Protected: Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas- September 18, 2016

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5 Things You Need To Pack For Your Cruise

Here is my list of 5 things you need to pack for your cruise. You could also say 5 things you didn’t know you needed for your next cruise.

 1. Lanyards – cruises are a cash free zone so all you need is your cabin key card. You use it not only to get in your room but as your ship ID, to purchase drinks and merchandise, and even to do certain experiences onboard.  Different cruise lines call it different things such as “Key to the World”, “Seapass” , etc. Keeping your card in a lanyard is the easiest way to carry it around when you are onboard.

2. Pop up hamper – you will want to unpack and put your luggage away so a pop up hamper is a great way to collect your dirty laundry and keep things cleaned up.

3. Power strip – There are not nearly as many plugs in the cabin as you are used to so a power strip is very helpful. On our last cruise aboard the Norwegian Getaway there was only one outlet with two plugs in the main cabin, nothing in the bathroom. THAT WAS IT!!!! You may also want a charger that has multiple USB ports so that will only take up one plug and you have other outlets available for other things.

4. Dry bags – if you are doing excursions that involve water or plan to have 

your stuff at the pool you will want a dry bag to protect your phone, passports etc. Be sure to measure your phone carefully including the case to be sure you get the right size and you don’t have to take your case off to put it in the bag. Now you can take pictures at the pool without a worry. 

5. Passports – At the time of this post passports may not be required for your cruise BUT it is highly  recommended you always cruise with a passport for every member of your family.

These are out top 5 things you need to pack for your cruise. Don’t wait until the last minute to take care of these things and test them out before you leave home. Don’t leave home with out them. Still trying to figure out what cruise line is best for you? Read our review of NCL vs DCL and then contact Magical Memory Planners for a quote.

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NCL vs DCL: What you need to know

I’m a Disney Cruise Line fan. FANATIC. It’s not all Mickey Mouse in your face (although there is plenty of characters and events) but gives you a deluxe vacation with the same magic that only Disney knows how to make.


However, as my business grows in planning and booking family vacations, I had to realize not everyone can afford to sail Disney and I needed to check out some other options. We decided to take Norwegian Cruise Lines for a spin as they were offering a promotion we could not pass up. Here is what I think you NEED to know about the differences and if cruising NCL could be a valid option for you!

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1. Disney sends a cute booklet with luggage tags for your reservation. NCL does not. NCL you print your own tags from home.

2. Online check-in and reservations. The check-in is about the same ease but reservations on NCL for dining and shows is a tad confusing. NCL prides itself in “freestyle cruising” meaning you can book dining and shows last minute or leisurely show up. I found that I actually prefer to know where we planned to eat and what nights we would see shows so that I could make an itinerary. Not everyone will agree.

I give them a tie


1. We arrived in the chaos of the Miami port. Now, I’ve only ever sailed Disney from Port Canaveral, so Miami was SHOCKING! I can’t dock points from NCL for this, but Miami should step up their game.

2. We parked at the port, again I can’t blame NCL but the walk was much farther than the lot at Port Canaveral.

3. The terminal. We walked into the terminal and had a short line. We proceeded to do the normal check-in just like DCL. It was sufficiently fast, we were given a number to board then we headed into a “holding area”. We were greeted by a photographer who took our picture but unlike Disney, NCL does not allow personal photographs to be taken behind their cameraman. This area was large, with restrooms and vending machines. NCL had an assortment of drinks on tables for guests while they waited. AND waited we did. It was loud and not enough seats for all those waiting. We also were travelling with a family that was in a different waiting area, so we headed there to say hi for a bit and then back to our “side”. Numbers were called and it was incredibly loud and we had a hard time hearing.

4. We boarded the ship on an outdoor gangway compared to Disney’s in Port Canaveral. We were met with balloons tied around the deck, which was fun! We then headed into the ship’s casino. Yep. The smokey casino. No one met us, told us where we were or where to go or what to do. DCL has a personal greeter once you board into the main deck.

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Disney wins hands down


1. We boarded and headed straight to lunch. I try to avoid pool-side buffets on embark day because it’s usually packed and crazy! On Disney the only other option is another buffet but much quieter and a server brings you drinks. On our Norwegian cruise, we opted for the sit down menu restaurant which had amazing choices (like blackened Mahi sandwich). NCL serves Pepsi, so I grabbed a champagne instead.

2. Open dining. NCL has SO SO many choices to dine! Most are complimentary and some have fees or are a la carte. During the week we ate at all 3 main dining rooms (same menus as each other, changing slightly each night) as well as the Irish Bar and Grill (opened the latest of any venue), the Noodle Bar which serves Dim Sum and Asian noodle dishes and the buffet near the pool. We also paid to eat at the American Steak house (my husband’s prime rib was really not much better than the complimentary one) and the sushi restaurant which was AMAZING!! Disney has rotational dining, you keep the same server and you are assigned a restaurant each night, going back to the same ones on longer cruises. You get to know your server personally and it can be an amazing experience if you have an amazing wait staff. Both cruise lines allow you to order how ever many dishes you would like for no additional fares.


3. Quality of food is about the same. I say that because I am not a foodie. I like the numerous options that NCL has but Disney has presentation and dishes down to perfection. NCL still has great fish dishes, steaks and desserts but what Disney does offer is higher quality. (I think you really get what you pay for here). Although quality over quantity is key, doing a 7 night cruise I’m glad we had so many more options than what Disney offers.

4. Sodas aren’t free. Even if you purchase the NCL soda package, you have to wait in line at the bars to  get your cup filled. I like that Disney is free and easy to access. The plus to NCL is that they do have free flavored waters available throughout the day.

I would say dining is a tie


1. We had an oceanview room that slept 5, as I took my Dad along with us. DCL offers cabins for 5 and they are: Queen, twin bunks and a murphy pull out twin. NCL had 2 twins pushed together to make a queen/king and a full sized bottom and twin top bunk. So my Dad and 1 child had to sleep together. It wasn’t ideal but it worked.


2. Our cabin was trendy, modern in decorations and I really liked the feel. It seemed like we had much more storage than Disney since we had an extra single closest on top of the double closet. Plus you can store under the full sized couch pull out.

3. The bathrooms aren’t split like Disney, and the shower has a clear glass door. This can be awkward for some families. However, I loved the double sink and storage in the bathroom. The garbage can was tiny and inside of one of the cabinet doors, I didn’t care for that but not enough to dock any points from NCL. Towels were replaced when left on the ground.

4. NCL uses the same card activator for room electricity, so we used our hotel key card from the night before the cruise. They also have a VERY handy light/alert system that you can switch to alert the room steward if you want the cabin to be cleaned or if you want privacy. I LOVE THIS! (Just don’t forget to turn off the privacy switch or your cabin won’t get cleaned…oops!)

5. You can’t currently sleep 5 in a balcony, which you can on Disney. However, NCL does have a studio option for single travelers which is a first in the industry!

6. The TV channels and movies leave something to be desired. We really like hanging in the cabin before dinner watching Disney channel etc. There is just SO very few options on NCL, I guess it’s a good reason to get out to some fresh air. This may be a hindrance for families travelling with nappers or early sleepers.

7. Cabin size seemed about the same not too noticeable of a difference.

I would say that cabins is a tie


1. The Norwegian ship I sailed on had 5 slides, a kid’s pool, an adult pool, a kid’s splash area, and an adult-only area with waterfalls, loungers and a bar. The ship also had a huge obstacle course ending with a zip-line, a rock climbing wall, trampoline and 9 holes of putt-putt. There was an arcade, ping ping tables and a basketball court. Disney’s ship don’t have ALL of this but I wouldn’t say you’d ever run out of things to do on Disney. Disney has 1st run movies in their theaters, mid-ship detective, the Aqua-duck, a splash area, kid’s and adult pool, Mickey slide, movies playing AT THE POOL and more. The one thing I would dock NCL on is that you have to “check out” towels. It’s a pain. BUT I think NCL’s kid’s area was quieter than Disney although there are not many good spots to sit and watch your kid’s play/swim.



2. Nightly shows Disney has again. We are real suckers for Disney-themed Broadway and I like that it’s really part of your itinerary. You know where to go and what time. On NCL they had a salsa dancing show (my kids would have hated it), an a Capella group (again, my kids would have thought it was a bore), and a couple of comedy nights (a tad too much for my kids). So we dropped the kids off at the clubs from 7-10:30 every night and did the shows on our own.

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3. The bar scene can be fun! NCL has SO many options. And I think I tried them all but the ice bar  (that has a $20 fee and you get 2 drinks with that fee). We loved a bar called Headliners that had either comedy or Howl at the Moon dueling pianos.

It’s a tough call but I give them a tie


1. The hours on NCL don’t really compare to DCL. If you want to keep your kids late on NCL (past 10:30pm) you gotta pay. BUT we were exhausted most nights and ready for bed anyway.


2. The space on NCL just PALES in comparison, I can’t even put it in writing. Disney knows kids, let’s just say that.

3. The activities they had planned seemed to suffice for my kids. We spent a TON less time in the clubs on NCL than we normally do on DCL but my kids left happy after their 3.5 hours nightly. The pros of DCL is also a con depending on how you look at it. On DCL we are constantly in and out of the clubs because they offer SO many amazing classes. We see the kids less and we do a lot of travelling back and forth. So if you want more family time, maybe NCL’s clubs are a good fit!

Just gotta give Disney this one


1. No one can complain about Disney service, so this is a clear winner but NCL did hold their own. Faces were smiling and pleasant, seemingly eager to help just not as magical as Disney.

2. The ship looks immaculate. Fresh paint and carpets. Again, pretty even.

3. NCL’s Guest Services desk is right next to a bar and live entertainment area. I thought it was an odd location and found myself needing to scream over the counter to converse with them.

Disney wins, but NCL scores high

All in all I recommend NCL! I would sail them again in a heart beat and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I did love it.

I think older kids may like NCL better and obviously most couples without kids may find NCL is more their style.

Total score gives DCL a win but it was a close, close race!

If you have any further questions contact or your favorite MMP!

Need some tips on what to pack? Here are the top 5 things you need to pack for your cruise! 

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Dream Builders Foundation ~ Dreams 4 Dreamers

Dream Builders Foundation

What is Dream Builders Foundation?

“At Dream Builders, we believe that there is nothing more important than making family memories. Our memories are what we lean on in times of struggle. What we relive during moments of contemplation and what we share when talking about the “good ol’ days”.
Families facing terminal illnesses find themselves racing against a clock to build those memories that will carry on.  Parents suffering from a terminal illness find themselves dreaming of ways to give their children as many memories as they can.  That’s where Dream Builders comes in.”

What is Dream Builders Foundation’s Mission?

“To give to families, in which one of the parents are facing terminal illness and has a child (age 0 to 18 years) the gift of a dream building vacation.  A chance to escape life and just BE a family.  Building memories that will carry on within the hearts of the child.  Every family deserves the gift of a family vacation and all the memories that come with it.

We are making magic..and lightening burdens…one dream at a time!”

How can I support Dream Builders Foundation?

There are several ways you can support Dream Builders Foundation.

The first way is a one time donation. You can visit Dream Builders Website and donate directly through the site. You can even contact about making a contribution by check. You will receive a receipt for your tax deductible charitable donation. You may also want to make a donation in honor of someone.

Another way to support Dream Builders Foundation is through Amazon Smile. It is very easy. Simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile. You will select your charitable organization the first time by searching for Dream Builders Foundation. It is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From that point on, every time you go to you will be supporting Dream Builders Foundation.

Spread the word. Let others know about Dream Builders Foundation and their mission through social media. Follow Dream Builders on Facebook. Share and comment on their posts. That will help them get the word out too!

Lastly, you could do a fundraiser. If you are interested then just contact Dream Builders and they will help you get started.

As the owner of Magical Memory Planners, I support Dream Builders and their mission. We want to spread the word and bring magical memories to families that don’t have time to wait.

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New Disney Cruise Line Itineraries for Summer 2017


So much to see and do on a Disney Cruise. Check out the newest itineraries and port. Most of all, be sure to book early for the best rates and availability!!


Find out more.

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Minnie Mouse Signature iPhone 6 Wallet Case Giveaway

Want to win this fun Minnie Mouse Signature Wallet Case for iPhone 6??? Enter our Rafflecopter Giveaway April 6 – April 13, 2016.a Rafflecopter giveaway
  Minnie Mouse iPhone 6 Case Minnie Phone Case inside Minnie Phone case

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Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Shirts

Are you training for Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend? They have lots of really cool shirts and gear over at DisneyStore.Com for you but they are only available for a limited time!

Mickey Mouse runDisney Performance Tee for Women by Champion® - Mickey's Holiday 5K 2016
Mickey Mouse runDisney Performance Tee for Women by Champion® - Disney Wine and Dine 10K 2016Mickey Mouse runDisney Performance Tee for Adults by Champion® - Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2016

Which race do you want to do? See you at Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend!

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7 Reasons to Book with a RunDisney Travel Provider

7 Reasons to Book your runDisney Vacation with a runDisney Travel Provider

(Like Magical Memory Planners)


Princess Half Marathon1. As a runDisney travel provider we have guaranteed race registrations available for select races.  You do not have to worry about missing out on the specific race you were trying to get when the race goes on sale. We typically participate in Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February at Walt Disney World) and Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November at Walt Disney World). If you are interested it is great to contact us about a week before the race goes on sale at

2. We have discounted rooms and tickets included as part of your package. What does this mean for you?  You do not have to worry about a discount for your race weekend, you already have one!


runDisney3. Our MMP agent, Debi, has participated in runDisney races and can answer your questions with her personal experience and knowledge. She handles all our runDisney races.

4. We can help you make dining reservations or plans for other activities you may want to do while you are at the Walt Disney World Resort for your race.

5. We have become a travel partner with runDisney so you can believe that we will look out for your best interests.

6. If you are planning on doing any race with runDisney, make it a mini-vacation and leave the planning to us!

7. We take care of all the details.  All you have to do is train and get excited for the race!


runDisney travel providerMagical Memory Planners is a runDisney travel provider. Debi is our runDisney Specialist. She has participate in several runDisney races and has several more she is preparing for.

You can email questions or request more information from Debi at

You can also visit our website to see what runDisney races we are currently selling.


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Awaken Summer Walt Disney World Offer

Amazing new offer from Walt Disney World to Awaken Summer

Awaken Summer

So many exciting things are coming to Walt Disney World to awaken summer and you won’t want to miss it!

Travel from May 30 through August 25th to get special promotional rates AND special magic bands!!! Check out all the details and resort exclusions.

Request your FREE Quote today!!

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Disney Bargains

disney bargains

Let’s be honest, “Disney” and “bargain” don’t usually go together in the same sentence. But working with a good travel planner will help you get the best value for your vacation money. And great value and added magic make for a Disney bargain! Here are some of my favorite Disney bargains.


Harmony Barber Shop
Did you know there is a barber shop in Magic Kingdom? They offer haircuts for both children and adults and $19 for a haircut anywhere is a great value these days.

The best value here is the First Haircut package, which is only $19! It includes commemorative Mickey Ears and a certificate.

Be Our Guest Breakfast and Lunch
A meal at one of the hottest spots at Disney World is hard to come by. Reservations for Be Our Guest often fill up the day they are released! And for good reason. You can’t beat a wonderful meal with enchanting atmosphere. Eating in the Ballroom or West Wing of the Beast’s castle is truly magical!

Dinner here is pretty pricey and sure, you can find a cheaper breakfast or lunch elsewhere, but we are talking value for your money, not rock bottom lowest price here. Breakfast and lunch are both quick service dining experiences (which makes them excellent uses for your dining plan credits!). Even when you are paying out of pocket, these are a great value! The food is of exceptional quality and your meal is delivered to your table after you order on real plates with real silverware. It feels kind of like cheating and getting a table service meal for quick service prices!

Pirate’s League
When most people think of makeovers at Disney World, they immediately think of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls are transformed into Princesses. But there is another great makeover option at Magic Kingdom with great options for both boys and girls (of all ages!) with much lower prices than Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Prices for Pirates and Mermaids start at just $34.95 and $39.95, which is a great bargain when you compare it to the $59.95 starting price for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

If you are looking for a bargain makeover at Disneyland, then Anna and Elsa’s Boutique in Downtown Disney is perfect! It is only $34.95 for a beautiful makeover that includes hair, makeup, nail polish, and a crown for kids ages 3-15. They also have a really cute Olaf makeover!

Pirate Adventure Cruises
Since we’re talking about pirate bargains already… here’s another! The Pirate Adventure Cruises are fantastic bargains. These are kids only adventures for kids ages 4 through 12. The Disney Cast Members do a great job leading these adventures and for only $37 your child gets a fun pirate adventure and a snack and you get two hours of kid-free time to shop, relax by the pool, or sneak off to ride some rides on your own! Bargain.

Cape May Cafe
Character meals tend to be some of the most expensive at Disney World. But one of my favorite character meals is actually a Disney bargain as well! If you will be paying out of pocket, then breakfast at Cape May Cafe is a bargain for a character breakfast. The prices generally run about $28 for adults and $17 for children. The breakfast buffet here is incredible (and includes Mickey waffles!) and you will get to meet Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in their beachwear.

Children’s Activity Centers
Want to go on a date night while you are at Disney World? There are many wonderful dining experiences that would make for a fabulous date night. And you can leave the kids (ages 3-12) to enjoy their own fun night at one of the Children’s Activity Centers. These cost $15 per hour with a 2 hour minimum and include dinner and snacks for your child. Considering the going rate for a baby sitter, knowing your child is having a blast at Disney World while you have some kid-free fun of your own, this is a bargain. There is a special program at the Sandcastle Club (Beach Club) and Lilo’s Clubhouse (Polynesian) that includes special programs, dinner, and snacks from 4:30pm-12am for a flat rate of $55 per child.

Memory Maker
Okay, I know most people wouldn’t consider something that costs $149 to be a bargain, but when you consider value, it truly is!

Memory Maker includes every photo that a Disney Photopass Photographer takes of you at Disney World. This means that all the ride photos and videos, character meet and greet photos, meal photos, and any photo you stop and have taken is included. Even when I go for only a few days, I always leave with 300-500 photos from our vacation there. And the best part is everyone is in the pictures! It’s like having personal photographers for your family vacation. Considering one 4×6 print is $14.95, $149 for hundreds of photos is definitely a bargain! Be sure to pre-purchase Memory Maker or you will pay $50 more if you decide to buy it after your trip.

PhotoPass+ at Disneyland wins the photo package bargain award, though at only $69 for the pre-purchase! Granted, there aren’t quite as many photo ops since it is a smaller resort, but we still left with 300+ photos from our vacation there in June. Bargain!

Chip n Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along
Now this truly is a bargain as it if free! Fort Wilderness hosts a campfire sing-along where you can play and dance with Chip and Dale (who are always so silly!), make s’mores, and sing songs. You can bring your own s’mores fixin’s or buy them there for around $10.

Lego Store at Disney Springs
One last freebie for you! The Lego Store at Disney Springs has bins full of Legos to play with for free! You’ll find a nice shaded play area right outside the store where your kids can play and you can sit and rest (there’s a Starbucks nearby where you can grab a drink).

Disney Resorts
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I consider to be one of the best Disney bargains! Most people assume that staying off-site will always save them money, but that if often not the case. Once you factor in other expenses such as a car rental or airport transfers, resort fees, parking fees, and paying for all your meals out of pocket, off-site resorts often end up the same price or even more expensive than Disney resorts. Here are some of the things that make a Disney resort stay a bargain:

  • Free airport transfers via Disney’s Magical Express (and the magic starts before you even get to Disney World!)
  • Free parking at the resort and parks for the duration of your stay
  • Free MagicBands! That is such a fun package to receive in the mail!
  • Free transportation to the parks/your resort that comes about every 10 minutes (most off-site hotels are every 3-4 hours)
  • First pick of fastpasses, as you can select those 60 days out instead of 30 days out
  • The ability to reserve up to 10 days of dining reservations at 180 days instead of one day at a time
  • Savings on your dining experiences by being able to take advantage of one of the Disney Dining Plans
  • Free package delivery to your room (great for shopping in the parks)
  • The attention to detail and customer service you expect from Disney
  • The ability to book your vacation package with just a $200 deposit so you can make payments instead of spending a large amount all at once

Magical Memory Planners
And, finally, the BEST Disney bargain of them all. You just can’t beat FREE concierge travel planning services for your Disney vacation! We will help put together the perfect vacation for your family, remind you of key dates, make dining reservations for you, and more. Contact us for a free quote and let’s start planning your magical vacation!


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