin on these hooks.  Our cabin had a seahorse that looked like this:

Using the FISH on the Door as the Hook

A fish extender is an organizer that is hung from the hook.  Some are handmade, like mine, some are purchased.  Each member of my family picked out a Disney themed material that I used to make the pockets, then I attached a Mickey head with their name on it.  It was a lot of fun and very easy to make.

Now, you may be wondering what the fish extender is used for!  Little gifts are placed in the fish extender over the course of your cruise.  They can be gifts the whole family would love, gifts for each member of the family, or gifts just for the kids.  We decided to make a gift for the cabin and give a little something to each child.  Our cabin gift was bottle cap magnets that my whole family helped make.  The gifts for the children ranged from Disney themed rubber band bracelets, glow sticks to candy for the older kids.   For cabins with no children we gave chocolate from a local company along with the bottle cap magnets.

Door Magnets  “How do I get involved with Fish Extenders on my Disney Cruise?” is probably what you are asking yourself.   Facebook has groups for most Disney Cruise sailings where one or two people take on the responsibility of organizing the fish extender gift exchange.  A list is compiled of each cabin that is interested in participating.   If the list grows to be very large, it will be divided into smaller groups.  Our last fish extender group was about 20 cabins.  The list is distributed via email shortly after the paid in full date for each cruise and includes the names of the family in each cabin, the ages of the children and if there are any allergies or special requests.

Now the fun part!  We made and packaged the gifts for each cabin.  My kids had a lot of fun helping with the bottle magnets and my daughter made all the rubber band bracelets for the girls.  We decided that when we were on our cruise we would deliver the gifts to one deck per day.  We enjoyed visiting different decks and tried to be pretty sneaky so no one would see us dropping the gifts off.   Every time we came back to our cabin the kids couldn’t wait to see what treats were waiting for them.  We received wonderful gifts from our fish extender group; personalized plastic cups, ice cream sundae fixings, handmade puzzles, ornaments, jewelry, and many other fun surprises.

I am a huge fan of being a part of the fish extender groups!  We have a lot of fun thinking of the gifts, making them, and delivering them, but the very best part to me is making new friends.  We got know our group well, one family very well.  Our kids were inseparable during the cruise, have stayed in touch since the cruise and are planning a summer get together.  The adults enjoyed each other’s company so much that we are all sailing together on a couple’s only cruise in the fall on the Disney Magic.

The Stateroom Door!

Joining a fish extender group is just one more way to enjoy a Disney Cruise by exploring the ship, meeting new people, and finding little   surprises waiting for you outside your cabin every day.  If you are looking for more information about fish extenders, click here for a great article

I would love to help you plan a Disney Cruise, or any Disney Destination vacation.  Follow my Wishes Family Travel – Juli Russ Facebook page for Disney news, help in planning a magical vacation and other fun tidbits.

Surprise Disney Cruise

Have you ever wanted to surprise your family with a Disney Cruise?  My husband and I planned our first Disney Cruise for over a year completely unknown to our children.

How in the world would we keep such a fun secret for such a long period of time?  How would we pick excursions and make plans without asking the kids their thoughts?  How would we contain our extreme excitement?

We started having late night conversations, trying to stay as quiet as we could so the kids wouldn’t hear anything we were saying.  We also had many, many email and text conversations picking our excursions on Grand Cayman and Cozumel.  Would they like swimming with sting rays?  Do you think they would like snorkeling better?  How would we sneak pirate costumes into our luggage?

The year flew by and we had done it!  We had made all the plans, kept cruise packing secret, and had managed to keep them in the dark.  All that my children knew was that we were driving to Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa for Thanksgiving.  They didn’t even know how long we would be gone on this vacation, I can’t believe they never even asked when we would go home.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving we packed up the car, told the kids we were staying that night near the beach, and headed to Port Canaveral.  We decided it would be best to arrive after dark so they didn’t see any cruise ships that may be in port.  At this point we were beyond excited not only to tell them our surprise, but excited for our DISNEY CRUISE!

My husband was “too excited to sleep” and was up bright and early.  He drove over to the Port to scout out a spot to take the kids to “just look” at the Disney Fantasy and spotted the ship just after sunrise.

JR Blog cruise Fantasy sunrise

We woke the kids up, told them to put their swim suits on so that we could go for a swim (left out the details of where!), then went down for breakfast.  At breakfast we told them that the Disney Fantasy was in Port and asked if they would like to go see it.  They weren’t super excited to just look at the ship, but agreed to go.

After breakfast we loaded them up in the car, drove to the spot my husband had found and pulled over to let them get out and take a look.  The ship took my breath away and I was holding back tears as we gazed for a minute.  I couldn’t keep the surprise in any more, we asked them if they would like to go on board.  They looked very confused.  Then we asked if they would like to go on board for seven days and travel to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, & Disney’s private Island Castaway Cay.


JR Blog cruise Fantasy

I will never forget the next few minutes as long as I live!  My daughter screamed in excitement then jumped into my arms.  My son who was looking forward to the lunch he had ordered at school on Monday was actually a little angry and said he didn’t want to go.   Once we told him about the Aqua Duck and the free unlimited ice cream he came around and couldn’t wait to board.


JR blog surprising kids       JR Blog cruise Aquaduck

The cruise was amazing!  We enjoyed everything about the Disney Fantasy from the stateroom, to the food, the Aquaduck, the adult areas and the incredible entertainment.  I think surprising the kids made this vacation even more magical. I’m still amazed that they never questioned how many suit cases were in the car, or how long we would be gone and even more amazed that they loved most of the excursions we planned.   The sting rays at Sting Ray city were a little “gross” for them, but they loved our snorkel trip in Cozumel.  I don’t think we could ever pull the wool over their eyes again, it sure was fun when we did.

I would love to help you plan a surprise Disney Vacation for your family.  Whether it’s a Disney Cruise, a visit to Walt Disney World, or an Adventures by Disney extravaganza, I have fun ideas to make the surprise extra special.  Follow my Wishes Family Travel – Juli Russ Facebook page for great Disney information of all kinds, including surprising loved ones with a Disney Vacation.

Disney Cruise Itinerary, Plan B


If you are like me, once you book your Disney cruise you start planning all the fun activities you will do on the ship and in the Ports.  Our latest Disney cruise was four days to Castaway Cay, Nassau, and Key West.  We were very excited to experience this itinerary, and were especially looking forward to participating in the Castaway Cay 5k and having a massage on the adult only beach.  Ah the best laid plans!

As our cruise drew near, we started watching the weather and discovered Hurricane Joaquin was heading toward the Bahamas.  We are eternal optimists and decided that the hurricane would not affect our trip and we would enjoy all the activities we had spent a year planning.  Hurricane Joaquin had a different idea, however.  Not long after boarding the ship Captain Tom informed us that we would be switching our itinerary to visit Key West first and Castaway Cay last.  We were glad that Disney Cruise Line had the safety of its passengers and crew as its top priority and didn’t mind the little switch at all.

JR blog Cruise Itinerary plan b 1

The original time for us to be in Key West was Noon to 6:00pm, with the quick switch the time changed to 8:00am to 2:00pm.  This was a little disappointing based on our plans, but we made the best of it.  We were the first in line to disembark the ship which gave us plenty of time to take a walk to the Southern Most Point in the USA.  The best part of our day was meeting a group of couples all traveling together from the Orlando area.  If we had spent the first day on Castaway Cay, we probably wouldn’t have met them and wouldn’t be planning a Spring Break trip to visit them.

JR blog itinerary plan b 3

We got back on the ship at the very last minute because we were having such a good time on Key West.  It wasn’t long before Captain Tom made another announcement, Hurricane Joaquin wasn’t moving away from the Bahamas so we were going to Cozumel and we would also have a day at sea.  That announcement meant we weren’t going to stop at Castaway Cay which is always my favorite.  This cruise we were going to able to enjoy the adult beach and run the 5k, so we were disappointed.

As the ship set sail toward Cozumel we realized that since there would be a Sea Day, we could make reservations for our favorite meal, Palo Brunch!   Who cares about an adult beach and a 5K when you can enjoy mimosas, sticky buns, and the best chicken parmesan in the world!  We almost ran up to Palo to make our brunch reservations, luckily we didn’t miss out.

JR blog Itinerary plan b 2

Despite our disappointment, the change in itinerary turned out to be as much, if not more fun than the plans we had originally made.  Sailing during hurricane season means there is always a chance that the itinerary can change.  Disney Cruise Line cancelled all the missed port excursions with no charge.  We were also given a small refund due to the change in port fees which we used to enjoy a couple cocktails at the pool.  I love that the ships can sail around the storms and my vacation isn’t ruined by bad weather.  Passenger and Crew safety is always the top priority for the Captain which I appreciate tremendously.  The passengers on the ships also need to understand that itineraries can change and be flexible, you never know how great the new experience will be!

Planning a Disney Cruise is fun, I would love to help you plan a cruise on one of the Disney ships.  Contact me at julir@wishesfamnilytravel.com and follow my Wishes Family Travel Facebook page for all kinds of Disney information.