This second post (of a two-part series) about travels during my term on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel covers the second year of my tenure. For a look back into my travels with the Mouse the previous year, read the first one on TravelingMom.com, “A Disney Mom’s Diary: Two Years of Traveling for Mickey.”
With the magical year that I had just experienced traveling with and for Disney, I couldn’t imagine how it could get any better. Yet, I knew that I would be answering fellow guests’ questions online at DisneyWorldMoms.com as the new Disney Cruise Line Mom. And with the Disney Dream debuting the same month I took the helm of my duties, I knew I needed to get my sea legs under me really fast.
I returned from our family’s Walt Disney World vacation and started pulling down the Christmas decorations at home. I got the kids back into school with a list of instructions and appointments for hubby just in time to head back down to film a series of commercials for Lifetime TV at Walt Disney World. A crew comprised of executives from Lifetime’s New York offices and from Disney’s Orlando and Los Angeles offices – plus, Hollywood producers and directors – descended upon the parks and resorts for five days. As “the Disney Mom,” I was paired with “the Lifetime Mom,” Erika Lehman, who has become a dear and precious friend despite our age difference and that she’s from Louisiana (huge college football rivals). We kept figuratively (and sometimes even, literally) pinching each other to keep our heads around what we were doing. Here we were…two unknown Southern moms (working hard not to reveal our drawls) filming national commercials for Disney Parks & Resorts. There were people shooting from multiple cameras, in charge of lighting, sound, make up and hair and even coordinating the scenes and the extras. It was a major production, and one for which I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of as well as one which has given me such an invaluable learning experience.
January was a bit of a blur for me as I returned home for about a week before packing again for the Disney Dream Christening Ceremony at Port Canaveral and the Christening Cruise to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. This time, I had my husband in tow to enjoy the festivities and this amazing ship with me. After all, if it had not been for his obsession with Disney vacations, we wouldn’t have visited as many times as we did over the years nor taken a Disney cruise, and I may have never been afforded these incredible chances to see the World (and the world) through Mickey’s eyes. The Disney Dream Christening Ceremony was as tight of a security environment as I’ve ever seen and chocked full of celebrities and VIPs in the audience and on stage. The Disney Dream’s godmother, Jennifer Hudson, was introduced as a former cast member of the Disney Wonder, and the grandiose stage performances sent chills down my spine despite the upper-80 degree temperature. The ship was as spectacular as I had anticipated, and I spent most of the cruise longing to be in a swimsuit in order to fully capture the relaxing and fun environment. But there was work to be done! As the Disney Cruise Mom, I strapped on that role and started working it – giving interviews to television, radio, webcast, podcast, newspaper and magazine reporters from all over the world. From early in the morning to late in the evening, I was at the beck and call of media who wanted to hear about a mom’s perspective of the ship and Disney cruises. I poured out my best advice and tips and hammed it up for the cameras. Lou Mongello of WDWRadio even filmed my first ride down the AquaDuck – the shipboard watercoaster on the Disney Dream. I dreamed on the Dream that I couldn’t stop talking about the Dream – I think I finally closed my mouth after I got off the ship.
In February, my lofty goal of running a half marathon started to hit me with my commitment to run Disney’s Princess Half at the end of the month. After meeting TravelingMom.com’s Kim Orlando on the Disney Dream Christening Cruise, we became instant friends, and I agreed to write on this site as Disney Traveling Mom. I was just getting my personal blog (WifeandMomUniversity.com) off the ground, and I was impressed with the content and influence of Traveling Mom. Since the Traveling Moms Retreat & Workshop overlapped with the Princess Half Weekend, I was invited to attend a few events and seminars and instantly felt a connection to these women. They have been an invaluable source of information, motivation, encouragement and friendship in the last year, and I’m grateful for their impact on my professional and personal lives.
However, I still had somewhat of a cloud hanging over me, and I needed to get my head in the game…or race. Courtesy of the Disney Public Relations Team, I was invited to share in the excitement and anticipation at a pre-race meal with running and fitness bloggers/writers from all over the country. Again, the friendships and contacts I made there have carried over into my work as a panelist, a travel writer, blogger and runner. Plus, I did it…in a tu-tu! I ran the entire 13.1 miles through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and did not require any medical intervention – besides a couple of ibuprofen. I also was able to meet my virtual trainer, Jeff Galloway, at a post-race event and had the chance to tell him how far I had come and how he inspired me to get there. He said he was proud of me – which were golden words, despite the fact that he was wearing a pirate costume, eye-liner and Mouse Ears.
The spring brought with it another sailing on the new Disney Dream, and the chance to show other sea-faring guests the various amenities of this beautiful and innovative Disney ship. This time, all of my family (except my oldest son) came along and played major parts in the filming of eight videos which are featured on DisneyWorldMoms.com, DisneyCruise.com and DisneyCruiseLineNews YouTube Channel. The videos showcase the entertainment, dining, technology, adult and kids’ activities and family fun on the Disney Dream, and my family learned first-hand just how involved and sometimes challenging producing these visual stories can be. In fact, my daughter, Caroline, starred in her own video to show the activities and spaces of the teen club, Vibe (Teens Rule Aboard Disney Cruise Line Ships). Afterward, she was quick to come to my defense whenever the boys would mock me saying my lines or playing to the camera. At the end of the cruise, the entire family was enriched with new friends on the Disney Cruise Line public relations team and the entire video crew.
In June, we were provided one of the most life-changing travels of our lives. My family and I were invited to film a video series showcasing Disney’s Alaskan Voyages and their unique Port Adventures. We started the trek by flying to Vancouver, British Columbia and staying a couple of days before the cruise. We fell in love with the area as we toured the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and Lionsgate Bridge. Caroline and I were given a very special excursion (by sea plane) to the island of Victoria. We sipped tea at the Empress Hotel, took a carriage ride through the city and toured the amazing Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle – all on her
14th birthday. Once on the Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line proved itself as the leader in the family cruise industry by tailoring vacations for families with entertainment and amenities. Our Alaskan cruise through Tracy Arm was made more thrilling by experiencing it with the world-famous Disney characters all decked out in their cold-weather finest. Plus, youth activities were brought up on deck so that no one would miss a moment of the spectacular scenery. Then, in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, we were treated to the best of what Disney had to offer in Alaska by enjoying an array of Port Adventures – including:
- panning for gold with Chip n’ Dale
- zip-lining through the rain forest
- riding horses and mountain bikes through Alaska’s wilderness
- taking a helicopter tour of a glacier
- dog mushing in snow-covered mountains
- learning the trade at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
My seven-day video diary includes all we did and saw — plus, lots of other tips and hints about bringing your family on a Disney cruise to Alaska. The videos are featured on the DisneyCruise.com Video Podcasts Page (under “Discover Alaska”) and on DisneyCruiseLineNews YouTube Channel. Plus, I have several video posts on TravelingMom.com about Disney cruises to Alaska – Disney Cruise Alaska Tips and Disney Cruise Ziplining in Skagway, Alaska.
During the first week of November, the family (minus our high school son) traveled to Los Angeles to spend a couple of days at the Disneyland Resort before sailing to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Disney Wonder. We’ve visited Disneyland and California Adventure a few times before but jumped at the chance to enjoy these parks again and see what’s new. Since we were of the first at the Port of Los Angeles on embarkation day, I thought I would ask for an upgrade. We were given the chance to be assigned a one-bedroom concierge suite (from a deluxe family stateroom with verandah) on the Disney Wonder for about $650 additionally for the seven-night cruise. We thoroughly enjoyed the extra room and became completely spoiled by the attention of our personal concierge. The colorful ports of call were a feast for the senses as we sailed with pirates to Las Caletas Hideaway and tried our hand at creating authentic Mexican dishes in Puerto Vallarta. In Cabo San Lucas, we zipped through canyons, swam with dolphins and relaxed on beautiful beaches which sat at the foot of dramatic rock formations. On board, we enjoyed the pools in the warm Mexican sun, family entertainment and dining in the evenings and a chance to see such a beautiful part of the world from the comfort of our home on the Disney Wonder.
Because our daughter was marching with her high school band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we already had made plans to attend the event and travel to New York City the week of the holiday. We had heard the rumors about having to stake out a claim on the street in the wee hours of the morning and were delighted to be invited to spend the morning with our friends from Disney Cruise Line at a warm and comfy restaurant nine floors above Columbus Circle to watch the parade. Captain Mickey saluted his way through the parade route as a balloon while the real star made appearances with guests at the brunch.
The beginning of December will always signify Disney Moms Panel Training in my mental calendar, and I took the opportunity to combine business and pleasure for a weekend getaway by myself to Walt Disney World. I was “on assignment” for TravelingMom.com reviewing the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and discovering the benefits of staying in the Lap of Luxury in the Middle of the Magic and Getting Away from the World while at Disney World. Plus, I was able to attend a few events that weekend with other past panelists who had made the trek “home” to welcome the newbies. How thrilling it was to congratulate the two new Disney Cruise Line Moms who have taken over my position this year – Marisol (chosen in 2011) and Nancy (new this year).
For our fifth and final Disney cruise of the year, the entire family sailed out of Port Canaveral to the pristine Eastern Caribbean making stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas/St. John and Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. It took us a while to realize that we weren’t being followed by cameras; microphones weren’t taped to our chests; our schedule was our own; and we really didn’t have to worry too much about how we looked…or, even how we acted. Christmas in the Caribbean topped off by a visit to Walt Disney World proved to be the perfect ending to what had been an incredibly busy but amazingly blessed year.
Although I am a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, my opinions do not represent Disney, and I received a vacation for my immediate family and me on the Disney Magic to the Eastern Caribbean and to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for my 2011 term on the panel.