Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter hotel Review

Lobby

Lobby

We stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter for my son’s first birthday trip. We made this choice based upon hotel size and price. I like deluxe Disney properties, but it was time to do something a little more economical.

I made 2 room requests- 1st floor and near transportation. We were the corner room in building 7 on the first floor. Nearly the furthest from the transportation. It was also a lengthy walk to the check-in which we had to do several times. Our refrigerator was broken (as was the replacement). To Disney’s credit they did go to the local grocery store and re-purchase my son’s specific yogurt that spoiled. However it all involved waiting in the room, walks to the front desk and wasting valuable trip time (and it was only a 3 day trip) doing things we shouldn’t have had to do. During one said walk on the first evening I asked about shampoo and conditioner and bath soap- as there wasn’t any in our room. Yes they supplied it. And no, they do not know why it wasn’t in our room upon our arrival. We only had 3 nights here and it was a disappointment that this involved so many trips to the front desk. Also we were there to celebrate my son’s birthday and our anniversary. We did receive a photo for his birthday – he’s 1 though so that was lost on him. We weren’t given any other acknowledgement. Not that they had to but the combination of the troubled room along with our celebrations, I thought there may have been some morsel.

If staying at this property with young children and toddlers, I would recommend bringing masking tape or outlet covers to cover the exposed outlets.  There were 2 sets of 2 that were completely exposed and at the perfect height for my nearly 1-year-old son to reach. Disney no longer provides outlet covers, at least they said they don’t to me at this property.

Finally the greeter/bell services guy at the front made a huge mistake as it related to a cab to take us to dinner one night. I asked in advance for one to be ready in a half hour with a car seat and he confirmed they had one. Of course they didn’t have a cab and we were stressed and late for dinner. There were some other minor delays in the food court, but not worth detailing. Overall these were not the magical experiences that I expected. We travel extensively since I sell travel part-time and I expected better.

I would probably stay at this property again but I really hope Disney straightens out some of the service issues.

Happy Travels!  So many vacations to take, so little time…

Related Post: Using Uber at Disney World

My experience getting Global Entry status

Orange Passport Illustration Travel Invitation (1)As you can tell from the blog, we are avid travelers. We loathe the whole standing in line at the airport process. And traveling with a baby makes the airport lines even more annoying. So, I had heard about the GOES Trusted Traveler (Global Entry) card issued by the federal government and decided it was something we had to have.

We filled out our online application Sunday evening, December 1st and paid $100 per application. We were notified December 10th that we were ‘conditionally approved’. This notification came by an email that told us to check our GOES account. My husband was approved first, even though I submitted mine a couple hours before his. I have a feeling they did an alphabetical mass emailing situation and as such his arrived first… (We have different last names.) Upon learning of his approval I asked to check the dates the interview. He was given a date 2 days later. I said let’s wait until I am approved so we can go together. A few hours later my email arrived. So we went online to schedule our interviews- the first place we checked was available sometime in January. Sigh. So we checked at the airport and they had a time for Christmas Eve at 5 pm and then nothing until New Years Eve. We went to our “interview” on NYE. On the notice it did remind you to bring your passport and the conditional approval letter (which has your GOES account number).  They also requested another photo id like a drivers license when we arrived for the interview.

The interview was really nothing. (My understanding is it could be lengthier if there is something in your history that interests them.)  They did our interview together. They asked if we had traveled to Mexico and Canada in the past 5 years. They also asked if we were ever charged with a crime. And if we had gotten finger prints taken before by a government entity.  They did not ask any questions to our 6 month old baby. We were advised that we had been approved that day and that the baby’s approval would come in a few days since they couldn’t do finger prints for him.  [His approval came later that day.]

Our cards arrived on January 6th. 6 days after the interview, notwithstanding there was a weekend and a holiday during those 6 days!

Getting through the lines at the airport will be more convenient with our card as it also allows you to get through the TSA Pre✓™ at the airport if you are you flying on a participating airline.

We have since used our Pre✓™ status flying Delta at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and at Miami International. Detroit had the LONGEST line, but then most people were going through the normal security process at the end of the line. Upon our reaching the first TSA individual, he noted the TSA Pre✓™ on our boarding passes, scanned them and we heard the 3 beeps sounding our approval to move to through the to the Pre✓™ screening. Wow, it was so nice! We were traveling with our infant, so I just carried him through. My shoes remained on, and then scanned our bags and stroller.  They did a quick test on the water that we had (because we were travelling with an infant) and we were through. I LOVE PRE-CHECK!  What an easy system.  Likewise in Miami we were able to proceed through the quicker security. They did tell us there that the baby’s water should all be in a separate container instead of some in my backpack and some in my husband’s. Miami’s Pre✓line was SHORT. Honestly it was a dream and the best spent $300 I spent this year. I don’t want to praise it too much as everyone will want it, but man was it nice.  Please respond if you have any questions!

Happy Travels!

For more information about me, click here!

Magic Bands!!

My Magic Bands arrived this past week for my upcoming trip to Disney World with my family.

Disney's Magic Bands

Magic Bands!

Aren’t they beautiful?!?

If you want a Magic Band, you currently have to be staying on Disney property, or be an annual pass holder that stayed on Disney property during the test period. They will eventually roll these out to other guests- DVC owners, Annual Pass holders (not staying on property), general ticket holders, etc.

The Magic Band has an RFID chip at the Mickey head. You use these bands to enter your hotel room, enter the parks (if loaded with your purchased tickets), enter fast pass + rides, and to make purchases at the parks. Prior to your trip, you will want to log in to your Disney account to select a color for every member in your party- the current colors are Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Pink and Grey.  If you do not customize your Magic Bands you will be given a grey band upon check-in.

I am SO excited about my upcoming trip with my husband and my son. My son will be 5 months old. [We know he won’t ‘remember’ the trip, we are going because we can and to watch him look around and take it all in.] My Fast Pass + selections have been made.  The picture below is a screen shot of my plans for one afternoon.

Fast Pass + selections

Fast Pass + selections

On this particular day shown here- we will be going to the Magic Kingdom in the morning, and then to the Animal Kingdom in the afternoon. It’s great that I can ensure that I will receive the selections that I want without fear that the fast pass will run out, or that I will have to wait in the stand-by line for an hour upon arriving to the park in the afternoon. This is great for those that want to park hop between Disney parks in a single day.  

The park that this is probably the most beneficial is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I love that I can make a selection for Toy Story Mania in the late afternoon or evening and do not have to worry about rushing into the park as soon as it opens to avoid waiting in line for an hour or two (literally) to ride the ride. The line for Toy Story Mania is currently (on Sunday at 3:45 p.m.) 90 minutes long and the traditional fast passes for the day are gone.

The packaging for Magic Bands is pretty impressive.  They come delivered by UPS and are in a pretty substantial box.

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It will definitely be a fun treat when your family receives your magic bands.

Figuring out the strategies for using Fast Pass + and the timing for selecting your Magic Bands can be pretty confusing. Using a Travel Agent that has completed the Disney’s College of Knowledge is a good first step. You also want someone that frequently visits the World to help you strategize. Disney without a strategy will likely cause a family to be frustrated and crabby!  Disney without a plan equals more standing in line, and less fun!

If your family needs a travel agent, my services are available. I can assist with planning your dining reservations and Fast Pass + selections among other things. I also have an extensive Disney guide that I share. To get all of these benefits, you just need to use me to book your next magical vacation. As a reminder, there is no service charge to use my services. See the about section to get ahold of me.

Happy Travels and have a Magical Day!!!!

Wifi is now being offered at Detroit Metro Airport!

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Great news for those traveling out of Detroit.  Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is offering free Wi-Fi access to travelers in its passenger terminals following a recent infrastructure upgrade.

Unlimited wireless Internet access is available to people after viewing a 30-second advertisement no more than once every 45 minutes. The network provider is s Wireless

The airport says the ad-supported model being used for Wi-Fi access enables it to offer unlimited access at higher speeds. Several premium access options for those who want higher speeds or ad-free online browsing also are available at the airport.

This is great news for us flying out of and connecting through Detroit!

Save Travels!

Traveling with a child, I will soon discover how!

I’m back to blogging! I took a lot of time off because I was slammed with work and busy prepping for and now caring for my new baby.
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Isn’t he cute?!

As I am about to embark on my first vacation with my son, what advice do you have for my husband and I? In the next 6 months we will be doing family trips to Mackinac Island, Disney (twice), and a cruise. [This is what happens when a traveler is forced to stay put for 10 months; once we can leave, we go crazy!] I hope my baby travels well!

I will be able to write more firsthand knowledge about traveling with kids, and specifically with an infant. What questions do you have about traveling with an infant?
Happy & Safe Travels!

P!nk’s Truth About Love Tour- Set List and Pictures

P!nk

P!nk visited Detroit on March 6th for her ‘Truth About Love’ tour. It was AMAZING!!!!! Her performance is a must see.  She did not deviate from her previously released set list which is listed below, and yet the show still seemed unique and individualized for Detroit.  P!nk continues to be wildly entertaining.

P!nk

Her aerial skills, while singing, are out of this world!

We scored the perfect seats the day of the show!  I would recommend waiting until the day of the show, and the days leading up to the show, and searching Ticketmaster for last-minute released tickets.  We were able to score seats in the second row to the right of the stage- PERFECT SEATS. The best part is we did not need to pay scalper prices for those tickets.

Her aerial skills, while singing, are out of this world!

Her aerial skills, while singing, are out of this world!

Set List for P!nk’s March 5th show at the Palace of Auburn Hills (Detroit.)

1.”Raise Your Glass”

2.”Walk of Shame”

3.”Just Like a Pill”

4.”U + Ur Hand”

5.”Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)”

6.”Try”

7.”Wicked Game”

8.”Just Give Me a Reason”

9.”Trouble”

10.”Are We All We Are”

11.”How Come You’re Not Here”

12.”Sober”

13.”Family Portrait”

14.”Who Knew”

15.”Fuckin’ Perfect”

16.”Most Girls” / “There You Go” / “You Make Me Sick”

17.”Slut Like You”

18.”Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”

Encore

19.”So What”

20.”Glitter in the Air”

She started performing around 9:15 and finished around 10:45.

P!nk

Don’t miss this concert!

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Cruises All You Can Drink Progams

Time for a Drink!

Cruise lines in an attempt to become competitive with all-inclusive land based vacations are welcoming an open bar policy on its ships with all you can drink packages for purchase.  The only main stream lines with programs at this time are Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian.

The Carnival program- My Awesome Bar Program – is still in its testing phase, but it will likely go fleet wide. The ships currently testing the program are: Spirit, Breeze, Splendor and Victory.  For $42.95 per person, per day, plus 15% gratuity, you will get unlimited beer, wine and mixed drinks individually priced under $10. You can also get a 25% discount on drinks priced over $10 (individual drinks only, not packages). In order to indulge in the package, it must be purchased for ALL adults in a cabin. Carnival’s claims this is to prevent sharing of the package. There are certainly other ways to do this. But this would require effort on its part. Some ways that come to my mind are, place a time limit on the frequency of use, i.e. need to wait 10 -15 minutes between drinks. Or a longer wait with different types of alcohol – unless you are drinking the same type of beer, you have to wait a certain time limit. These options would both require monitoring on the part of Carnival, and clearly they are not interested in that, which irritates me. What about those sharing a cabin with a non-drinking adult? What if you are traveling with a pregnant woman, or with someone who is attending the Friends of Bill W meetings, or just someone who doesn’t drink?  I think it is not a horrible plan, I just think it is not that useful for most couples/travelers.

Norwegian Cruise line started testing their drink program and has copied it from Carnival’s program. The ships trying the plan are the Sun, Gem and Jade. The price is $49 per person per day, for drinks up to $10 in price. There are not a lot of details explained yet about this plan. There has been rumors that everyone in the stateroom needs to purchase it, but it has not been confirmed yet.

Celebrity’s program is far superior in my opinion. You can purchase at a level that is appropriate for your drinking habits. There is a basic alcoholic drink package, as well as a premium package. The basic package cost $44 per day (plus taxes and tips) and allows for the purchase of drinks up to $8 in price. The premium package costs $54 (plus taxes and tips) and allows for drinks up to $12 in price. This allows for the purchase of most martinis, glasses of wine, etc.  If you have the premium package and order a drink that is over the $12 limit, you just pay the amount over $12, i.e you pay $3 to cover a drink that costs $15.

For both programs, you can not buy the program for just the days at sea, or the last 2 days of the trip, you must purchase it for every day of your trip. Do the math (if you are that type) – do you want to drink over 4 drinks each day of your trip, even the days in port? For Celebrity, you have to drink over 6 drinks a day. It’s certainly doable, you just need to see if it makes sense for you. Some people don’t want to do the math, nor do they want surprises, they just want to know that for a week, their bar bill will be $350 total. Others like the fact that they do not have to sign anything… Others like that they can have a cappuccino in the afternoon, along with some drinks sprinkled throughout the day and not worry about the expense.

What do think about the 2 programs? Have you used either? Would you use either? Bottoms up – Happy Travels!

[The prices & programs in this post were accurate when it was published in 2013.]

The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Travel

** Editor’s Note: This article is guest written by Christy’s husband Dave in their review of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones to be used primarily for travel. **

I love my Bose headphones.  Let me say that again.  I LOVE my Bose Headphones.

My wife and I like to travel.  Taking vacations are one of our favorite things to do.  One of our least favorite things, however, is dealing with the noisy annoying morons who always surround us on flights and in airports.  After a wonderful vacation in Hawaii (and the looooong flights that book-ended it) my wife and I decided we were ready for some serious noise cancelling headphones.

So the research began.  I did lots of Google searches and lots of review reading before deciding on the Bose QuietComfort 15.  I should say, right of the bat, that these are not cheap headphones.  They run about $300.00, but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for.  These headphones are one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

The headphones are over the ear style.  This means that the ear portion covers your ears completely.  This can lead to your ears getting a little hot after long usage, but it never gets to a point where it is too much.  Usually it’s only once I’ve taken them off that I notice my head and ears were getting a little warm.  The ears and bar that goes over your head are both padded and very comfortable.  I should mention, however, that my wife has a slightly smaller head than I do and does find that they don’t fit her as snugly as she would like.  In fact, originally we purchased her a pair of the QuietComfort 3  from Bose that fit her much better.  However, we found that the QuietComfort 15’s blocked noise better than the other ones so she ended up trading them in.

The QuietComfort 15 works on two levels.  By themselves the headphones block quite a bit of noise.  But in additional to very good padding, they also include a microchip that produces sound waves to counter background noise.  It actively works against all constant noises, such as engines and fans.  The headphones work with 1 AAA battery that lasts for approximately 30 hours of use.  So it would be worthwhile to invest in a rechargeable battery.  Much better for the environment.

Once turned on, the difference is amazing.  Any droning noise, such as an airplane engine or fan is cut down to either nothing or close to it.  Most other noises are diminished a lot as well.  This does take a little getting used to as I found I had gotten used to background noise (like me breathing) and having it missing was a little strange at first.

One thing I did notice was that some voices actually came through more clearly with the headphones than without.  On planes, the announcements that came over the intercom were very clear when I had my headphones on because there wasn’t any airplane engine to drown it out.  All other noise, though, is basically faded to almost nothing.  Once you actually turn on your music or podcasts or whatever else you are listening to, you really don’t notice any ambient noises.  It allows you to really bury yourself in your own little world.  A MUST to have on any long flight.

One word of warning, though.  While it blocks ambient noises, this also includes anything your travel partner might be trying to say to you.  There were quite a few times when I had to take one of the headphone ears off and ask my wife to repeat herself.  But I suppose that’s what you want in noise cancelling headphones!

Bottom Line:  While expensive, the Bose QuietComfort 15 noise cancelling headphones are well worth the price.  While it won’t cancel absolutely ALL noise around you, it will cancel a significant amount and once you have your music on you won’t notice the residual.  Definitely a buy if you want to have peaceful flight among noisy annoying people.

Do you have a pair, do you feel the same way? Do you prefer another brand like Dr. Dre’s? Comment below.

Happy Travels!

Tips for Your First Cruise

I have a client that is just leaving for his first cruise and on my recent cruise, we were seated with a couple of their first cruise. There was a handful of questions that they asked that I take for granted that people know; as such, I felt it was important to draft this article for new and less experienced cruisers.

First tip- a cruise vessel is a “SHIP” not a “boat”.

What’s included in your cruise fare? This varies by cruise line, but for most of the lines:  your accommodations, twice daily room cleaning, meals, including all day dining options & room service (most cruise lines now offer specialty dining at an additional charge), coffee/tea, and daily & nightly entertainment. Additional charges exist on most cruises for gratuties, alcohol, soda pop, specialty coffee, gambling/bingo, and shore excursions.  As for the meals. The meals in the main dining room (MDR) are included in your fare. The meal in the MDR will include, if you chose, an appetizer, soup/salad course, entrée, and dessert. You can order as many appetizers and entrées as your heart desires, all included. Sometimes I will ask for an entrée to be an appetizer. This rule applies at lunch as well. Most lines offer breakfast and lunch in the MDR when the ship is not in port. It is a nice way to enjoy a leisurely meal without the crowds of the buffet. You can check the time for dining in each venue by looking at your ship’s daily activity guide.

* Tip: If you plan to get room service, bring a pile of dollar bills. You will want to give a small tip to the attendent that brings your room service to your cabin. We save up a pile of $1 bills before the cruise, pack them in a zip lock in our carry-on to have for the whole cruise.

The ship’s daily activity guide is published each day of your cruise. While you are at dinner each evening your cabin steward will leave the guide on your bed.During that evening visit, the cabin steward will swap out dirty towels, and do a turn down service on your cabin (close blinds, adjust the bedding for bedtime, etc.) But, back to ship’s guide. Each line calls it something different, but it has a listing of all the activities being offered the next day, information about what times places are open (the stores, restaurants, etc.), the show times in the evening, etc. It is essentially a detailed guide of what is happening on the ship the next day. If you are out and about on the ship and leave yours in the cabin, you can also pick them up at the guest services desk.

All mass market cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian) have a kids club. They will vary by ship. But all will have something to offer your kids, including private and group babysitting options from around 9 am until late at night. They also provide age-specific, organized programs run by trained professionals. Although there are slight variations by cruise line, age categories for organized programs are generally geared to 3-6, 7-9, 10-12, and 13-17 year olds. There is no charge for most of the group kid’s club activities.

Cruise lines work on a cashless system- meaning your key card is used for any additional purchases on board.  This excludes the casino however. Most lines charge a fee for using your key card to advance cash for gambling. Bring cash to gamble, or be prepared to pay a small fee.

Some other questions we usually get:

Attire?  There will be 2 formal nights on most 7 night cruises- cocktail dresses, and suits. Some men where tuxes. The other nights you can wear a dress shirt or polo shirt depending on the dress code of the night- the line will tell you that.

Do they kick you out at 7 am at the end of the cruise? Yes, they kick you out pretty early. You typically have to be out of the room by 8 or 8:30 am. I’ve found that you can usually tip your cabin steward extra to stay in the room longer. The reason for the early departure is they turn the rooms over to get the cabin ready for the next passengers. Most ships will allow reboarding around 11 or 11:30 a.m.

What does it mean to tender? If your ship cannot “dock” in port, you will have to tender. This means you will take a little boat from your ship to the port. The tender trip is usually between 10 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the port. It does not mean you should avoid a tender port- sometimes the port is either full to docked ships, or is on a reef, so it’s too shallow, or harmful to the reef to dock.

What tips do readers have for first time cruisers?  First timers- what other questions do you have?

Happy Travels!

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Extra Magic Hour for Disneyland Resort Hotel Guests

Photo Courtesy of Disneyland

 Starting this summer you have one more reason to book a vacation at one of the Hotels of the Disneyland® Resort. Beginning with arrivals on June 18, 2012, Guests staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel can take advantage of Extra Magic Hour* – early entry to either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park – every day of their stay (with valid Theme Park admission and active hotel-room key card).

The park with the Extra Magic Hour will alternate days between Disneyland and California Adventure. Extra Magic Hour will allow registered Disneyland Resort Hotel Guests admission into select attractions at Disneyland Park on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and Disney California Adventure Park on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, before that Park opens to the general public.

Guests not staying at one of the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort, but have 3-Day or more Disneyland Resort Park Hopper® Bonus Tickets, may continue to enjoy one Magic Morning entry at Disneyland Park on designated days.

Check www.disneyland.com for any updates to the schedule of when each Park offers Extra Magic Hour. Each registered hotel Guest (ages 3 and older) must have a valid Theme Park ticket and active hotel-room key card to gain entry during Extra Magic Hour. To enhance the Extra Magic Hour experience, it is strongly recommended that Guests arrive at least one hour and 15 minutes prior to regular park opening.

Happy Travels!

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*Important Legal Disclaimers. Applicable Theme Park, days and times of operation and all other elements including, but not limited to, operation of attractions, entertainment, stores, restaurants and appearances of Characters may vary and are subject to change without notice. Subject to capacity, cancellation and other restrictions.