Visiting Puerto Vallarta with Disney Cruise Line

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


 
The Mexican Riviera has always been on my bucket list ever since I memorized the pronunciations of the various ports of call of the 70s show "Love Boat."  So when the Disney Cruise Line folks told me that we were going to film in Puerto Vallarta, I felt like someone had just handed over "Julie McCoy's" job to me.  So, take a look at my best impression of the bouncy cruise director in this Disney Cruise Line video (which first appeared on the Disney Parks Blog), and remember...it was about 90 degrees in the shade that day.  Yes, I'm drenched in real sweat and the salsa kicked the temperature up a notch, too!


Very Pinteresting!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

As millions are, I am addicted to Pinterest.  Instead of reading a book on my bedside table at night, I now curl up with my laptop or iPhone before I go to bed and scroll through recipes, organizing tips, decorating ideas, style suggestions and inspiring quotes and images.  My daughter and I have laughed, coo-ed and raised interested eyebrows at countless images, and I love the way that bloggers and social-media savvy sites are using Pinterest to forward business and causes.  For me, it remains a great resource, and on occasion, I thought I would "round-up" a few of my favorite pins, and if you'd like to follow me on Pinterest, you can find these boards under "AndiAnswers:"

 
weknowawesome.com
livinglocurto.com
ourbestbites.com

Disney Cruise to the Mexican Riviera: Culture

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sail with my family and me as we explore the Mexican Riviera aboard the Disney Wonder.  Nothing says "Viva La Mexico" quite like a fiesta, sombreros and a shot of tequila.  Verdad?

TravelingMom.com -- So Much More Than A Travel Site

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Almost a year ago, I joined a bloggers' network, TravelingMom.com, after I met its founder Kim Orlando on board the Disney Dream as the Disney Cruise Mom on the Disney Moms Panel.  I was instantly intrigued by the thought of travel writing beyond answering pointed questions from guests.  My background as a writer and my Disney travel experience made a great fit for positioning my contributions as the site's "Disney Traveling Mom." Yet, as I delved further into the experience, I found TravelingMom.com is more than just a site for travelers.  I uncovered a treasure chest of experience, depth, talent, resources and encouragement among my fellow Traveling Moms who hail from almost every corner of the globe and who bring to the table much more than stories from the road.

The site itself is one I use for instant research on a family-friendly destination or quick hints and tips on family travel. Yet, if you dive deeper in, you'll see a plethora of expertise in:

And there are so many more....TravelingMom.com is 60+ bloggers strong who are travelers, writers, TV producers, radio personalities, authors, comedians, runners, health and beauty experts, web designers...and the list goes on and on and on.  With each woman wearing dozens of hats each, the roles are seemingly endless.  So, head over to TravelingMom.com for quick research or to plan your next travel experience with your family...there's bound to be an expert for what you're looking for who has been there, done that and has completed all the homework for you.

Here are a few of my latest posts on TravelingMom.com as Disney Traveling Mom:

As a blogger for TravelingMom.com, I receive a solo trip once each year to a retreat destination -- which happens to be on board the Disney Fantasy in March 2012.  In addition, I receive regular online classes and instruction on various writing, blogging and social media topics as well as occasional products related to travel or TravelingMom.com.




Good Kids Make Bad Decisions

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Raising teenagers is hard work.  Oh, when they're little, I know firsthand that it's physically difficult.  I have a 14-month-old nephew that melts me into a puddle every time I see him, but quickly reminds me of why I'm done having babies.  Yet, the mental and emotional wear and tear of trying to prepare for life someone that is physically as big or bigger than you -- combined with the fact that he or she really doesn't buy into the fact that there's any need for instruction or correction -- is exhausting.

Recently, in my corner of the world, a group of my 17-year-old son's friends made a bad decision.  In fact, they made a series of bad decisions that cost them greatly.  Never you mind on labeling the sin or sins.  They did wrong, and as a result, these "good kids" -- leaders in the school, athletes, scholars, performers -- will suffer the consequences.  They have been "judged and sentenced" according to the proper authorities, and more than that, they are facing and will face continuous judgement from their peers at school and in the community.  They may never live down the proverbial "scarlet letter" which is attached to them because of this situation.

However, suffering right along beside them are their parents.  The boys are somewhat isolated from the whispers and stares presently, but the parents still have to face their peers at concerts, ballgames, meetings and in and around town.  Mind you, no life was taken, and no one was harmed in any way.  Yet, the embarrassment which was caused by their sons' lack of judgement hangs over these parents' heads like a cloud.

No, I don't condone what they did, and I'm not here to measure the degree of their punishment against my plumb line. Yet, what I do know is that one fact remains the same...they're still "good kids."  They are not any better or worse than my own, and my offspring are one bad decision away from the same fate (or worse).  In fact, what really should be the "talk of the town" is not what these boys did or didn't do or what judgement was handed down to them, but rather, how can we learn from this and make things better for those who come after?  After all, we all make bad decisions every day -- what we eat, how we drive, the words we say.  A combination of "little" bad decisions or even the result of not making a decision can change a life or lives forever. None of us are pure, holy and set apart -- and our apples didn't fall far from their trees either.

So, the next time you look down your nose at the toddler having a "come apart" at the grocery store or hear of a teenaged girl expecting a child, just say a little prayer for that child and parent dealing with that crisis.  Ask God to give you the strength to offer encouragement instead of judgement.  Then, take it as a supernatural reminder to pray for those with whom God has entrusted you.  We are all but a breath away from sin.

Top 5 Kids' Activities on a Disney Ship

Friday, January 27, 2012

My friend, Natali Morris, takes you on another ship-wide tour of Disney Cruise Line to show you the Top 5 kids' activities on a Disney ship.  Look closely...you may see several of mine enjoying the youth spaces on board!  What's your kids' favorite places and spaces on a Disney ship?
 


Help Needed for Latest Alabama Tornado Victims

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Photo By The Birmingham News, Hal Yeager
In my home state of Alabama, a recent tornado struck Center Point Elementary School. The damage caused to the school is beyond repair.  Therefore, the school is being bulldozed and rebuilt, and the rebuilding effort will likely take 18-24 months.  Center Point’s destruction left over 650 students (Grades K-2) along with the school’s faculty and staff, without a school. Currently, the Jefferson County School District is looking for locations to place the students and faculty in the interim.

Along with the building, the teachers and staff lost all of their supplies and classroom materials in the storm.  A friend of mine is helping to facilitate collecting supplies and is trying to publicize the collection through a grassroots effort.  If you would like to contribute supplies, please e-mail me at simsinbham@aol.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter, and I'll gladly coordinate a way to get them from you.  I absolutely will make sure that any supplies are safely placed into the hands of these school children, and I will tell them from where they were donated.  Thanks so much for thinking of my home town again in the wake of these deadly storms!

Below is a list of general items that will help them get started:

Pencils
Pens
White copy paper
Wide rule loose leaf paper
Construction paper
Crayons
Glue sticks
Scotch tape
Notebooks
Folders
Expo markers
Markers
Scissors
Erasers
Hand sanitizer
Kleenex
Paper towels
Baby wipes

Disney Cruise Line Includes Venice and Greek Isles in 2013

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In 2013, Disney Cruise Line will offer new itineraries --  including European cruises with new destinations such as Venice, Italy, and the Greek Isles. In addition, Disney Cruise Line will sail out of a second homeport in Florida, with Caribbean sailings departing from the Port of Miami for the first time.
With the addition of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy (debuting in March), Disney can take more families to more destinations around the world. Disney Cruise Line has always uniquely catered to the vacation needs of families, and next year will be enhancing options for guests — whether it’s sun and sand in the Caribbean, outdoor adventures in Alaska or experiencing the wonders of Europe.

Highlights of the Disney Cruise Line 2013 schedule (which can be booked beginning Jan. 26, 2012) include:


Mediterranean from Barcelona
Beginning June 1, 2013, the Disney Magic returns to Europe with new twists to the Mediterranean itineraries, including a 4-night option and special 12-night sailings in addition to 7-night itineraries that treat guests to the best of Europe during the three-month season.
The new 12-night sailings visit destinations such as Venice, Italy, and Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast on one itinerary and Ephesus, Turkey and the Greek Isles including Athens, on another. Each itinerary will offer a sailing departing in June and another departing in July.

All itineraries depart from Barcelona, Spain, as the Disney Magic takes guests on an exciting journey of richly diverse cities, cultures and people.Rates start at $796 per person for four-night cruises, $1,015 per person for seven-night cruises and $2,244 for 12-night cruises departing from Barcelona for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.


Bahamas and Western Caribbean from Miami
Disney Cruise Line will sail from Miami for the first time on Dec. 23, 2012. One six- and one seven-night Caribbean sailing aboard the Disney Wonder will set the stage for a schedule of four- and five-night cruises from Miami to the Bahamas and Western Caribbean between Jan. 5, 2013, and May 2, 2013. The four- and five-night cruises have a variety of itineraries. Ports of call may include Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman; Key West; Nassau, Bahamas, and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Rates for four- and five-night cruises departing from Miami start at $440 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

Western Caribbean from Galveston
The Disney Magic, which will begin sailing from Texas in 2012, will continue to sail from the Port of Galveston through May 2013, to the Western Caribbean.
Rates start at $750 per person for six-night cruises and $920 per person for eight-night cruises departing from Galveston for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.



Alaska from Vancouver
Beginning May 27, 2013, the Disney Wonder will sail seven-night cruises from Vancouver to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska. These cruises will combine the natural wonder and adventurous spirit of Alaska with the unparalleled, family-friendly experience found on a Disney Cruise Line ship. Disney Cruise Line worked closely with Alaskan tour operators to create exclusive-to-Disney family-friendly Port Adventures that allow guests to best experience Alaska’s natural beauty and rich history. Rates for seven-night Alaska cruises departing from Vancouver start at $1,015 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

Caribbean and Bahamas from Port Canaveral
The Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream will continue to sail a variety of Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries departing from Port Canaveral. The Disney Fantasy will sail out of Port Canaveral on seven-night Caribbean itineraries – alternating eastern (St. Maarten and St. Thomas) and western (Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel). Special Eastern Caribbean sailings, January through April 2013, stop at San Juan, Puerto Rico. All Disney Fantasy itineraries include a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Rates for seven-night Caribbean cruises on the Disney Fantasy start at $1,085 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. The Disney Dream will sail three-, four- and five-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
Rates for three- and four-night Bahamian cruises on the Disney Dream start at $450 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

Adventures By Disney
Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney will offer families unique land and sea experiences in the Mediterranean. Available on select departures, guests can maximize the magic with three-night or four-night pre-cruise Adventures by Disney vacation itineraries in Barcelona and Madrid. These immersive add-ons allow families to envelop themselves in the culture of the region with VIP access in the most-sought-after tourist destinations – such as the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona and the El Prado museum in Madrid – as well as hands-on lessons in archeology, flamenco dancing, local cuisine and stained glass crafting. 

Each Adventures by Disney departure is led by knowledgeable Adventure Guides who handle all the planning logistics so parents can relax and enjoy quality time with their family.
Families can also enhance seven-night and 12-night Mediterranean sailings with Adventures by Disney Onboard Experience packages. Throughout the voyage, guests will have access to exclusive Adventures by Disney activities and concierge service from dedicated Adventure Guides. Specific itinerary and pricing information for the 2013 Adventures by Disney experiences will be available in March 2012.

"Finding Nemo" Coming Back to Theaters in 3D

Monday, January 23, 2012

Academy Award-winning film and a "go-to" DVD for homes and cars everywhere, Finding Nemo returns to the big screen for the first time ever in Disney Digital 3D. In the underwater adventure, Finding Nemo follows the familiar journey of an overly protective clownfish named Marlin and his son Nemo –– who become separated in the Great Barrier Reef when Nemo is unexpectedly taken far from his ocean home and dumped into a fish tank in a dentist’s office. Accompanied by Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a friendly-but-forgetful Pacific regal blue tang, Marlin embarks on a dangerous trek and finds himself the unlikely hero of an epic effort to rescue his son –– who hatches a few daring plans of his own to return safely home.



Usually, movies which hit theaters on land also will likely be shown in the Buena Vista Theaters on Disney Cruise Line. So, whether you find yourself on land or at sea with Mickey, pop on those 3D glasses and head to see Nemo in theaters this fall -- beginning September 14.  And remember..."just keep swimming!"

Pick Your Bug: Lice or Stomach Virus?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This summer, my family was plagued by a common childhood bug which we never had the pleasure of hosting until I noticed my youngest child incessantly scratching the back of his head.  Oh, we had suspected their appearance before -- with scouting reports from teachers or other parents announcing their debut in a classroom or another home.  Yet, we had dodged the little parasite for 16+ years of parenting...until June.
Now that I've had my experience with the little critters and the required delousing of the house, I've realized the extra laundry and time it took to rid ourselves of the elusive creatures, and I likened it to the family passing along a stomach virus.  So, quirky person that I am and lover of surveys and polls, I started offering up my unscientific question to moms whom I knew well and those I had never met.  Which would YOU rather have to deal with in your house...a case of lice or a bout with a tummy bug and why?



Disney Cruise Packing List

Monday, January 16, 2012

As an alum of the Disney Moms Panel and the former Disney Cruise Line Specialist, I'm often asked about my packing lists...especially for Disney cruises.  I do keep this exhaustive list on my lap top and simply make versions of it depending on the itinerary or the destination.

For a tropical itinerary, a day bag in a foreign port should include your Keys to the World, passports, sunblock, sunglasses, cameras, towels and water bottles.
My best packing tips for a Disney cruise are to:  (1) make a list; (2) pack over a two-week period; (3) try to keep to one suitcase per person; (4) trust your list and don't overpack; (5) pack outfits not items; (6) let your separates do "double duty;" (7) plan on doing laundry if on board more than 5 nights; (8) completely unpack once in your stateroom (even on 3 nights); (9) bring organizers to keep things in reach and off the floor (think vertically); and (10) take advantage of services such as Babies Travel Lite or Cruiseline Formalwear.

Many of my greatest hints and tips for Disney Cruises now appear on TravelingMom.com as "Disney Traveling Mom" and the "Mom Knows Best" section of the Disney Cruise Line Facebook Page.

FAMILY
  • cruise documents & airline tickets
  • passports/birth certificates
  • driver's licenses and insurance cards
  • credit cards (call credit card companies to alert them you are traveling)
  • ATM card
  • pre-paid phone card
  • cash or traveler's checks (be sure to keep traveler's checks receipt in separate location)
  • 3 copies of airline tickets, cruise tickets, passports/visas, itinerary - pack 1 copy in carry on, 1 copy in checked luggage and leave one copy with someone at home
  • contact numbers to report lost/stolen credit cards or traveler's checks
  • emergency numbers at home
  • prescription drugs and any other essential medications (carry-on bag)
  • small first aid kit (band aids, Q-tips, vaseline, dramamine, antibiotic cream, bandages, anti-diarrheal medication, cortisone cream, aspirin/tylenol/advil)
  • crazy glue/duck tape
  • bug spray (Alaska)
  • sun screen/sun block and lip sunblock
  • germicidal hand cleaner
  • handi-wipes
  • body lotion/after sun care
  • sewing kit and scissors (pack in checked luggage)
  • laundry detergent, dryer sheets, stain stick and lint roller
  • Think compact -- choose things that are inflatable, collapsible and light.
  • empty folding tote bag - for souvenirs and extras
  • hats/caps/visors
  • insulated large coffee mugs and/or refillable water bottles
  • small-sized dish detergent
  • watch
  • glasses, case, extra contacts, contact lens cleaner and case
  • sunglasses
  • guidebooks, maps and other port of call information
  • reading material - books to read while on the plane or lounging by the pool
  • journal or notebook and pen/pencil
  • business cards with email address to give out to new cruise friends
  • home and email addresses of friends/relatives back home - for sending postcards, emails, or gifts
  • extra luggage name tags (in case yours are lost on the outbound trip)
  • backpacks for daybags (double as kids' carry-ons)
  • zip-topped bags, plastic grocery bags and/or garbage bags -- wet swimsuits, for extra garbage or if someone gets sick
  • collapsible laundry hamper
  • clear, plastic vertical hanging shoe organizer for toiletries in the bathroom
  • Mesh (waterproof) hanging pockets to hang from showerhead (use a pants hanger)
  • Magnetic hooks (to hang lanyards on the back of the stateroom door)
  • Magnetic notes or whiteboard (to hang on outside of stateroom door)
  • small flashlight and/or nightlight
  • swiss army knife or something similar with screwdriver head (checked luggage)
  • scissors (checked luggage)
  • small umbrella and/or rain ponchos
  • collapsible travel pillow for long airplane flights
  • camera (and disposable waterproof camera)
  • video camera
  • binoculars
  • extra film or memory cards
  • extra batteries or battery charger (chords)
  • iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nintendo DS/charger
  • laptop
  • extension chord/power strip
  • guidebooks, maps and other port of call information
  • reading material
  • journal or notebook and pen/pencil
  • business cards with email address to give out to new cruise friends
  • playing cards
  • Disney pins and lanyards for trading (choose 10-15 'trade-worthy' ones)
  • waterproof wallet
  • sand toys (buy them at a discount store and leave them behind)
MOM AND GIRLS
  • Curling/Flat Iron/Rollers
  • Comb/Brush
  • Hair Products (mousse, oil, gel, spray)
  • Shampoo/Conditioner (specialty)
  • Shower Cap
  • Face wash/make-up remover
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume/cologne
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Floss
  • Tweezers
  • Hand held mirror
  • Make-up and Make-up Bag
  • Moisturizer
  • Nail Polish and Remover
  • Nail Clippers and File
  • Figure in downtime in your schedule...especially for days at sea...and plan accordingly.  You can provide highlighters or sticky notes for the planner in the family to read the daily Personal Navigator, and everyone should bring along something to read.
  • Razor and Shaving Cream
  • Bras (sports, strapless, regular)
  • Undergarments, camisoles, slips
  • PJs
  • Exercise/walking socks
  • Exercise clothes
  • Belts
  • Scarves
  • Trouser Socks or Pantyhose
  • Gloves and Stocking Cap (Alaska)
  • Walking and Hiking Shoes
  • Walking Sandals
  • Swim Suit
  • Swim Suit Cover-up
  • Sandals, Flip Flops
  • 4 Dresses/outfits for informal nights on ship
  • Shorts
  • Tops of All Types (sleeveless, short-sleeved, long-sleeved)
  • Capri Pants, slacks, jeans
  • Windbreaker Jacket/raincoat with hood
  • Sweatshirt
  • 2 dresses/outfits for formal/semi-formal nights on ship
  • Evening sweater, jacket or wrap
  • Evening Bag/PurseEvening Shoes
  • Costume Jewelry/Hair Accessories 
  • Pirate attire (full costume or accessories)
  • Disney princess costumes (for ages 10 and under)
DAD AND BOYS
  • Shaving Kit /Shower Bag
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Hair brush/comb
  • Deodorant
  • Nail clippers
  • Pajamas/t-shirts and gym shorts
  • Underwear, boxers, briefs, undershirts
  • Little ones appreciate bringing along a few familiar items from home such as stuffed animals or blankets to make them more at ease and comfortable.
  • Socks - exercise, walking, evening wear
  • Jeans
  • Shorts
  • Khaki Pants
  • Belt
  • Casual Shirts and Golf Shirts
  • Long-sleeved tees or casual shirts
  • Sweat-shirt or Sweater
  • Gloves(Alaska)
  • Waterproof windbreaker jacket
  • T-Shirts
  • Exercise/workout clothes
  • Comfortable walking shoes, casual shoes, dock siders, dress shoes
  • Exercise/running Shoes
  • Swimming Trunks
  • Baseball cap/hat
  • Slacks
  • Dress shirts and ties
  • Sport/dinner jacket
  • Dark Suit or tuxedo
  • Pirate Attire (full costumes or just accessories)
  • Disney costumes such as Woody, Buzz, Prince Charming, etc. (ages 10 and under)
 BABIES AND TODDLERS
  • Diapers, swim diapers, wipes and baggies for soiled diapers 
  • Formula, jar food and dry snacks (pre-packaged only)
  • Baby/toddler-sized eating utensils
  • Breast pump and storage containers
  • Pacifiers
  • Plastic or disposable bottles, accessories and sippy cups
  • A crib (with bedding) and diaper disposal system in your stateroom, booster seat/high chair for dining and strollers are all available upon request.(Just ask your stateroom host/hostess; dining service team; and Guest Services, respectively.)
  • Disposable bibs
  • Favorite stuffed animals, books, coloring books, crayons and toys
  • Inflatable swim aids 
  • Infant backpack or front carrier
  • Diaper bag
  • Diaper rash ointment, PediaSure, teething ointment and other meds unique to babies and toddlers
  • Pediatrician's emergency contact info
  • Tear-free and allergy-free shampoo, body wash and lotion (sunblock, too)
  • Water shoes (for tender feet)


Two New Disney Cruise Line Moms

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Since the Walt Disney World Moms Panel began five years ago, the moms and dads have increased in number as well as in their specialties.  The panel has always included a Disney Cruise Line Mom, but this year has added two to keep up with the number of questions that pour in daily from Mickey's sea-faring guests.  Marisol Lopez from Florida was selected from the 2011 panel, and Nancy Walshe from Georgia was chosen from the thousands of applicants who specifically applied for the Disney Cruise Line position this year.

Nancy, Me and Marisol
For 2012, there are 15 new moms dads added to the ranks, including specialists in the areas of Disneyland, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney, runDisney, and of course, Disney Cruise Line. Plus, guests will be able to ask questions and receive answers in Spanish, too.  (Marisol is one of the panelists who will be able to provide answers in Spanish.)

I am very proud of my two "sea sisters" as the new Disney Cruise Moms.  They join a great little sorority of Disney Cruise Mom Alums -- including Kimberly LaPaglia of Tennessee, Karen Prince of New Hampshire and yours truly from the great state of Alabama.  So, stay tuned to DisneyCruise.com and DisneyWorldMoms.com to see the new cruise moms and their answers.  And...what are you waiting for?  Go ask them a Disney cruise question.  You know you have one!

Disney Cruise Line Top 5 in Juneau, Alaska with Natali

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

 When my family and I traveled to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder last June, we were accompanied by another family filming videos, too.  We became fast friends with Natali Morris, her husband and little boy, and we can't wait to find out who will be joining their ranks very soon. You may even recognize a few of my own "little" ones who made their way into Natali's video.

My Alabama Crimson Tide -- National Champs!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If you know me in the least, you know that I'm a girly-girl.  For goodness sakes, I'm a ballet teacher who paid for my way through college by competing in pageants. Yet, I know football.  Specifically, I know college football.  In fact, I would rather watch a game on a fall Saturday than go shopping.  (I know...I just might get my "girly girl card" pulled for that comment.)

Therefore, I would be grossly overlooking a huge event in my life this week if I didn't make you keenly aware that my Alabama Crimson Tide won their 14th National Championship last night by completely dominating the LSU Tigers in a rematch which many thought would be redundant.  Congratulations to Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the family of Alabama football fans everywhere...including Sela Ward and Courtney Cox!  I happen to be in good "girly girl" company.