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Review – Disney Cruise Line – A Price fit for Adults (or not?)

DreamI will always consider Disney when it comes to vacation.  I love Walt Disney World, and have made some of the best memories with my family on Disney cruises.  From our first cruise ever – the Maiden Voyage of the Disney Magic – to the girls weekend I just had, I have enjoyed every one of my cruises aboard the Disney Cruise Line.

But is it really a cruise for adults?

There are certainly things to do for adults on this cruise line.  The spa services are extensive, with everything from a simple manicure to unique treatments and personal fitness trainers.  With an entire adults only district, you’ll find adult beverage tastings, evening entertainment, and a pool and jacuzzi for adult use only.  If your sailing includes a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you’ll even find a beach designed for some real adult relaxation.

Dream Castaway

So then it comes down to this – price.

A quick comparison for a weekend cruise in March 2014 to the Bahamas shows me that I can get this type of cruise for as little as $60 per night on a Celebrity ship, with a minimum price on Disney at more than double that.  A five night Western Caribbean cruise for two adults on Disney will run me a minimum (inside cabin, 184 square feet,  lower deck) $2007.70. For $2100, Celebrity will give me a penthouse suite that is more than 250 square feet – not including my verandah.  I will have European style butler service, which includes assistance unpacking and packing; in-suite lunch and dinner service (this is not room service – this is a full, served dinner, exactly like what I would get in the dining room, served in my suite); Afternoon tea; evening hors d’oeuvres; complimentary espresso and cappuccino beverages in-suite.  You’ll get express boarding and disembarkation.  You’ll have a concierge to help you with making reservations for specialty dining restaurants, shore excursions, and spa treatments.

Dream spa

So what’s the difference?  What would make adults choose Disney over Celebrity – or any other cruise line?

There are die hard Disney fans.  Totally acceptable to see adults clamoring with the kids for photos with their favorite characters or acting goofy over Goofy at a character breakfast.  And the value of Castaway Cay cannot be oversold.  The island is beautiful, the beach serene, the water crystal – it’s the perfect stop.  Another advantage to adults on Disney is the free soda.  If you are a big soda drinker (and you’d have to be a pretty big soda drinker to get your money’s worth), you may be disappointed to find on most cruise lines, soda is not included in the price of your trip.  You pay by the drink, or opt into a soda package, which varies in price based on the length of your cruise.  Disney, however, has machines where you can drink your fill, and sodas ordered with meals are also included.  Some sodas – such as those in cans sold at the snack bar outside the theater – will cost you extra.

Is it worth it?

I think the big draw on a Disney ship is the awesome and extensive children’s clubs.  From the wee ones to the teen ones, you’ll find close to round the clock activities for your kids – including while on Castaway Cay or in port.  They will even come get your children from a late seating dinner to take them to the club activities while mom and dad enjoy their meal in relative peace.

But honestly, for a much lower price on other cruise lines, you’ll find excellent dining options, great lounge entertainment, Vegas style shows, casinos, and even on some cruises, adult classes in computers, photography, cooking, bartending, and entertaining.  It’s a tough sell to spend twice as much on a Disney cruise for adults only, when the biggest bang for your buck on a Disney cruise is the kids’ entertainment.

As much as I love my Disney, if I’m going to take a trip with just my husband, I am more likely to opt for a more upscale experience, such as Celebrity.  I wouldn’t trade Disney for the world if the beauty girls are in tow, but I think my money is better spent elsewhere for just me and the big guy.

Extreme Couponing – a Happier Side to Hoarding??

I may not be the best person to comment on extreme couponers.  I am the polar opposite of an extreme couponer because I do not clip coupons.  Maybe that’s why I don’t get it?

I used to cut coupons – I really tried.  I’d buy the paper each Sunday, and go through the sections, cutting out coupons for new products, products we never tried, products that I try not to buy.  It seemed that none of the stuff I ever actually used had coupons, but I’d happily head into the store with a pocket full of discounts, only to come home with food my kids hated, food I wasn’t proud serving, and toothpaste that tasted like butt and no one would use.  I never saw the value of couponing – at least for my family.

Plus, I’m just not that organized.

But when I’m watching these coupon clippers and their euphoric highs, I half feel like I’m watching an episode of Hoarders.  These happy housewives are proudly showing off their stash of deodorant – all of which they obtained for free using coupons – but half of which will still be in their garages long after the apocalypse.  Who needs that much deodorant?

Or how about candy bars?  I saw an episode where a couple of coupon clippers filled a quarter of their grocery cart with candy bars – but they were free or very nearly free.  I wouldn’t even know where to put that many candy bars once I got them home.  I’d be making candy bouquets, making Snickers soup in the crock pot, and putting them in the collection basket at Church just to get them out of my house.

One episode had a woman who proudly showed off her diaper mountain – enough diapers to keep a baby dry and happy for 18 months of it’s life.  Except, the woman didn’t actually have any children.  But who can pass up a deal, right?  That same couponer packed a shopping cart filled with Maalox – maybe the week before she scored big on cans of spicy bean dip?

There seems to be a thin line between collecting bottles of salad dressing until you could supply every salad bar in the free world with an assortment of dressings for six months and hoarding cats.  Are these people more “okay” because cat pee smells?

While I appreciate immensely the ability to feed a family of five for a month on $6.00, like one woman featured on this show, how much fresh foods are these people feeding their families?  Are there coupons for oranges and bananas?  Fresh salad or vegetables?  And where the hell would these people put 27 crates of bananas?

More power to you if you can use coupons to your advantage.  In this economy, we could all use a bit of a break now and again from the outrageous cost of things.  Heaven knows that at some point, we may get to where it costs more to put fuel in our cars than food in our families’ tummies, so if you can do it more cheaply, go for it.

But really?  It seems like the term “extreme” applies to more than just couponing here.

Budget Valentine Gifts for that Man oh Man of Yours!

Alright, I know he leaves the toilet seat up; brushes his hair with the last three fingers on his left hand; wears the ugly Hawaiian shirt he bought on a cruise in 1993 whenever you tell him to “dress up”; and he emits the most noxious odors from various parts of his body at the most inappropriate times.  But you love him, it’s Valentine’s Day, and you want him to know how much every inch of pudge layered over his six pack abs means to you.

But have you seen your budget?  If it costs more than a Happy Meal, chances are, you can’t afford it.  But that’s okay!  I’m here to help you figure out what to do for that wonderful man of yours on Valentine’s Day!

The way to any man’s heart is, well, through his stomach.  Valentine’s Day is no different.  If you want to win your guy over, feed him.

You know that chunk of your grocery budget dedicated to healthy snacks on Sunday while he watches sports?  Use it to buy some sports fan food – nachos, chicken wings, chips and dip.  It’s only once a year, and he will be tickled to see the snack tray that is usually filled with rabbit food and rice cakes is loaded with his football food favorites!

Do you live with a Mr. Fixit?  Check out your local hardware stores for some great free classes that your tinkering honey might enjoy – and they come with the added bonus that you might actually get some of those items off of your honey-do list!  Ask at customer service at your area Home Depot or Lowes to see what upcoming classes they have, and choose one that might be of interest to your handy man.  Make sure when he comes home, armed with his new found knowledge and a brand new area of expertise, you’ve got a cold drink and a hot kiss waiting for him!

Is your guy the stereotypical bookworm?  Chances are in his busy life, he doesn’t get much quiet time to read and enjoy the latest Stephen King novel.  Your local gourmet store probably has sample sizes of some exotic coffee or tea – many samples being only a dollar or two.  Grab his biggest coffee mug, put in the coffee sample, a couple of cookies stolen out of the kids’ cookie jar, maybe a good cigar if he smokes them, and then stop by the library to pick up a book or two he might enjoy reading.  Don’t forget to give him a night off to enjoy the solitude while he sips his coffee and enjoys his book!

How many times have you said to your cuddly computer geek, “If you don’t get off of that computer now, I’m going to cancel your subscription to World of Warcraft; burn your Asheron’s Call t-shirt; toss your Civilization cheat guide in the trash; and tell all of your friends your 9 year old had to show you where to plug in your iPhone charger!”  Oh, is that just me?

Well just in case it isn’t, just like the avid reader, the avid gamer probably gets a lot of flack for taking time for himself on the computer.  This Valentine’s Day, let him have it.  No, don’t punch his lights out – let him have some computer time, uninterrupted, your gift to him for being the sweetheart that he is!  Let him eat dinner at his desk, bring him a couple of Red Bulls so he can stay up all night if he wants, and let him be.  He will really appreciate the night to himself – so much, that it might reflect well when your anniversary rolls around!

You don’t have to think too far outside the box to come up with an inexpensive Valentine gift for your sweetie.  Give him what you can’t really afford to give him on a daily basis – his own space to do his own thing.  He’ll appreciate that much more than another pair of silk boxers with Valentine hearts on them!

Quicken 2011 for family budget planning

Can we use Quicken to do our family budget plan for our trips, college, after school activities, and moving expenses easier then a Jim built Excel spreadsheet ?

Easier, yes.

More thorough, no.

I am finding the Quicken method leaves a lot to be desired.  On the spreadsheet, I can see Pop-Pop’s birthday is in November, so I’ll need money for a gift.  On Quicken, I can see a budget of maybe $50 for gifts in the month of November – but is that in anticipation of the kids being invited to a birthday party?  Is someone expecting a baby, and that’s when I am expecting to need a baby shower gift?

I prefer the more detail oriented, self made, spread sheet budget.  I can’t make wiggle room if I can’t see the finer details!