The 5 Safest Caribbean Islands – Part 1: Barbados

Are you dreaming of trading gray skies, cold temps, snow, and winter blahs for sun-soaked white sand beaches?

Well you are in luck! The recent research study, Wrath of Diseases by LetsGetChecked, a health insights company, identified five Caribbean Islands that are among the safest places to travel world wide.

I’ll be featuring an island for the next 5 newsletters so that when you are ready to get back out there, you’ll be a step ahead in planning your next vacation.

First stop – beautiful Barbados! Here are 5 reasons to visit Barbados.

1. It’s one of the warmer and sunnier islands in the region. Barbados is in the southern Caribbean and is closer to the coast of Venezuela than Florida. Dec-May is dry season so rain will typically not dampen beach combing or adventure seeking vacationers. Jan-Apr when the temperatures are most comfortable. Barbados’ eastern location puts it just outside of the main hurricane zone. Another great time to go is during the Crop Over Festivals in July and August, a traditional celebration tied to the sugarcane harvests of the past.

2. Barbados has something for everyone. It is perfect for multigenerational family reunions, girlfriend getaways, and couple retreats. Along the calmer west and southern coasts are beautiful white sand beach resorts. Adventure seekers can visit the east coast for surfing and other high-energy, wave riding activities. Visiting the abundant natural wonders of Barbados provides a change of pace between sun-worshipping sessions on the beach.

Noteworthy sites include historical and natural attractions. A must do is visiting the garrison in Bridgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Harrison’s Cave provides a unique subterranean Caribbean island experience, a favorite of my husband and me while visiting during our honeymoon. Barclay’s Park, Andromeda Gardens, and the Barbados Wildlife Reserve are also great family-friendly places to visit.

3. Sample British culture and traditions without having to hop across the Atlantic. Barbados was colonized by England in 1672 and gained independence in 1966. It is part of the British Commonwealth and is often called “Little England” because of its afternoon tea tradition, cricket matches, neat little gardens, and stone parish churches.

4. Barbados has a well-developed tourist infrastructure. Barbados is one of the region’s most economically and politically stable countries. It’s ready to roll out the red carpet and pamper you and your family with ease and charm. The modern Barbados airport hosts large airliners originating from Miami, San Juan, and other major hubs flying into the Caribbean region. Barbados is a major cruise stop. Its deep-water port can accommodate the largest cruise ships. Lodging ranges from large all-inclusive resorts to small privately-owned villas.

5. The flying fish and bearded fig trees of course! Barbados has long been called the Land of the Flying Fish because of the abundance of flying fish around the island and because its the national dish. And one last tidbit before I let you go – the name of the island was derived from the Spanish word for beard due to the abundance of bearded fig trees.

Continue your tropical escape break with this sneak peak of beautiful Barbados at:

Aerial Tour of Barbados

Now is the BEST time to snag a great travel value as the industry gears up for 2021 with my $50 booking bonus on top of any other great cruise line and resort specials I can find for you.

Schedule your complimentary Tropical Island Escape Planning Session at

Leah Goerke, Travel Agent
Caribbean Family Cruises Travel Agency

Disclaimer: Conditions worldwide are changing rapidly. Information in this newsletter might have changed since published. Before traveling to Barbados, check the latest travel conditions and protocols at these links:

Barbados Tourism Board

World Health Organization

Center for Disease Control

The 5 Questions You Need to Ask to Avoid Common Cruise-Planning Mistakes

Time to fly the coop! Reignite your sense of adventure, reenergize your marriage, and reconnect with your family on an epic Caribbean cruise. The possibilities are endless and easily tailored to meet your unique empty nesting needs. While the cruise lines are busy at work getting their ships back out to sea, now is the BEST time to book and snag a phenomenal deal on your dream cruise vacation.

Here are five essential questions you need to answer before booking your cruise so you don’t wind up accidentally making a rookie mistake. (I’ll show you how to avoid these mistakes, as well!):

  • 1. Which cruise line is the best fit for my/our needs? Cruise lines differ greatly. Some are perfect for romantic couples’ getaways. Others cater to seniors or to children. And girlfriend getaway needs might drive another type of cruise line. Some cruise lines are offering single cabins for solo adventures without having to pay an extra fee. These solo cabins are perfect for renewing and rediscovering yourself after the kids have left home. Some offer amenities that are exactly what you’re looking for; others might not.

    It’s okay to take your time comparing cruise lines and seeing which ones will offer the most of what you want at a great value. Don’t be afraid to shop around! I’ve been on 25 cruises and can advise you on the “personalities” of the cruise lines. Each one has a different vibe and I can help you find the right fit for your needs.

  • 2. Have I read ALL the fine print? I know, I know. It’s not the most fun part about planning a trip of any kind. But cruises are a big investment of both time and money. It’s really important to understand what you are signing up for. Are there additional fees? What is expected of you in terms of a payment schedule? How early do you need to arrive? What is the refund or rescheduling policy? Some cruise lines fares are “all inclusive” and include excursions and drinks, some do not. Know what you are getting for your vacation investment. Make sure you’ve got it dialed so there are no surprises and your trip can go smoothly.

  • 3. How picky do I want to be about our cabin? Again, consider your needs. And beyond that — think about what would be the most fun! If you’re uneasy in enclosed spaces, consider that an inside cabin might not be a good choice. Notice where the cabins are located on the ship — high traffic areas? Engine noise? Anchor drop? You don’t have to spring for a luxury suite unless you want to, but cabin choice is one area where a little extra can make a huge difference in the overall enjoyment and restfulness of your trip. Some of the newer ships have unique cabins like the staterooms in Royal Caribbean Oasis Class Central Park section…yes the picture above was taken on a cruise ship!

  • 4. Have I solidified our meal plans and shore excursions within plenty of time before our departure? This is a big one. Most cruise lines offer a wide variety of dining options — fixed time in a dining area, non-fixed seating, casual and upscale options. The rules and expectations are different for each. Some require reservations; some don’t; some have dress codes; some don’t. Make sure you nail this down early. Especially if you’re cruising with kids, the last thing you want is to be scrambling for a meal at the last minute.

    Same goes with shore excursions: research well and book early. Find out what is required in terms of transport and physical exertion for each option. Read up so you know which activities are age-appropriate for the members of your group.

  • 5. Do I have a plan for regular, thorough hand washing? There will be an ample supply of hand sanitizers and hand washing stations throughout the ship. Make sure you are utilizing these stations at regular intervals throughout the day, and not just before and after meals and bathroom breaks. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have easy access to warm soapy water like while on a shore excursion, carry hand sanitizer with you.
Marveling at the gorgeous sunset onboard the Disney Magic

Here’s the best news of all: With a travel agent, you don’t have to answer these questions alone! I can help you pick the most suitable cruise line and go through ALL the details before you sign on the dotted line. I can give you all the inside info so you can choose the best cabin, help you figure out when and where you want to eat, what you want to see and do, and I can help you create a packing list that will keep you safe and well-supplied. 

Time to fly the coop! Schedule your 30 min over-the-phone Fly the Coop session at a time that is most convenient to you by clicking BOOK MY SESSION.

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5 Money-Saving Smartphone Apps for your Family Summer Vacation

As you get ready to emerge out of staying at home these past few months, and embark on your summer family vacation, here’s a quick list of smartphone apps that can help you get organized, find great deals, and save you money along the way.

1.   Waze – Whether your trip involves a lot of road travel, or you just want to find a faster way to get to places in your own city, consider Waze. Recently purchased by Google, it uses social media input to give real-time updates on traffic situations. So, for example, if there’s a game downtown in the city you’re visiting, as you’re trying to navigate that same area to get to a restaurant, Waze will let you know where the jams are so you can avoid the tangle and the time (and fuel) wasted waiting for game-goers.

2.   GasBuddy – GasBuddy is another app that takes advantage of the constant updates and interaction of crowdsourcing. People input gas prices and keep an eye out for low prices, so users can quickly and easily search for gas stations nearby and compare prices to ensure the best deal in their area.

3.   TripIt Travel planner – Reservations, tickets, events, meetings, personal gathering with friends or family — you can basically have all the important details of your trip at your fingertips, all in one convenient place. You know all those confirmation emails that you get from hotels, airlines, car rental services and the like — the ones you frantically search for in your Inbox the night before you leave on a vacation? As your travel agent, I can simply send all these emails along to, which will then magically generate a digital itinerary that you can refer to on your mobile device. It also provides weather info and maps of your destinations. You can add multiple trips to TripIt if you’re a frequent traveler, or just use it for a single vacation. All the services described above are free, or you can upgrade to a paid version for even more cushy service and alerts.

4.   Around Me — Ever find yourself in an unfamiliar city, and you just want a decent cup of coffee or a place to buy an extra toothbrush? This application tells you all the points of interest that are located near you. It detects your current location, and lets you select from categories like bars, cafés, hospitals, pharmacies, and hotels to filter though the results.

5.   Road Trippers — This is a fun travel tool made for the iPhone as an app, but that is also available via mobile web so you can use it with Android, Blackberry, and other smartphone platforms. Here’s how it works: you type in your starting and destination points and it tells you distance, time and estimated gas costs. This is great for day trips — think of a great tour of Napa while staying in San Francisco (or vice versa!). While the distance-finding feature in itself isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, RoadTrippers goes one better and tells you about all of the attractions worth seeing along the way, from the obvious to the wonderfully ridiculous.

There are tons of apps to explore, of course, and this is just a glimpse — but these should add some fun and help you plan and save a few dollars. Let’s put these apps through their paces during your next vacation! Click here to schedule your complimentary over the phone Vacation Planning Session at a time that is most convenient for you via my online scheduler.

Leah Goerke

Travel Deals in the In-Between Holiday Time

Beach locations are a nice place to get travel deals during off peak seasons.

Merry Thanksmas! Start a new family tradition AND grab some sweet travel deals.

Missed your Spring Break or summer vacation because of COVID-19? Check out these tips to grab GREAT travel deals for your next family vacation.

Go off-peak for bigger savings. The days right before and right after major holidays tend to be the busiest and most expensive. So opt for off-peak and you can save considerably, sometimes 25-50% off. A great time to take advantage of low rates and find great travel deals are the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the week after New Year’s Day. 

Beach locations are a nice place to get travel deals during off peak seasons.

If you have some flexibility with your holiday plans — or if you have adventurous family members who would love to establish a new tradition of spending time together — put me on the hunt for some fabulous off-peak travel deals by clicking here to schedule your free 30-min over the phone Vacation Planning Session.

Off-peak travel deals also apply to destinations, not just travel times. Consider this advice from Tim Leffel, author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations:

Cities that regularly host conventions can be good places to find last-minute hotel deals over the holidays. Sometimes you can find a last-minute deal in cities like Orlando or Las Vegas just because there are so many hotels to fill and no conventions going on (at this time of year).

Locations where conventions are held are nice places to get travel deals during off peak times.

And for beachside lounging, don’t limit yourself to Florida. Consider sandy (and cheaper) spots in other warm destinations along the Georgia and Texas coastlines, including towns like Tybee Island near Savannah and Galveston. Many hotel rooms in Galveston sell at or below $100 per night in November and December.

Consider a vacation rental. Especially at resorts, prices can be as steep as the slopes. If you’re willing to drive a few extra minutes, you can often rent a larger space for much cheaper. There are hot travel deals available on luxury apartments, homes, condos, and cottages. Other advantages: your own space, more room for larger families or groups, no noisy hotel patrons to keep you up. For help scouting out the perfect space for your family or group, schedule a phone chat with me by replying to this email.

Don’t rule out Europe for a pre- or post-holiday escape. Travel Channel author Valerie Connors says, “During the winter, roundtrip flights to Europe can be as much as 20% cheaper than during summer months, when hordes of travelers descend on popular European cities like Paris, London and Rome. In winter these same cities can be blissfully quiet, with short or no lines to enter major attractions like the Louvre or St. Peter’s Basilica.” Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

European locations are nice places to get travel deals during off peak seasons.

Working with a travel professional is one of the best ways to get great travel deals for your dream family vacation!  I would love to help you plan your perfect getaway. Schedule your complimentary 30-minute over the phone Vacation Planning Session with me today. 

Leah Goerke, Travel Agent

Five Incredible Island Destinations for your Family Escape

I hope you and your family are staying safe while we all weather this COVID-19 storm. The silver lining in these storm clouds is that this is a fantastic time to start planning and preparing for your family escape from many weeks of staying isolated. Six to twelve months is the optimal time to start looking for that perfect place and finding the right fit for your family.

The travel industry is offering incredible deals for a limited time to help it bounce back so if you book now to travel at the end of this year or early next year, I can help you get incredible deals and possibly some free upgrades. Here are five dream destinations to jumpstart your planning.

1. Fiji. For the ultimate tropical fantasy, check out FijiWith over 300 separate islands — many of them almost completely untouched — this place really has it all.  Pamper yourself in a luxurious resort. Take a walk through one of the world’s largest Asian orchid collections. Visit the shores where Tom Hanks taught himself to fish and create fire in Castaway. Submerge yourself in the breathtaking wonderland of exotic fish, gorgeous coral, and crystal clear waters with snorkeling and scuba diving.

2. Great Barrier Reef, AustraliaFor a snorkeling adventure that will stay with you for a lifetime, you can’t beat the Great Barrier Reef in Australia .This is the place for your family if they crave something a little wild, a little rugged, and completely original. The Great Barrier Reef is unparalleled is its sheer magnitude. Head for one of the 74 Whitsunday Islands or take in a sea plane tour of the heart-shaped Hardy Lagoon.

3. San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. What if tropical isn’t your family’s bag? If you prefer milder temps, old-growth forests, a laid-back approach to life, cozy B&Bs and Craftsman-era resorts why not consider a getaway to the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound?Here you can kayak along dramatic shorelines, watch the orcas migrating in magnificent pods, hike pristine forests with towering evergreens and a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, take in the beauty of a lavender farm, or sail among the tree-covered islands to watch dolphins and whales play in the cool waters. Travel among the islands is easy, and you can even take a day trip to the gorgeous Canadian island of Victoria. 

4. Corsica. If you’re looking for something unique in the Mediterranean, book an adventure on Corsica. The birthplace of Napoleon and part of France, this island retains its fierce cultural independence, and the result is a marvelous blend of Italian and French cultures, wine, food, and language. The emerald waters of the north and the dramatic rocky cliffs of Bonifacio in the south, which drop precipitously into the ocean, will take your breath away. This is a place filled with small private alcoves and turquoise waters, and accommodations from luxury resorts to charming hotels run by generations of Corsicans. You can hike or drive in rugged interior mountains, sample cheeses and honey cultivated in 400-year-old traditions, and there is plenty for your family to see, do, and experience.

5. BelizeOften overlooked in favor of more famous places, Belize is only two hours from Miami and boasts some of the most pristine shoreline in the world. Cayo Espanto, just off the coast of Belize, has bungalows set 150 feet out in the water, that feature glass floors through which you can view the colorful and varied sea life. If your family is feeling adventurous, you can explore ancient Mayan ruins on the mainland — or you can simply while away the hours overlooking the cerulean waves from your seaside bungalow on beautiful Cayo Espanto. 

If you love the idea of an island getaway but need help finding just the perfect destination for your family vacation, let’s set up a time to chat! There are a million locales and one of them is ready to welcome you and your family back to the exciting world of travel. 

Not sure where to start? Grab your free Busy Family’s Guide to Vacation Planning.

  • Follow this step by step guide for planning a get-away to refresh, recharge, and re-energize your family.
  • Discover vacation planning tips that will save you stress and time.
  • Learn how to get deep discounts when planning multigenerational family groups.

Healthy Traveling

Whether you’re traveling across town for a staycation or across the world to a dream destination, being informed and taking precautions are essential. Seasoned travelers know this. They also know that in most cases, the risks pale in comparison to all there is to gain from getting out and seeing the wide world. Here are four tips to follow when planning your vacation.

1. Get the facts. Before any trip make sure you are up to date on the latest regional information. Consult reputable sources to get scientifically backed and up-to-date information. Here are the three sources I check before traveling:

U.S. State Department:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

World Health Organization:

2. Get vaccinated and bring medications. Check the sources above for required vaccinations. Some vaccines are part of a series that must be taken over weeks or months. If you take medications, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. And if you need any special accommodations — wheelchair access, for example — be sure to tell your travel agent so he or she can alert the staff at your destination(s) to ensure you get the best care possible.

3. Get insurance. Check your health insurance policy for what is covered while you are traveling. Travel insurance might be necessary to cover any emergencies or unexpected medical expenses, especially if a medical visit is required abroad or transportation is necessary from the trip location to back home.

4. Get healthy habits. Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and water often, especially before eating. If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Try to avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, stay home or in your hotel room unless you need medical care.

COVID-19 Update

Many travelers have been concerned about recent reports of the novel corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. While we don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, your best defense is the best information. Here’s a brief summary of information from the CDC website. Check it for any updates while planning your trip.

The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are within 6 feet with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to take everyday preventive actions, like avoiding close contact with people who are sick and washing your hands often. There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms.

As of 8 March 2020, the CDC recommends avoiding nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should also consider postponing nonessential travel to Japan.

Trip Reports

I travel frequently and am constantly staying abreast of the latest updates from the CDC, WHO, and U.S. State Department. As a travel agent, I am also in close contact with travel suppliers and checking websites of various worldwide destinations.

My husband and I just got back from a Disney Caribbean cruise to Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay last month. Check out my blog post below for a full report.

I’ll be blogging and sharing Facebook posts to give you an insider’s perspective of these fantastic locations:

31 March – 3 April: Willamette Valley wine tasting – Portland, OR

31 May – 4 June: Uniglobe Travel Center Conference – Orlando, FL

13-20 July: Biltmore Estate wedding – Asheville, NC

2-12 September: Irish Discovery tour – Ireland

20-27 December: Royal Caribbean cruise – Eastern Caribbean

Let’s get started on your next vacation. Book your 30 minute over-the-phone Vacation Planning Session and receive your free Busy Family’s Guide to Vacation Planning

Top 7 reasons to book a Disney family cruise

1. Disney fans of all ages will thoroughly enjoy interacting with Disney character favorites and sporting their favorite Disney apparel. My favorite part of our recent Disney cruise was being able to interact with so many beloved Disney characters without having to wait in long lines. Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto, and Goofy roamed the ship throughout the day and into the late-night hours. Marvel characters made an appearance during our first day at sea aptly named the “Marvel Day at Sea” and were present for the remainder of the cruise. I missed taking pictures with a few of my favorites towards the end of our cruise. Luckily during our last evening on the ship, I just happened to be hanging out before the “Till We Meet Again” event on Deck 4 midship. I was able to take 4 pictures in less than 15 minutes – score! It was so much fun being part of the character experience wearing my rose gold Minnie ears and sporting my Disney apparel. I wish I would have planned a bit better and brought outfits for the Marvel Day at Sea and Pirate Day at Sea. Many families were decked out in costumes (note: masks covering the face and any costume items resembling guns, knives, or weapons will not be allowed onboard the ship).

2. The cabins are family friendly with unique and thoughtful features. Our Disney Magic cabin at 184 square feet was one of the roomiest inside staterooms we’ve ever had. In addition to the sleeping area, there was a large sitting room, and a tub/shower combination in the bathroom – a great feature for bathing little ones before bedtime. Another thoughtful touch was the divider curtains that could be drawn to separate the sleeping area with the rest of the room which came in handy when I had to wake up earlier than my husband for a ship activity. Our cabin was beautifully decorated in dark blue, maroon, and white Disney colors with a touch of Mickey here and there. I usually ask for the little annoying table in the sitting area on other cruise ships to be removed but our table was large enough to function as a coffee table I elected to keep it in our room.

3. Entertainment line-up is outstanding. Our five-day cruise had three Disney-themed musicals. These Broadway-quality shows were perfectly cast, imaginatively designed, and had me singing along to my favorite Disney tunes. Twice Charmed was based on a reimagined version of Cinderella. Tangled the Musical was shown the second night. The last and best musical, Disney Dreams, incorporated iconic Disney storylines and characters. I was so immersed at this point of the cruise that I was blissfully belting out my favorite tunes with the rest of the cruisers. Disney movies were running all day in two large theaters, the main Walt Disney Theater on Deck 4 and the Buena Vista Theater on Deck 5. On this cruise, there were multiple showings of several movies including Frozen II, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, and Avengers: Endgame. Another “theater” was the pool deck and a huge outdoor screen mounted on one of the fake funnels. Animated movies are continuously shown on this venue aptly named the Funnel Vision. Marvel Day at Sea and Pirates IN the Caribbean Day at Sea culminated in shows on Deck 9 complete with fireworks. Absolutely do not miss out on the smaller but fun Star Spangled USO Show in the Fathoms lounge featuring Captain America.

4. Your family will love the unique Disney dining model. We rotated between three fancifully decorated dining rooms with the same table mates and servers. The three main dining rooms on the Disney Magic were Lumiere’s beautifully decorated with key elements from Beauty and the Beast; Rapunzel’s Royal Table with a Tangled theme, and Animator’s Palate that covered the waterfront of popular Disney characters.  As we dined, there was entertainment in Animator’s Palate and Rapunzel’s Table. The food was absolutely delicious. Our favorites were the rack of lamb and Black Forest cake dessert in Rapunzel’s Table; butternut squash soup, tuna steak with Bernaise sauce, and lemon icebox pie in Animator’s Palate; and the escargot and Ahi tuna salad in Lumiere’s. Each dining venue had its own separate menu which changed after our first visit. For our 5-day cruise, we dined in Lumiere’s two nights, and one night each in Animator’s Palate Rapunzel’s Royal Table. For our third night we would have dined in Lumiere’s but we elected to visit Palo, the Italian specialty restaurant. If you enjoyed a dish from a previous rotation and it is served that day, you could request it in your current dining room. We loved the Black Forest cake in Rapunzel’s Royal Table so much that we asked for it again the next evening when we dined in Lumiere’s.

5. The children’s programs are outstanding. There were three children’s programs – Oceaneer Lab and Club from ages 3-12; The Edge for kids from ages 11-15; and The Vibe from ages 14-17. The older kids’ programs were on the upper decks close to the pool and two water slides. Oceaneer Lab and Club were on the 5th deck near the Buena Vista Theater and convenient to Deck 4 midship, the main character interaction area. A cool feature was that each of the kid’s programs had open house periods where parents and kids could utilize all three areas regardless of age category. The It’s a Small World Nursery was for babies and toddlers younger than 3. Services were available for a fee. The pool area was amazing. The “centerpieces” were the two fake ship funnels that house two ginormous water slides, the Aqua Dunk and Twist and Spout. There was a water park and splash area for the smaller kids to enjoy.

6. Adult-only sections of the ship offered relaxation, peace, and quiet. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of activities and areas that catered to adults. The Cove is an area on the ship with a separate pool, bar, and two whirlpools for adults. Only cruisers 18 years old or above were permitted to stay in this area. The Cove Café served free snacks and espresso beverages and drinks for an extra fee. The Senses Spa was conveniently located on the same deck adjacent to the Cove. The Rainforest in the the spa was one of my favorite areas. This oasis had five heated tile loungers, aromatherapy steam room, mild steamroom, and three themed rain showers and was only accessible to cruisers 18 years old or above. We had to pay for our access passes but it was well worth it. There were a limited number of passes so I never had to wait for a lounger or to use any of the showers. The large and nicely outfitted fitness center was located in the spa area and includes showers in the dressing rooms. There was no fee to work out and use these areas. I often elected to start the day with a shower in the ladies dressing room to avoid juggling bathroom time in our cabin. Just off the Walt Disney Theater, there are 3 bars. Our favorite was O’Gill’s Pub that hosted trivia events, happy hour snacks and drink specials.

7. Castaway Cay is a fantastic beach with different zones to please every member of the family. Many family groups completed the event together. It was a fun and relaxed event with runners, joggers, and walkers enjoying the route. After changing into my bathing suit and taking a quick rinse under an outdoor shower, I took the tram to the adult-only area, Serenity Bay. It was so secluded and peaceful. I didn’t have a problem securing two loungers, an umbrella, and two beach chairs. The water was surrealistically several shades of blue and perfect temperature. The water was shallow enough to wade out to an offshore sandbar. The swimming area was very well marked and a lifeguard was vigilantly watching swimmers in Serenity Bay and the main area of Castaway Cay. In Serenity Bay, lunch included prime rib which is not offered in the dining venues on the family side of Castaway Cay. For families, there were a number of activities. Boat rentals, bike rentals, snorkeling gear, and float rentals were available.  Scuttle’s Cove offered supervised children’s programs. Cookie’s BBQ and Cookies Too BBQ offered lunch. In the snorkeling lagoon my husband saw a small sunken boat and got to shake Mickey’s hand underwater. There were three shops selling Castaway Cay logo merchandise and Bahamian arts and crafts.

Ready to start planning your magical Disney Cruise getaway? Schedule your 30 minute over-the-phone Disney cruise Vacation Planning Session using my online scheduler to find at time that is convenient for you.
Planning a family vacation? A Disney cruise is perfect for families with members of all ages! Grab your free Busy Family’s Guide to Vacation Planning.
  • Follow this step by step guide for planning vacations to refresh, recharge and reconnect with your family.
  • Discover vacation planning tips that will save you stress and time.
  • Learn how to get deep discounts when traveling with multi-generational family groups.

First day experiences on our Disney Magic cruise

  1. Disney welcomes you like royalty. It’s Disney’s attention to details that will make your family feel welcome, treasured, and appreciated.I knew it was going to be a different cruise experience when an exuberant crew member announced “Disney Magic – help me welcome the Goerke family” on the ship-wide loudspeaker. Every family boarding the ship was announced so efficiently that the boarding process was not delayed. What a wonderful welcome to start off our 5-day cruise to Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay!

2. We dined on cracked crab claws and shrimp cocktail in the lunch buffet. You’ll feel pampered on Day 1 in the Cabanas buffet. After sailing on 25 cruises with 5 different cruise lines, I’ve never experienced such a delightful Embarkation Day buffet as the one provided in Cabanas. Cracked crab claws and shrimp cocktail were just a few of the surprisingly sumptuous the selections. We cruised in February so the lines were minimal, especially since we timed our buffet visit when the rest of the guests were making a beeline for their cabins when they were opened for access at 1:30pm.

3. Cabanas is closed for dinner during Embarkation Day. Disney cruises utilize a unique dining model where families rotate between three different main dining rooms each day. So to jumpstart the process, Cabanas, the buffet dining venue, is not open for dinner on Embarkation Day. The only eateries open for dinner on Embarkation Day are the three main dining rooms, Lumiere’s, Animator’s Palate, and Rapunzel’s Royal Table; Palo, the adult-only dining room (reservations required); and Duck-in Diner, a casual counter service eatery.

4. Our interior stateroom was very spacious. The interior staterooms are nicely appointed and roomy. It’s just my husband and me on this cruise. So we opted for an interior stateroom. I was pleasantly surprised with the spaciousness of this room. There is an ample sitting area in addition to the sleeping area. Both sections can be partitioned off with a curtain so that if you have a little one taking a nap or settling down in the sleeping area, you can still use the bathroom and sitting area. The bathroom has a shower/tub bathing area which is great for bathing little ones. The tub also enlarges the shower area – a plus if you’re use to the teeny showers on on other cruise lines.

5. We jumpstarted our relaxation in the Rainforest thermal suite. Drop off the kids at the Small World Nursery, Oceaneer Club, Edge, or Vibe and treat yourself to a relaxing retreat. The Rainforest is a fully outfitted thermal suite with 5 heated loungers, 3 themed rainforest showers, and 2 steam rooms. The Rainforest isn’t broadly advertised…at least I did not see it in the cruise information online, nor was a pass offered online prior to the cruise. My husband and I signed up during Embarkation Day because cruise-length passes are limited.

6. There are free Coca Cola drinks. Most cruise lines charge for soda. On the Disney Magic, Coca Cola products are dispensed for free at the various beverage locations throughout the ship.

7. We enjoyed a magical Broadway musical quality show. If you are a Disney fanatic, you will LOVE the shows. The casting is fantastic, story lines are new and fresh, and music/dancing/singing are first class. I’ve seen a few Broadway musicals and the reimagined version of Cinderella “Twice Charmed” did not disappoint.

Our first day was truly magical. I can’t want to see what is next! Already know that you want to take your family on a Disney cruise? Schedule your free over-the-phone Vacation Planning Session using my online scheduler to find a time that is convenient for you.

Ready to start planning your magical Disney family cruise? Get started with my free Busy Woman’s Guide to Family Vacation Planning.

Discover your travel profile for your perfect getaway.

There are, of course, thousands of possible trips out there. There are plenty of great trips to choose from — and then there are trips that are great for you. Being honest about what you want and need and getting to know your own personal travel profile can save you from the but-it-looked-great-on-paper trip disappointment.

Here are a few simple things that can help you better understand your unique and personal travel profile:

  • Make a quick list of the twenty most fun memories you have of trips you’ve taken in your lifetime. Notice if there are any themes. While you don’t necessarily need (or even want) each vacation to be a carbon copy of things you’ve already done, you can use those larger themes to guide your planning of future trips. That way, if you decide to step out a little from your comfort zone, you’ll at least have a solid idea of what makes the most meaningful moments for you. Is it time with friends or family? A certain type of weather or geography? Certain activities? Quiet time? When you can build some of these elements into your travel, you’re more likely to come home energized and restored.
  • What do you like to do to relax, unwind, have fun, or re-energize when you’re not on vacation? Do you like to be still or active? Quiet or surrounded by crowds? Scheduled or free-form and spontaneous? Simplicity or luxury? Inside or outside? These might seem like silly questions — but you’d be surprised how often people book vacations that are filled with activities or set at a pace that they otherwise don’t really enjoy. It’s possible that you’ll love a week of biking in Tuscany even though you’d never go cycling at home — but more likely you’ll be tired, saddle-sore, and wishing for a car. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try new activities every now and then; there’s plenty of room for new adventures on trips. Just make sure that you incorporate new activities in small bites — say, an afternoon bike tour with plenty of stops — to see if it’s something you’d genuinely like more of. 
  • What is the purpose of your trip? What do you want to take away? Part of what makes travel so amazing is its capacity to broaden and deepen our cultural, relational, and emotional horizons. Are you looking to create tons of new memories with your kids? Are you hunting for the perfect gift(s)? Maybe you’d like to immerse yourself in a new culture and language, or do a service-oriented trip that allows you to give to others while you’re getting an invaluable adventure. Plan your trip around the kind of experience and emotional takeaway you’re looking for.
  • Do you prefer to be in control, or are you happier when someone else is at the helm? This can be a huge factor in overall enjoyment of a trip. Sometimes people think they’d love to be in charge of everything — but when faced with the reality of hundreds of details that need taking care of before, during, and even after a trip, the fun gets sapped right out of the vacation. When you work with me, you can create the best balance of autonomy and assistance in order to maximize the fun, adventure, and relaxation on your trip.

When you take a little time to get to know how you travel best, your vacation can be more than just fun; it can actually be fulfilling. And you can come home refreshed, energized, and brimming with great new memories.

Are you ready to start planning your incredible vacation experience? Get started with your free Busy Woman’s Guide to Family Vacation Planning.

Ready to re-ignite your sense of adventure and fly the coop? Book your 30-minute complimentary Fly the Coop Session, held over-the-phone, by using my online scheduler to find a time that is convenient for you.