Trip Report: Disney Vacation Club exclusive Moonlight Magic event at Magic Kingdom (2017)

In 1991, the Walt Disney Company launched their own version of a timeshare, called Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Their membership is based on a points system that can be used for a variety of Disney properties and entities, and the number of points for stay at a Disney hotel (or on a Disney Cruise ship, or an Adventures by Disney vacation) is based on, among other things, time of year, and size and popularity of location. DVC points can also be used at non-Disney properties thanks to their relationship with RCI (a division of Wyndham Worldwide). Joe and his parents were huge Disney fans and vacationers throughout the 1970s and 1980s and when DVC became available, they were among the first to buy in (it’s a running joke that I married Joe for his DVC points).

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#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip- Part 3 of 9

Part 3 of 9: Rehearsal & relaxing

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith an 8am (8am? On vacation? whine, whimper) call time for rehearsal, I was up (before the alarm…ARGH!) at 6:35am and out of bed a few minutes later. In order to sleep as late as possible (ha!), I had requested room service for breakfast so before I left for the rehearsal, I enjoyed an Egg Beaters omelette with ham & cheese, half a grapefruit and coffee. Not bad, not terrific. But definitely convenient!

Our rehearsal was held in the theater where our show would be. At 7:45am, I was the first one there but the rest soon arrived also (Caroline and I agreed it didn’t count as “bumping into each other” since we were both scheduled to be there, LOL!). Our conductor told everyone to sit in their sections as they had been told in rehearsals at home, to which I looked at him and said, “Huh?” Orlando and Tampa hadn’t had any rehearsals (I could see why they wouldn’t…there were only originally 5 singers, now we were just 4, and we were divided into 2 + 2 between Orlando and Tampa, but it certainly put us as a disadvantage – “Carlene” and I hadn’t sung the songs in a concert since October ’08 and poor Celeste and Esther had NEVER done them in a show – so all we had was sheet music and rehearsal CD’s. No pressure…) so we had no IDEA of where to go or even who else sang what parts in order to figure out where to sit. But eventually we figured it out and I took my place with the other 5 Second Sopranos.

The rehearsal was short and sweet, thanks in part to the fact that our piano player, Gabriel (a Nicholas Cage lookalike) was just seeing the music for the first time and was playing via sight reading. He didn’t do too badly, all things considered, and even improvised on the songs he already know, like ‘Fly Me To the Moon” and “New York, New York.” So by 8:40am, we were done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wandered back to the Explorers Club and did the jigsaw puzzle they had – I used to LOVE jigsaw puzzles when I lived in Staten Island but we just don’t have a decent place to do them in our house yet. Anyway, theirs was HUGE! 4,000 pieces! of course, Caroline and Sue came by (this time they were definitely stalking me, not me stalking them) and Caroline did the puzzle while Sue wandered about the room (I’m talking with a lot of Brits so I’m starting to pick up on their verbiage). When I got tired of the puzzle, I finished Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (again) and then tried to nap in my chair for a little while but it was too loud. Plus I was getting HUNGRY!

I went back to the Lido Buffet for lunch, where I got rotisserie chicken, Virginia ham, some stir fry veggies and a few French fries – it was all pretty good. I wound up eating with 4 Brits – 2 from the choir and a husband and wife team from the Leeds area who I thought were from the choir but in actuality were just British (apparently not all Brits on the ship are Choir Brits, LOL!).

After lunch, the 2 ladies left for plans that they had so I had my dessert (chocolate ice cream) with Antony, Colin, Pauline and Ann, where we discovered yet another difference between American English and English English…what we call Jello, they call jelly and what we call jelly, they call jam. It’s funny how 2 languages that are so much the same can be so different!

We all went to the Crow’s Nest Lounge next, for a trivia game. Our team was me, Colin, Antony, Carlene and “Stewart.” Some of the questions were easy (how many dots are on a pair of dice?) and some not so much. We got 11 out of 15 right but some team got 14 right so they won. The prize was “Dam bucks” for Bingo – something I could live without, anyway.

I had some spare time before my next planned event on my schedule so I went to the various decks, inside and out, and took some pictures – the scenery was beautiful!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a 2:30pm reservation for a wine tasting in the Queens Lounge, as did Esther and Celeste from Tampa. It was a typical “here’s how you taste wine” seminar, with 2 reds, 2 whites and a champagne – none of the wines were awful (not even the oaky chard) but none were really good, either. Oh well…it took up an hour.

 

4:30 brought my facial, which was VERY relaxing. The girl who did it was named Leisl (or was it Lisette?) and she was from South Africa. 50 minutes later I was very relaxed, with VERY smooth skin.

I tried to grab a quick nap after that – laid down for a good 30 minutes but never fell asleep. And with needing to get ready for Formal Night for 7:45pm, I finally just gave up and got dressed.

I arrived at the lounge near the restaurant around 7:15ish and was waved over by Celeste and Esther who, as it turned out, were sitting next to Caroline & Sue, of course, LOL! We got a round of drinks, got the band to play ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (with two Sop 1’s, a Sop 2, an Alto and a Tenor between us, of course we sang along) and soon enough it was time for dinner.

Everyone looked SO nice in their formal duds…

I got a shrimp cocktail appetizer, the rack of lamb (with ratatouille and a potato cake) and a small butterscotch sundae for dessert. YUMMY!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the midst of the meal, a bunch of people suddenly started Oohing and Ahhing and going towards the windows…apparently there were some whales nearing, diving. I was able to see them blow out their blowholes but as I was so far from the windows, that as much as I could see. The poor servers had to wait for the melee to end though.

After dinner, I walked out with Nancy and Jessica (I’m SLOWLY starting to learn names) and we and a few other (not ALL the names though, Maybe a half-dozen) got our pictures taken by a photographer. Before they could drag me to get my picture taken with the Captain, I slipped back to my cabin and put on real clothes again. Finally, after updating my blog, I got ready for a well-deserved sleep!
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Using Your Airline Miles To Get To Europe

We love traveling and TransAtlantic trips are extra special. Living on the east coast of the U.S., flights to European cities are not much longer than trips to the west coast. While I’ve made the trip in economy class, making the overnight flight there in a lie flat business class seat is just so much better. You actually might even sleep on the flight and arrive for your big vacation well rested.

Unfortunately, I will never have the time to try all of the airlines that fly between the United States and Europe. Lucky for me, The Points Guy has just posted a list of all the airlines and comments on the business class service available on each one on this page of their blog.  They also pick what they feel are the Top 10, based on factors like availability, service and cost.

I’ve only flew a few of these but will give my quick opinion of each. I did my research before all of these flights and picked out what seemed to be the best airline available to fit our needs. I actively avoided airplanes which had bad reviews but did not go out of my way to book a particular airline/airplane/seat type. I can say that I was happy with all the flights. None were amazing beyond compare but we had much more comfortable flight than we would have had in economy while soaring over the Atlantic Ocean on all of them.

Aer Lingus

This was how we got to London on our most recent trip in the fall of 2016. I was able to get flights in business class from Orlando to Dublin, then onward to London in economy. We were even able to arrange for a 10 hour layover so we got to leave the airport and spend the afternoon in Dublin so we could eat at one of our most favorite restaurants, Gallagher’s Boxty House. The seats were very comfortable and I even managed to get several hours of sleep on the flight. Since Aer Lingus is a partner with United Airlines, I was able to book the one way ticket for 70,000 United  miles + $23.80 each.

 American Airlines

This was our airline to get us home from Europe in 2016. Since we hopped around a little bit, we needed to fly home from Austria. I was able to get a ticket from Salzburg, Austria to London to Miami and finally to Orlando, all in business class.

I managed to get us seats on an American 777-300ER, which is one of their newest planes, for our flight from London to Miami. It had lie flat seats, everyone had aisle access and a really big TV screen. We were flying home during the daytime so I didn’t sleep very much on the flight but did enjoy reclining to read. To book the tickets, I had a healthy stash of American miles. At the time, this award cost 50,000 American miles (now it costs 57,500) and $200.20 each.

 Virgin Atlantic

I love the vibe of Virgin Atlantic. We flew them back in 2013 in Upper Class from Orlando to London and then home from Manchester to Orlando. Flying there, we took a 747 and were the first two seats in the nose of the plane. It was so cool. Apparently it was so cool that we didn’t want to appear silly taking a bunch of pictures. This was the only one I could find.img_0040

Flying home from Manchester we were on an Airbus A330-300. The seats were jammed in much closer and it wasn’t as luxurious a trip back. I guess that’s why we have no pictures of the flight.

That trip was the first time I used some miles and points tricks without help from others. I booked this flight using miles from ANA (All Nippon Airways). They are partners with Virgin Atlantic and only charge 68,000 miles for the flight. I was able to get ANA miles by transferring points to them from my American Express Membership Rewards account. This was good for me because back then I didn’t have a big stash of miles to spend. The kicker was that they do charge taxes and fees which ended up costing $1100.00 per ticket. I viewed it as if I was paying cash for a premium economy ticket and the miles I used was the cost to upgrade to Upper Class.

Delta Airlines and Air France

We flew these airlines to Ireland back in 2011. The information about the flights and such are really out of date. Flying up in front of the plane was also still a new thrill for us. Apparently the only thing that excited us was the amount of legroom we had as these are the only pictures I can find of the flight.

To book this flight, I used an award booking service I read about in a magazine called Book Your Award. Using a service to take advantage of your miles was a new idea back then. They are still around and I will refer people to them if they need help to book a complicated award ticket with miles.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip Report: Part 2 of 9

Part 2 of 9: On board the ship & getting my bearings.

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip, click here for Part 1.

Saturday, August 15, 2009 (Going On Board)

I  woke up at 8am and went to the Starbucks in the hotel (did you hear that? A Starbucks IN THE HOTEL! Joy of joys! [Modern day note: friendly reminder that in 2009, there were not NEARLY as many Starbucks around as there are nowadays]) and got coffee. I finally got the rest of my stuff packed up, put my cruise information on my suitcases and went downstairs to meet everyone.

This was my first trip with this choir and the first time I was meeting the vast majority of the 50-something people with whom I was traveling. We were told to wear specifically-designed shirts for identification though, so it was easy to pick other choir members in a crowd – all of whom were British, save for 3 of us from Orlando and 2 from Tampa. So every time I bumped into one and said hi, I was greeted with, “Oh, you’re one of the alaskabusAmericans!” It was kinda fun (grin). There was one woman who said it before I even said anything – I was like, “Does it show?” But it was only because she knew everyone else on the trip and I was “new”.

So we all loaded onto the bus and away we went. It was a quick trip (15 minutes, tops) and when we arrived we had to wait on line for Immigration since we would be traveling from Canada to the US. The wait for that was pretty long – lots of people going on cruises! But eventually we got through and were allowed to board the ship.

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The Lido Buffet

We were told that our cabins were not quite ready so we were invited to have lunch at the Lido Restaurant. It was a buffet, with salads, sandwiches, roast beef and rotisserie chicken. I got a salad and some chicken, along with an herbal green tea that was much better than I anticipated. I ate with a handful of British choir people – as always, I’m horrible with names but they were all very nice.

Once they announced that our cabins were ready, I found mine (6027) and since my luggage wasn’t delivered yet, I started wandering the ship to sign up for stuff and get a general lay of the land. I signed up for a few Spa treatments, checked out some of the bars, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur emergency drill was scheduled for 4:15pm. After I put on my lovely orange flotation device (it was stored on the top shelf of my closet…what a trip it was to try to reach…how I wished I had a roomie who could have gotten it for me! I miss you, Joe! LOL!), the alarms went off and I went to Deck 3, as instructed.

Once we were done with the emergency drill, I went back to my cabin, to see that my luggage had been delivered so I spent some time unpacking, organizing, etc. I had no idea I had brought SIX pairs of shoes (not including slippers or the shoes I was wearing. Just call me Imelda Marcos, I guess!).

We left port not long after that, so I went up to Deck 9 to hang out with everyone while we began our trip in earnest. I bumped into Caroline and Sue again (we’ve bumped into each other no less than 5 times so far – I’m not sure who is stalking who, LOL!), plus several other Sing Live Brits (Colin, Ian, Ann, Jean, Pauline, Sue, Jane, etc.) and Celeste and Esther from Tampa (BTW, we discovered that us 5 Americans have our own table…we figure it’s so we can understand each other, what with the language barrier and all, LOL!).

We were scheduled to queue up for dinner at 7:45pm so I left around 7ish to (A) find the Internet Cafe for further reference (they had a special where you got an extra 20 minutes if you signed up before 10pm) and (B) change my clothes and get ready for dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner was on the 3rd floor, in the Vista Dining Room and, as I said, us 5 Americans had our own table (#63). There were several choices of salads, soups, appetizers and main courses, with wine by the bottle or the glass. The food was really, really good. I got the mussels in a wine sauce for an appetizer, almond encrusted salmon (with shaved zucchini and mashed potatoes) and coffee and a baked Alaska for dessert (covered in raspberry sauce. I never saw a baked Alaska that wasn’t flambe, but this one wasn’t. A “ship thing,” I’m sure. It was still good, though).

After dinner was done I went up to the Internet Cafe to sign up for my plan and get some blogging done so I could go to bed. And so it is.

The Problem With Hotel Thermostats (And What To Do About Them)

I know I’m not the only one to ask if it feels warm in a hotel room after checking in.

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Here is a picture of me thinking I could change the temperature in the room.

You arrive after a day of traveling and get to your room. After you put your bags down, you notice there’s a lack of air circulating in the room. First thought, find the thermostat. Turns out that pressing that temperature down arrow might not help your situation any.  Hotels are coming up with smarter and smarter ways to save on energy bills by putting you in less, or sometimes without any, control of the temperature of your room.

I remember our first encounter with an energy efficient room was on a trip to London. There was a slot near the door into which you had to insert your room key card so that the lights, television and air conditioner would turn on. This was fine if you were staying in the room but as soon as you left, everything went off. Our first solution, since we were a couple and had 2 room keys, was to leave one of our keys in the slot. Not the best solution but at least our room was cool when we returned. Then we sought other solutions. Were there other cards in our wallet that would work? Credit Card?  Those worked but we were not leaving one of those  in there while not in the room. An AAA card worked but we might need that for the places that gave discounts. How about our library card? Bingo!  It worked to keep on the lights and we didn’t need it during the day.We left a nice tip each day, kindly asking housekeeping not to remove the key from the slot after cleaning the room. Eventually we just kept a random hotel card key in our wallet at all times for rooms with such a system.

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Insert room key in order to get electricity and A/C

This experience was almost a decade ago and technology has improved a great deal since then. Hotels are now using motion detectors, infrared sensors, sound detectors and door monitors to tell if you are in the room and then change the temperature settings accordingly. The issues with the lack of control given to guests because of the new “smart” room technology seem to be increasing because I’ve read 4 articles on the subject recently.

I first remember reading an article on the subject back in 2010 showing you  how to “hack” your thermostat. I tried using tips from this post but was never in a room with the same type of thermostat.  More recently I’ve seen that mainstream publications like The Wall Street Journal  and the Los Angeles Times have written articles on the subject. The latter even gave some ways to trick the most complicated of sensor arrays.

Alas, those systems that rely only on motion sensors are not always guest-friendly. Unless they’re sleepwalking, guests who are abed aren’t moving in a way that a motion sensor can detect.

The solution for immediate relief is to buy a Mylar balloon (sturdier than a regular balloon) that trails strings or ribbons and let it move around your room, triggering the motion sensor.

Now I do admit, the idea of walking into every stay at a hotel carrying a Mylar balloon and then having it fly around my room all night are two of the most absurd images I can think of.  However, I do know one or two friends (and they know who they are) who, I have no doubt, might try this idea after reading this post.

The final thought on this issue is if hotels think we don’t care that the temperature in the room is out of our control, they will keep setting it to whatever they want. The solution is to complain to the hotel. Do so while you are there and the hotel may adjust the room temperature, thereby making  your stay more comfortable. If no relief is given, then a mention of this fact in an online review or survey will show them this is an issue that guests care about and can no longer be ignored.

UPDATE! Or you can just use the hints in this post 😉

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top (if you’re on your computer) or the bottom (if you’re on your phone/tablet) of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Or maybe you’d like to join our Facebook group, where we talk and ask questions about travel (including Disney parks), creative ways to earn frequent flyer miles and hotel points, how to save money on or for your trips, get access to travel  articles you may not see otherwise, etc. Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!