Is A Disney Cruise Worth the Money?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Mar 27, 2016 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Disney Cruise, Kid's Corner, Travel

Carnival EcstasyIt was NOT planned this way but we have been fortunate to go on two cruises this year. In January, we went on a Seven Day Disney Cruise out of Puerto Rico on the Wonder that was fabulous. It had been booked for over a year.  In November, my brother decided to get married on a cruise which caused two things to occur. One, we booked a Carnival Cruise which we would probably would have not done. Two, we booked a cruise two months after another cruise.  Last week, we went on a Seven Day Carnival Cruise out of Charleston on the Ecstasy. We have been on several Disney Cruises. I have been on several Royal Caribbean Cruises, including one to Alaska with the kids.  I have been on one Carnival previously but it was a long time ago. Having the two cruises so close together gave me the real opportunity to compare the two cruise lines.  Both ships were older ships. The Ecstasy is seven years older (1991) and a little smaller  (about 350 guests or 130 feet in length).  I think the ships are similar enough to be a fair comparison. I will have another post with more details about a cruise wedding but I have had many questions about is Disney worth the extra money and this post will mainly focus on that issue.

Cabin – Disney Wins

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Disney rooms are arranged for families! The smallest inside cabin for Carnival  is 160 square feet and Disney is 185 square feet. Our cabin was 170 square feet. Disney has figured out how to get more out of a smaller space.  Our Carnival cabin was an inside cabin and it felt tight for the three of us. Cobey’s bed was on the floor and Claire had to walk over it to get to the bathroom. Cobey said it was comfortable but it was inconvenient. We had a small chair that was more in the way than used because it barely fit. There was enough space to put away all of our clothes but it would have been hard with four people. The bathroom was a nice size. Disney manages to put a small couch in each of their rooms. The couch turns into one bed and one comes from the ceiling. It is a great way to optimize space. Most of their rooms also have two separate bathroom areas. One area with a shower/tub and a sink and the other with a toilet and sink.  I can’t tell you how nice this is when getting ready for dinner. Our room for Disney was 215  square feet but felt twice as big. When you look for a cabin, layout is key. My guess is that Carnival has figured this out and some of their newer ships have a better layout but for this comparison hands down Disney wins.

They also win with cabin service.  Disney offers cabin service twice a day. They put the beds away in the morning and then back out in the evening. This is really nice so you can use the couch during the day.  On Carnival we had to choose either morning or evening.  I also think Disney did a slightly better job cleaning. They both did a great job with the towel animals that Claire loves. Claire missed the chocolate on the bed. The return guest gift is also better on Disney. On Disney it is usually a bag with something inside it. Our last cruise was a tote with a photo album. Another cruise was a backpack with water bottle. On Carnival, I got a bottle of water and my brother got a lapel pin.

Food – Carnival Wins

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Cobey back from Midnight Mexican Buffet

Food is the most important thing on a cruise to Cobey so I am going to go with his opinion the most. We all thought the quality of the food was about the same except for the burgers. The burgers were better on Carnival. The burgers were dry on Disney and I complained I could never get a good burger the last trip. The food at the wedding was the wonderful.  The quality is about the same.  You will never go hungry on either trip.  Cobey liked Carnival better because of the variety. He likes to try new things. On this trip he got his lamb, duck and lobster which he always enjoys but he also got ox tongue and boiled frog legs. Disney has four course meals while Carnival has three. Disney has Appetizer, Soup/Salad, Entree and Desert. Carnival doesn’t have Soup/Salad separate. I really don’t think this matters because you can order multiple and we often did. Cobey ordered 3 Apps, 2 Entrees and 2 Deserts often. He got his money’s worth in food for sure.  He also loved the Midnight Mexican buffet.  We didn’t order room service on the Carnival because we never found the menu and the one time I called everything I ordered cost money so I gave up.  The other downside of Carnival is soft drinks are NOT included. You have to pay per soda or purchase a soda plan. For seven days for a family of four the soda plan would be $170 whereas soda is included on Disney.  Claire was the only one that got the plan this trip. Overall though the win goes to Carnival for food.

Kid’s Club – Disney

Cobey did not even try his Kid’s Club this time but he barely did the Disney one last trip. He would rather read or watch movies. Claire did try the Kid’s Club for Carnival and I looked at the list for both age groups.  There is no comparison, Disney by a long shot has a better program. For starters, Claire’s club was mostly in a conference room, yes the conference room. I guess they were suppose to be having a board meeting.  I guess they tried with the programming but can you really compare Giant Jinga with Boot Camp with Toy Story Soldiers or Wax Museum  with Dancing with Snow White or Would You Rather with a Pajama Party with Goofy. You get my point!  At night you have to start paying for the club which REALLY bothers me. You don’t pay on Disney unless you have someone in nursery less than three. Royal Caribbean was the same way.  They listed decoupage box as an activity and when Claire went it was coloring on a box. Disney on the other hand had some nice crafts last time we went. When they said tiles it was really made out of tiles.    As my kids get older this becomes less important but Club was the highlight of the trip for ALL parties while they were young.

Excursions – Carnival 

Claire Dolphin Swim

I think the actual excursions offered seem very similar. There have been some special excursions on Disney that are very special and unique. We had a tea with Alice in Wonderland in a garden in Canada and that was an awesome excursion. But overall I think they are similar. I am giving a slight edge to Carnival on this one because they offer a price guarantee and they were so easy to work with. I got to watch the Dolphin Swim with Claire and Stingray with Cobey and Claire without paying. They also had a great variety of options at different price points.

 

 

Atmosphere – Disney

I was worried about the party atmosphere on the ship. I can only speak to what I experienced on this ship and I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, I had to explain what a beer bong was to Cobey and there were a few drunk people here and there but overall it was fine. Claire loved the dancing at dinner every night and the over all fun atmosphere on Carnival, but we both missed rotating dining rooms like we did on Disney.  The part that bothered me the most was the smoking in the middle of the ship in a main thoroughfare and that is why I give the edge to Disney. Disney allows smoking but I don’t ever remember seeing it so it must not be in a main thoroughfare. This may be better on other ships with different design.  Overall, Carnival is fun but Disney is Magical. We have so many truly magical moments from our five Disney cruises.

Photography – Disney

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This may not matter to some but I love photos on cruises. I love going to all the different backgrounds and getting tons of pictures and coming home with a stack. Claire loves posing for photos. Carnival did have lots of backgrounds probably more than Disney so that was nice. The lady who did the wedding was superb and I loved her but beyond that the photograph was pretty bad. Most of the staff seemed very unhappy and not to like kids.  Claire usually loves to take photos but really didn’t want to on this cruise.  The ship still had the old system where you had to search for your photo on the wall.  Even though this is an old ship they could have updated the system like they have on Magic. I had a stack of our photos together – did I mention that I had to search for them and they lost them. There are no packages and the prices are high. Instead of a package you get free gifts after a certain number of photo. I say keep your free gift and give me a packages. I also like that I can take the disc home with all the photos and decide after the cruise which ones that I prefer.

Entertainment – Disney

Claire Sword Fighting Captain Hook

There is so no comparison to entertainment. Disney is top notch with Broadway level performances each night. I have not found anything on Carnival or Royal Caribbean to compare. Disney has a movie theater on every ship and shows recently released movies throughout the entire day. We go to at least one movie a day, sometimes multiple. They also had much better movies on the TV in your room. During this trip they had  only had one family movie per day and the same movie played for two days. I hear on some ships they do have a movie theater but you have to pay a fee, on Disney it is free. On many of our Disney trips we got to see the movie BEFORE it came out in theaters. The musicians and comedians are comparable.  Disney does not have a casino so if that is important to you then that is a factor. Disney does have Bingo but I am not sure they have it as often. I also enjoyed the Art Auction this trip which they have on Disney put I have never attended. Carnival had a ton of trivia contest and we went to a few that was fun. Disney has a wonderful Pirate Night on all of their ships with characters, shows and fireworks.  It is the only ship that does fireworks. Everyone dresses up and it is so much. Claire having a sword fight with Captain Hook is one of my favorite members.  But overall you just can’t beat Disney entertainment.

Themed Meal on the Ship – Carnival

Sam I Am

 

l can’t believed I am giving the each to Carnival for this one but for value Carnival wins. The Green Eggs and Hams breakfast was only five dollars a person. You got photos with three characters a great fun menu for breakfast and great decorations. Claire and I did a Royal Court Tea on Disney’s Fantasy which was wonderful with a lot of gifts but it was over $100 to attend. This breakfast was economical with great food and fun. We all enjoyed it.

Private Island- Disney

Carnival has Half Moon Cay and Disney has Castaway Cay. Both are beautiful beaches with beautiful water.  I am giving a slight edge to Disney because of the adult only beaches with the hammocks, the character statues in the water you can snorkel and see, the huge play pirate ship in the water for the kids to play on and parasailing. We went parasailing for the first time at Disney’s Castaway and it was fabulous. On Half Moon Cay the kids did swimming with the rays which was better after other locations.

So what it comes down to is it worth. If you have kids 10 and under there is no question Disney is worth every penny if you can afford it. Even for us, our kids will be at least 14 and 12 by the next time we cruise, I would love to go on another Disney cruise.  Did I have a great time on Carnival? Yes! Would I go again? Yes! I would probably get a bigger room and compare prices and weigh options. We are running out of itineraries with Disney. It is easy to see why Disney cost more and I think it is worth the extra money especially for families with young kids and people who love Disney. And no, Carnival is not Disney but it doesn’t have to be because it doesn’t have the price tag.

 

 

 

 

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11987104_10206301221544128_466116147548740139_nBecause of scheduling issues, we ended up doing  Yancey County in two parts – Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning.  We arrived in Burnsville at lunch time on Sunday. We soon figured out Sunday may have not been the best day to visit. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open. We finally found Sam’s Regal Beagle and decided to give it a try.  After we sat down, we began to hear a table in the next room loudly complaining. They complained about how long it took to get food, the waitress, and the quality of the food. The restaurant ended up charging them very little for a large party. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a bad decision.  We stuck it out and ended up pleasantly surprised. They were out of some items but we were happy with our orders. Our waitress was the same one and she was friendly and attentive. Our food came out in a timely manner. It was not great but good.  Glad we had a better experience.

We then rode around the town looking for something open without much luck. We did enjoy looking at the quilt squares and the many murals in the area. The photo above and the photo to the right are all from the area.

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11902497_10153453222548950_1943773066144332891_nOn Tuesday morning, we had a foggy but beautiful drive to Mt. Mitchell.   It gave the background about the tallest mountain not only in North Carolina but the Northeast. The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell who measured the mountain three times. The last time he fell to his death. There are several great trails.  We split up into several groups and tackled several different trails. Cobey had a great time and Mt Mitchel helped saved Yancey County from the bottom to closer to the top. Claire and I went on a shorter hike and then went to lunch at the Mt Mitchell Restaurant. I had a burger and Claire had soup. It was a good lunch with a nice view.  Mt Mitchell makes Yancey worth the visit.

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The Blowing Rock

Moses Cone ManorI went to Appalachian State University for college. I love the area and I wanted my kids to love it also. I was determined to have Watauga shine. We took the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway into the area. We stopped at one of my favorite college hangouts – Price Park. It was a nice day and there were lots of people but we finally found a place to park and walked around a bit. We decided against renting a boat at Price Lake and headed on to Moses Cone Manor. We enjoyed the views from the house and the beautiful crafts. If you have never been this is not your average crafts, the quality is excellent.  Moses H Cone was a textile magnate who built this 20 room, 13,000  square foot home in 1901. It is a must stop when you are on the parkway.

 

Mystery HillI lived in the area almost five years but never made it to the tourist traps. I decided this was my chance.  The first stop was The Blowing Rock. There is a town called Blowing Rock but there is also a tourist attraction. There is a Cherokee legend about the Blowing Rock that explains why there is a perpetual wind from the rock. It has fabulous views and I got a great but scary photo of Claire. (the photo at top of blog) But honestly, there are places like this throughout the area and you don’t have to pay but you may have to hike a little bit. Glad I went once but don’t know that  I would pay to go back. The same goes for Mystery Hill. The kids liked it and had fun but it was a little hokey.  You also get to visit the museum with your admission. It includes a huge arrowhead collection and the 1903 Dougherty House that once stood on the campus Appalachian. The house shows life in the 19th century.

 

The New Public House and HotelAfter Mystery Hill, we headed for Kilwin’s in downtown Blowing Rock. Downtown is cool and quaint and fun to walk around. One of my favorite downtowns in the state.  The kids liked the ice cream at Kilwin’s but they loved the orangeade. They claimed I had been depriving them.  We walked around and stumbled upon the The New Public House. Fortunately. they had room for us at a table in the bar. This was one of our best meals during our challenge. The kids shared Jambalaya and I had Free Range Chicken.  The service was great and the atmosphere is neat.

 

 

 

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After dinner, we drove to Boone where I showed them the stadium and my old dorm.  The second dorm I lived in has been torn down.  Claire got a photo with “The Rock” and the footprints.  We got a photo of what is the ugliest courthouse we have seen so far and then headed to the hotel.

 

Foggy Mountain Gem MineThe next morning we ended up going gem mining at Foggy Mountain Gem Mine. They both enjoyed it, worked together and ended up with a bag full of gems.  The staff was friendly and helpful. I would go back for sure.  Of the three paid attractions we did in the county, it was by far the best.  They both decided that Watauga County was pretty good even if their mom liked it and it is still tops for me.

View from Blowing Rock

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We just finished this book as our family read aloud. Everyone enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it.  The book is well researched and well organized. It contains heroes you would expect and ones long forgotten. We have a deeper appreciation for many and added more to our list of conservative heroes. It also gave me hope that we may be able to return to a more conservative government.   I loved that it gave the kids insight of what a real conservative looks like. I am grateful for the leaders in the books and pray that more conservative leaders will be raised up. Read this book for the history. Read the book for great leadership sketches.  Just read the book.

My question is why does the Republican party continue to have Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner.  I propose we have a Taft-Reagan Dinner or Cleveland-Reagan Dinner.

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We had a fabulous day in Clay County. The kids had previously been to Clay’s Corner doing work on a history project but I had never been. It is the smallest county in the state but it is well rounded. It had something fun to do, preserved history and great places to eat.  Our first stop was Chucky Gal Stables. We had a two hour ride that was great. We took a trail up the mountain.  We had a break by a waterfall that was nice but not great. The ride would have been even better if we had a great view at an overlook or of some falls. We were at the side of the falls at the top which was just okay.  I would ride with them again because they were great to work with and the horses were wonderful.

 

 

 

Old Jail - Clay County

We then headed to the Old Jail where the Clay County Historical Museum is located.  The museum has many exhibits including one of a local doctor,  a jail cell, moonshine, Native Americans and kitchen. Claire especially liked the exhibit of fabrics from old feed sacks. Down the hill there is small Indian Village replica with information on wayside boards. We checked out the the old courthouse and the square then headed for lunch.

 

 

11745599_10205991138192238_2103406100570381214_nThe true test of every county is can we find something good to eat. Clay County did not disappoint. We ended up at Chevelle’s 69. Do not be scared away with the Biker’s Welcome Sign although it did give me pause. This place is great! They have a fun atmosphere not scary, prodigious menu and great service. Cobey was thrilled with separate menu with all burgers and selected a Greek Burger. Claire got pasta and I got salmon. Claire said there was too much Parmesan cheese on her pasta. How can you have too much cheese? Otherwise, every thing else was great. Who knew you could get great salmon at a Biker Bar.  They have great specials throughout the week.  If we are ever anywhere close, we would go back for sure. You should also.

 

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11745436_10205984728431998_8246457334648000331_nWe made it to the farthest western county – Cherokee County.  This county we also did with our field trip group which made it extra fun. We started the day driving about a half hour out to Murphy to Field of Woods. This site was the first we did for our history project that will show “curiosity” of North Carolina. They have the 300 ft wide ten commandments which claims to be the word’s largest. There are also other attractions including Psalms of Praise wall, empty tomb, all nation cross and more. I would plan to spend about hour to check everything out and climb to the tomb.

11751440_10205984809394022_3851740904946553025_nWe then went back into town for a tour at the Cherokee County Historical Museum. We loved this tour with Mr. Palmer and Wanda Stalcup. It is a small museum that is packed full. We learned so much and you could tell our guides loved their county and history.  I wish we had more time there. This is one of my favorite small town museums that we have visited and the people is what made it.  I loved learning about the symbols on the bear, the story about fairy crosses and the story about the mask made for the museum. We then went to Main Street USA for lunch. It was a tip from the museum and it was cheap and good country cooking.

11745348_10205986961767830_4482054335220159397_nOur next activity was a three mile walking tour where we saw the spot of Fort Butler where Cherokee were held before the Trail of Tears, the first White Settlers monument and the spot where Cherokee got water on Trail of Tears. On the way out of town to Graham County, we stopped at the little church on the hill where Abraham Lincoln’s biological father is buried.  We ended our day back in Murphy at The Sweet Tooth where the kid enjoyed some great ice cream.

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We started our day with a picnic with friends “on the square” in Shelby. It was a nice way to start our visit and a great idea and complete with homemade blueberry pie. This was the first county that Bruce was able to join us and it turned out to be a great county for him to come to. After lunch we made a quick to Shelby City Park.

 

 

 

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We took a ride on the 1919 carousel and the train. It is one of the most beautiful carousels I have ever seen. It is beautiful and you can take a ride for fifty cents. We had a driving tour of Shelby on the way back to our  next stop at the Earl Scruggs Museum. I am really not a bluegrass fan but I really enjoyed this museum. Each person gets a set of ear buds so you can hear various exhibits and there are many places to plug in. The story of Earl Scruggs and his wife was interesting. They also had general history of Cleveland County. There are three small exhibits and a movie so not a huge museum but worth the stop if you are in the area even if you are not a bluegrass fan. There was a volunteer from the area that added to the museum. I would give yourself an hour to explore. Claire found some new favorite songs and I gained an appreciate for bluegrass and its influence.

 

 

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We next hurried to Kings Mountain for the play Liberty Mountain at Joy Theater. The play was about the battle at Kings Mountain and all that led up to it. The battle was very well done and great history of the area. It was loud at parts with gun and cannon fire. There is a good amount of action. I heard they are going to extend the dates so you should try and make it before it ends. We walked around Kings Mountain and then had dinner at 238 Cherokee Grill. The food and service was very good. The only problem is Claire and Betsy ended up with spicy nachos after ordering mild sweet chili. They ended up using lots of sour cream. It was a nice ending to a full day in Cleveland County.

 

 

 

Claire’s Rankings – She said Cleveland may have been better if we had a chance to see everything. Several things were closed because it was Sunday. The second grouping isn’t bad though.

First

Mecklenburg

Tied for second

Greene

Gaston

Union

Cumberland

New Hanover

Tied for Seventh

Cleveland

Harnett

Halifax

Tenth Nash

Tied for Eleventh

Granville

Hertford

Anson

Tied Thirteen-

Avery

Tied Fifteen

Brunswick

Hoke

Seventeen- Bladen

Eighteen- Northampton

Tied for Last

Columbus

Edgecombe

 

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Become a Junior Zookeeper at Indianapolis Zoo

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Jun 24, 2015 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel, Zoo

11402931_10205781076860836_6230966643007750309_nWe only had a few hours to spend but we packed in as much as possible.  What I love about zoos is they all have a different twist.  There were several highlights from this zoo. One would be the dolphin show which was pretty good. My only complaint was it was hard to understand what the trainers were saying. We also went to the All-Star Dog show. It was also entertaining. They had where you could feed the birds and giraffe. They also had the now obligatory rides at the zoo. They had a train, a carousel and a decent roller coaster.

11218173_10205781074660781_4697642178762626424_nThe part we like the best and didn’t figure out till we had been there for a while was the Zookeeper Challenge. There are kiosks throughout the park where you can tap your unlimited wrist band and get started. You tap at the kiosk near of the animals and then back to the station where it ask you a question. The challenge really teaches you a lot in a fun way.   You get a reward at the end at the gift shop. We only had time to do about half but Claire loved it and it made getting the all inclusive package worth it. If you want to save money then only get the package for the kid that wants to do the activity. We only got it for Claire. She rode the carousel,  fed the birds several times and did the zookeeper challenge so it paid for itself.

We stayed around four hours. We didn’t get to hear any zoo chats and didn’t do all the rides but saw both shows and most of the animals. You could easily spend a day here or even less time if you only walked through and saw the animals. It was a good zoo and worth the visit.

Relaxing While Claire Feeds the Birds

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vinegerboy

Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse is a must read anytime but especially wonderful for the Easter Season. We read it last year as a read aloud and we all enjoyed it.

It is a beautiful interpretation of the death of the Christ through the eyes of a boy. The disfigured boy’s job is to give comfort to prisoners when they are dying with a sponge of vinegar and herbs.  There are some great themes of service, love and adoption in the book. The story is captivating. It is one of the few books that I would read again.

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Day Four in NYC- Financial, Fashion, Food and Fun!

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday May 28, 2014 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

Trinity Root

Financial Tour This was by far the best day in New York and now the kids really want to come back. I planned the day with the kids interest and passions in mind. We started with a Financial Tour – The Wall Street Experience.  The tour was two hours and excellent. It included great revolutionary history in the tour. It included background information about what caused the financial crisis. I would recommend this tour even if you are not that interested in finances.  Cobey really wants to go into the New  York Stock Exchange and already working on this for the next visit.

We then headed straight for the 911 Museum. We only had a little over an hour and we did not have near enough time. Our friends went and stayed six hours. The museum is intense powerful and thorough. My only complaint was there was too many people allowed in at one time. Despite the crowd, people were quiet and introspective more so than any museum I have been to. The kids want to go back when we have more time to spend. This time we had to go for  Clare’s part of the day

Claire at Fashion Tour

I signed her up for a private tour with SEEK. We got on the subway going the wrong way but we made it to our meeting spots only a few minutes late. The tour did not disappoint. Our tour guide Liz started with giving us background about the fashion district and fashion history. Some of the history went along with our tour the day before at the Tenement Museum. After the history part, she then took Claire shopping. We went to a bead store, three trim stores and three fabric stores. Claire had a ball and we had the best guide.  Liz gave great advice and encouragement. They became instant friends.  The tour was a little over two hours and since we skipped lunch and it was now almost five,  we were starved. With advice from Liz, we headed to John’s Pizza. It was a great meal. They have gluten free pasta but I had a wonderful salad. The kids loved the mozzarella wedges and cheese ravioli. Cobey was disappointed with his wings but otherwise good meal. We then headed for Dylan’s Candy Bar. The Dylan’s Candy Bar was a very sweet ending to a great day.

Claire and Liz Dylan's Candy Bar

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