Finally, the wait is over, I sailed and it was amazing!

Welcome aboard show

The suspension was long, it was hard on the industry, the crew, and those that love to sail. While the world started to open up, travel started to ramp up, but not for cruise lines, they were still told no. BUT NOT ANYMORE.

Slowly but surely the CDC released guidelines for the cruise lines to follow, test sailings began, and here we are, back to sailing. Of course, if you are ready.

I am beyond ready so guess what?? I sailed on Disney’s first sailing in over 15 months aboard the Disney Dream on August 9th. Now I’ll share what it was like.

Boarding picture taken in the terminal where the Concierge/Platinum check-in used to be

First the Important Stuff

I’m not going to lie, it is a lot different now, there are new protocols but honesty, did you expect no covid protocols?? You will have to use a new website called Safe Passage to upload test results or if you CHOOSE, your covid vaccination card. Everyone (even Platinum Castaway Club members has to pick a port arrival time (PAT). Concierge guests may arrive when the port opens and right now that is 1pm.

If you don’t upload proof of vaccine or are not vaccinated, you will be tested at port. If you are 12 and older it is at your expense. Children under 12 are not charged.

Don’t arrive at port before your port arrival time; don’t try it, not to sound mean but no one is that special, you will be turned away! Literally turned away.

If you haven’t completed any forms in Safe Passage you WILL NOT be boarding the ship. Please let this sink in. They left people at port, please read all instructions carefully.

Masks: must be worn inside the ship unless stationary while eating or drinking. They are not needed outdoors or in your staterooms.


Onto the Fun Stuff…

Where to begin, I was home, I finally heard the words “Disney Dream welcomes the Greco family” and yes, I ugly cried…more like sobbed. We were the 2nd family onboard. They welcomed about 10-15 families at a time and did a welcome show in the Atrium. I looked up and saw JIMMY, (cruise director), he saw me and it was such an emotional moment. You can hear it if you saw my live video. He kept saying how emotional it was, both of us sobbed. I think the magic began that very moment.

Jimmy and I on the last night

The muster drill is totally different, you scan the letter on the deck through the DCL app and that’s it. Right before you sail they show the video with directions, I was in The District having my chocolate martini 😁

After we scanned in for the drill, we had lunch at Royal Palace, this is where Concierge guests go for lunch on embarkation day. Then off to the pool.

We watched the Fantasy sail off and we had an epic horn battle…MAGICAL

There wasn’t one crew member that didn’t say thank you for coming back, wasn’t truly grateful for being there. The energy was real!

Speaking of crew, you know you’re home when you are sitting at Satellite Falls and one of the crew members comes up to you and says “hi, it’s good to see you, do you remember me?” Of course I remember Soy, but the fact he remembers me is crazy.

Then Burak, my head server, I request him when I sail and he was there waiting for me. Why? Because I never lost touch with him, we have kept in touch and he made sure to grab my reservation. My family wanted for nothing, we had the best seats in the house, Crush even spoke to us at Animators Palate!

The Dining rooms are still magical, there are even a few surprises!

Crush
New Character show at Enchanted Garden

Let’s Talk about Castaway Cay…

We stopped there twice…how sweet is that? We got a double dip! We had a cabana both days, I can’t tell you how great that was. There were tons of port adventures to choose from, feeding stingrays, paddle boarding, hobie cats, bikes, glass bottom boats, so many to choose from. Not running were any that were operated by nearby islands.

The BBQ, ice cream, soda stations, and bars were all open. The 5k was not officially running BUT you could run it on your own and they gave you a medal. Don’t worry, I had my oceanburger!!!

The Ship…

The Dream is beautiful, she hasn’t changed. Onboard they had 2 shows, Disney’s Believe and Beauty and the Beast. They were shown two nights each. The movies were Jungle Cruise, Black Widow, and Star Wars. When I boarded there was no food or drink allowed in the theaters, night 2 they allowed drinks into the theaters…this is very fluid and things change by the minute.

Preludes reopened on night 2

Fireworks at sea….

Yes, they still have them, even without deck parties. Disney Cruise Line still has magic up the their sleeve and shoots the fireworks off on 2 different nights, one night for early seating and one night for late seating. Your invitation will appear on your app and once on deck you will be told what dot to stand on. Please do everyone a favor and go on your assigned day and stand on your dot.

Did I feel safe???

Absolutely, a lot safer than in my grocery store at home. DCL is not messing around. They make you follow the rules, why? Because if you don’t and there is a covid outbreak THEY DON’T SAIL!! There are social distancing markers all over the ship. Follow them. There are testing rules, follow them. There are capacity rules in the pools and theaters, don’t get mad, follow them. If they say don’t move the lounge chairs, don’t move them. This is why Disney has zero cases so far. Be grateful, they are back and people are working again.

My biggest takeaway is that this cruise only felt different because the ship was so empty. Wearing a mask to walk inside the ship and to shop was not a big deal, I was outside a bulk of the time anyway. If you have never sailed before and think that you are ready, you aren’t missing anything. The characters are actually closer to you on the ship then at Disney World. They are walking around more frequently.

I can’t wait to get back onboard!!! I would love to answer any of your questions so don’t hesitate to ask!!

Let’s Take a Trip to Sandals Montego Bay (MOBAY)!

Sandals Montego Bay is the flagship resort

I recently had the honor of being invited to Sandals Montego Bay (Mobay, as we like to call it), by my BDM for a Back to the Beach FAM event. What does that mean, you ask? It’s a learning event for agents and this one was to see the new safety and testing protocols that Sandals put in place, live and up close, as well as the experience the resort for ourselves.

I learned so much and now I want to share it with all of you.

Oh No, I Have to Test to Go and to Come Home?!?

This is the biggest question that I have received since the announcement was made about needing to test in order to come home. Let me calm your fears about the process, Sandals has you covered.

Step 1: 3 days prior to leaving for Jamaica you will need a COVID-19 test, this may be a rapid Antigen or a PCR test.

Step 2: 5 days prior to leaving for Jamaica you must log onto the Visit Jamaica site: https:/www.visitjamaica.com and fill out the application for your Travel Authorization form. You NO LONGER need to upload your negative COVID-19 results so don’t stress if you do not have them yet. Once you submit the application you will IMMEDIATELY be approved, yes immediately. Print the forms that you are emailed. YOU WILL BE DENIED BOARDING AT THE AIRPORT IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE NEGATIVE COVID-19 TEST AND THE JAMAICA AUTHORIZATION FORM WITH YOU.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone on your flight as well as at the Sandals Resort has tested negative as well:). The Resort is considered your place of quarantine by the Jamaican Government and you must stay on property or at Sandals Royal Caribbean. (You have the use of both resorts)

Step 3: Two days prior to departure you will receive a letter on your door, this letter will tell you the room number and time window to go for your COVID-19 test for your return home. The tests are done by the Jamaican government, they are paid for by SANDALS. The form you need to take with you is in the envelope, you need that form and your passport the day of the test. It is a rapid test much like a pregnancy test. You want one line not two!

They take 2 people into the room at a time and sanitize between each couple. You must wait for your results and they hand you the papers you take to the airport. The entire process took us about 30 minutes to complete.

I know what you are thinking…what if I test positive??? Well in the event you test positive, you get to stay in your room, so if it’s a swim up butler suite, it’s yours for another 10 days! They will bring you food and beverages and you will be allowed on your balcony area. The cost is 200.00 per night BUT it’s totally covered by Sandals insurance so guess what, it’s reimbursed.

Is it Safe/Clean?

Absolutely, hands down, totally sanitized, clean, and safe! Each room is totally sanitized and sealed after and you are the first to break that seal upon arrival. They clean EVERYTHING including the vents of your air conditioning unit.

There is hand sanitizer all over the resort and you must use it before entering restaurants and the gift shops.

Do you have to wear a mask? Only in the gift shop or enclosed locations like the club area to check in. The staff is in masks but you don’t have to be unless you want to be. The resort is all outdoors and naturally socially distanced. It is the most normal I have felt. **remember, we are all tested to be there and while we are there to come home.

Now the Fun Stuff…What’s Included in a Sandals Vacation??

Sandals Resorts include EVERYTHING! Room, food, top shelf liquor, entertainment, activities (even scuba diving if you are certified), transfers from the airport, and gratuities!

**not included: spa treatments, excursions such a catamaran cruises and tours, Butler gratuities (if you’re in a butler suite), and cabana rentals.

Food and Drink…soooo much

Sandals Montego Bay has 12 Restaurants, yes 12!!! You can eat at all of them, they are all included, I had many 2nd lunches and 2nd dinners to get them all in. Currently reservations are only required for 2 of the restaurants, Butches Steak House and Tokyo Joe’s.  The other restaurants are just walk up but I still make one at Soy’s to be sure I had a table inside.  

The 12 restaurants at Mobay are Bayside Restaurant, Oleander Room, Stew Fish, Cucina Romana, Tokyo Joe’s, The Cricketers Pint, Dino’s Pizzeria Italiana, The Mariner Seaside Bar and Grill, Café de Paris, The Jerk Shack, Butches Steak and Seafood, and Soy Sushi Bar. Where would you start?

The drinks, from coffee to any beverage you can dream up. My favorites, Dirty Banana, Purple Rain, Bob Marley!

The Rooms…

Holy Moly, where to begin, there are so many different types of rooms to choose from, I toured 5 and stayed in 2 different ones. I definitely have a favorite. The one that I absolutely love (and stayed in when I visited in October) is the Beachfront Swim-up Super Luxe One-Bedroom Butler Suite w/ Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub! This room features Room Service, Butler Service, Love Nest, In-Room Bar w/ Premium Liquors, private BMW Transfer, Free Wifi, and a Tranquility Soaking Tubs™ for Two. I also this beautiful pool that I could swim across and walk right onto the Beach.

I will upload some room tour videos but first here is a look at some pictures of our Butler Suite from October

Romeo and Juliet Suite
Crystal Lagoon club level swim up suite…yes there is a blooper at the end.
Millionaire Swim out Butler Suite
Oceanview Penthouse Club level jr suite with balcony tranquility tub
Oceanfront honeymoon walkout club level rooms with tranquility tub

Weddings and Retie the Knot Ceremonies

Did you know that you can get married or retie the knot at Sandals? There are multiple venues, some are FREEEE! Pictured above is the over the water chapel, it will cost you 750.00 to use this for your event. The floor has a glass bottom so you can see into the ocean.

There is also another chapel that can be used for 350.00 and a Catholic Priest will come in and perform the ceremony. This venue is also used as a backup in case of bad weather and will be at no charge should that happen.

You can be married anywhere on the beach or in any other wedding location for free. They even have a bridal room that you can use!

Contact me for more information about weddings!

Coming Home?

You all know me, DCL is my “home” and I am missing it terribly. That said, I have been to Mobay twice and it is like coming home! Although I didn’t have a butler for this FAM, I did see my butler Wilson and guess what, he remembered me! So did Stephanie from the spa, and Kayon from the bar, and Adam and Ray from entertainment!! It is just what I needed to feel relaxed and happy while the world is still upside down.

My Thoughts

I know some are ready to travel and some are not. I know some feel disconnected from spouses/partners because of the quarantine, homeschooling, Covid stress, etc.

If you are ready to travel and reconnect with your loved one, Sandals is a safe and romantic place to do it, it might be just what you need to reconnect or just have some alone time.

I leave you with some pictures. If you’re ready, I am here to help you plan!

Drop a comment below if you want to go to paradise!!

2020…We Made It…My HONEST Thoughts About Walt Disney World Post Covid.

Laying on an empty Main Street at 3:00pm in July

Wow, what a year, I don’t even know where to start. I mean, it started off so well, my business was booming, life was great, we had just given our grandchildren a Christmas gift to go to Walt Disney World. What could be better?

Our family went on a Star Wars Day at Sea Disney Cruise in January, I took my sister-in-law on a Bahamian Disney Cruise in February. March came and my family was at Disney World and the unthinkable happened….it closed. Literally closed.

March 15, 2020

Just like that all of our lives changed, this virus shut everything down and I spent the next 5 months calling clients and cancelling trips, truth is, it’s still happening. The cruise lines are still suspended and Disneyland is still closed.

When the announcement was made that Disney World would begin to open in July I had a flurry of mixed emotions. I was super excited that there would be magic again, I was beyond thrilled for the Cast Members who had been out of work, BUT I was also very nervous. Why you ask? Because just like the rest of the country, there is a scary virus out there and was it going to be safe to go? Could I send my clients?

7/11/2020

I took it upon myself to go with fellow agents to the opening. I knew the protocols that were put into place and I fully trusted that Disney would keep me safe. The questions I had were the same as all of you…would it still be magical? No fireworks, no parades, no character interaction, no park hopping, was it really safe?

The answer to all of these questions is YES. IT REALLY STILL IS MAGICAL. It may be different but Disney hasn’t forgotten how to make magic.

There are in fact characters and mini parades that pop up, called cavalcades. You never know when one is coming, the music suddenly changes and BOOM, here comes a cavalcade! Character dining is coming back…slowly…and although the character interaction is different, it is still fun.

Safety: you are in the “Disney Bubble”. Everything is constantly sanitized, even the buildings on Main Street! You can find hand sanitizer all over as well as hand washing stations throughout the parks. Quick service dining is ordered and paid for via the My Disney Experience app, making everything touch less.

Was it crowed? This is a very common question. No, right now the parks can be at 35% capacity and you need a park reservation. This means that you can’t be turned away at the gate as long as you have a reservation. There is plenty of room and space to walk around and stay social distanced. Masks ARE required. No mask NO entry.

Should you go to Disney World? Absolutely yes. If you are comfortable traveling, you won’t regret it. I have had amazing feedback from my clients that have traveled. I have personally been there 4 times since July. It is stress free, it takes a lot less planning. Enjoy the pictures of my magical adventures post covid!

Virgin Voyages: An Adult Only Cruise Line

VV_Logo_CMYK_Smallscale.pdfVirgin_Voyages_Scarlet_Lady_546684

 

Wait, Laura is excited about a Cruise Line other than DCL?

You might be wondering if you read that correctly, I mean you all know that I only sail Disney and after the many non Disney mishaps you are probably confused. I am going to explain why I am so VERY excited I am about Virgin Voyages and the Scarlet Lady.

One of the main reasons that I prefer to sail DCL to the other lines is the simple fact that it is all inclusive. There is NO up-selling of soda packages, you don’t board a ship to the constant up-selling crew members. No, there are no all you can drink alcohol packages, but that is a positive point for me. The other reasons I only sail DCL: I never feel like I am on a floating city, I don’t need to be on a ship with a billion people with a mall…I have a mall at home, I am not on vacation to shop. I am not a gambler either so I don’t need the casino. The stateroom needs to be bigger than my closet at home, I might only need it to get ready for the evening or sleep, but I do enjoy relaxing in it or my time on the verandah. I expect a certain level of service, I want to be treated like royalty, no matter how long I am sailing. For these reasons, let me introduce you to Virgin Voyages!

Scarlet Lady Flythrough

Adult Only:

The Scarlet Lady is a ship built for adults, just adults, you need to be 18 and older to sail on her. There aren’t very many cruise lines out there that are adult only, some boast adult only sailings, but Virgin Voyages is an adult only cruise line. She just started her Sea Trials this week and all have been successful!

The Scarlet Lady has a gym, spa, pool, athletic club on deck, cabanas on deck, over 20 restaurants, a theater, tons of clubs, bars, and even a tattoo parlor!

The Cabins:

State of the art cabin configuration
The Suites are beautifully equipped

Modern, yacht-inspired aesthetic and clever cabin technology make for more than just a space to live (or sleep). Transform your room at the touch of a button. Mood-matching lights, a configurable Seabed and in-cabin tech come together to make your life easier. Save the friction for the dance floor.

Each Sea Terrace (balcony) has a hammock to relax on, who wouldn’t want one of those?

The suites offer a mini bar, first round is on Richard, as well as an actual record player, marble bathrooms, and so much more.

Beach Club at Bimini: The Private Island

Beach Club at Bimini

The Beach Club at Bimini, located in the Bahamas, where do I even start, there is a pool, cabanas, hammocks in the ocean, food, drinks, a DJ, a bonfire, and a private area for those in the suites. Here are Richard’s words

Since Virgin has a private beach club experience in Bimini, Bahamas, we’d be crazy not to utilize it. But the only way in is on one of our Lady Ships.

See-through water and sandy white shores punctuate this geographically poetic port. And like any good haiku, it’s cloaked in seductive mystery. Besides having access to the island’s incredible biodiversity in marine life, boating, snorkeling and even historic shipwreck diving, sailors get exclusive access to The Beach Club — Virgin’s private beach club experience. Peaceful mornings and restorative days or amplified afternoons at the DJ-led pool party —our club is designed to answer whatever your specific mood is calling for. But regardless of your energy level, the bonfire finale will be nearly impossible to pass on.

This private island alone had me booked as soon as the bookings opened!

The sailings: Where does Virgin Voyages go and how long?

Virgin Voyages will boast 4 and 5 night sailings beginning April 2020. There are 4 main itineraries with a couple of special sailings thrown in.

Maiden Voyage and 2 Sneak a Peak sailings are still available and you can book those now! Take a look:

What’s Included:

EVERYTHING!!! There are over 20 restaurants, a gym, entertainment galore, clubs, gym, all included in your voyage fare. Richard is even including your gratuities and non alcoholic beverages. Why isn’t he including alcohol? He has found that most sailors don’t want to feel like they need to get their monies worth and drink themselves into oblivion.

” We want Sailors focused on the experience not the free drinks in the dreaded wedding and nightclub “crush””.

Virgin Voyages instead promises reasonable drink prices, I have seen the price list and it is less expensive than all other cruise lines let alone what we pay in NYC for a drink.

” Our beverage program will feature the best prices on land and/or at sea, inclusive of gratuity, for the brands offered. We will always offer a single digit option inclusive of gratuity for bubbles, rose, white, red, house spirits and/or beer in every outlet. 70% of our wines by the glass are less than $15 versus 59% of the other premium cruise line, 46% of the urban restaurant and 57% of the boutique hotel. “

Personally, I hate being surrounded by a bunch of out of control, loud, drunk adults behaving like children, which is why I have always sailed Disney. (I realize how that sounds but that is the truth at 50+ years old, I do not need to vacation with unlimited alcohol packages and the results that they bring)

The Customer Service:

This will be comparable to Disney, this is Richard Branson’s company, his standards are high, he is building Virgin Voyages with sailors in mind. I do not think I will be disappointed at all, I need to be pampered.

The Virgin Voyages Promotion: HURRY IT ENDS ON 11/22!

Book with me before November 22nd and I will add an onboard credit for you!

Final Thoughts:

It is hard for me to step out of my comfort zone, I have been disappointed every time that I have. That said, I can’t help but be super excited to be sailing on the Scarlet Lady in October 2020! I believe that Virgin Voyages is going to be a Luxury Cruise Line that will offer the most amazing adult only vacations! Heck, there is even a tattoo parlor onboard!!! (maybe I will finally get my Tinkerbell tattoo:)

Interested in a Virgin Voyage? Contact me, your journey starts HERE! (Hurry, that promo ends in just a few days)

FTJbyLauraGreco /845-781-0315 or request a quote from our blog!

Disney Cruise Line, Concierge Style

Let’s talk about Disney Cruise Line…Concierge Style. Just when you think a Disney cruise can’t be more magical, guess again!

Let me tell you about the cruise I just took with my husband…that’s right…I took a Disney Cruise again…with my husband…no kids. We celebrated our 23rd anniversary in style. I booked the Concierge 1 bedroom Suite. It was MAGICAL!

This was the 4 night HOTHS Bahamian on the Disney Dream and if you haven’t sailed concierge and wonder if it is worth it, let me help you decide.

Your concierge services start prior to boarding, you receive an email and call from the team a few days before your booking window opens asking for your list of things you want to book; cabana on CC, spa treatment, Princess Gathering, Palo/Remy, Port Adventures, etc. you name it, they do it for you. All you have to do is check in. Keep in mind that you do have to be paid in full in order for them to do this.

Once you arrive at port, you go through security like everyone else but once through, you go to the concierge check in area to complete the process. Once you have the key to the world cards, you are escorted into the concierge waiting area. It is quiet and comfortable.

Concierge guests are the first to board so around noon, maybe a little before, the concierge hosts came in and told us that we were going to come through, tap onto the ship, take our boarding pictures, and start our vacation. This was so easy, I’m usually group 1 because I’m platinum but I have to fight the crowds to get to the entrance. NOT this time, this time we just walked in, took our picture, and were announced onto the ship within minutes. MAGICAL.

Once in the atrium we were given the choice to go to the concierge lounge or special seating at the royal palace for lunch. We chose the concierge lounge for cocktails and snacks before lunch. Our room was ready shortly after and we were able to enjoy lunch without our bags in tow.

  • The suite: 1 bedroom sleeps up to 5 guests
    • 2 full baths (1 with spa tub)
      Queen size bed in bedroom
      Full size pull out sofa bed
      Twin size Murphy bed
      2 closets
      1 walk in closet
      Dining room table
      Living room
      2 TVs
      1 TV in Master Bath mirror (no joke)
      Fridge
      2 sliders to balcony

  • Concierge Lounge:
    • Concierge Team located here
      Opened 6am-10pm
      Offers food and beverages all day
      Cocktails at no fee between 5pm-7pm
      Entrance to concierge sundeck through here

    Sun Deck:

    • Sunblock
    • Plush towels
    • Hot Tub
    • Cold beverages
    • Mister
    • Showers
    • Bathroom
    • Privacy
    • Entrance from Satellite Falls

    In concierge we had not 1 but 2 stateroom hosts, we wanted for nothing, I mean nothing. I have to say that I have cruised Disney many times and have never had a complaint about anything but concierge takes it to a different level. My husband sent his shoes to be shined at no cost but who thinks about this? They put out slippers and robes every night for us. Category 4C never came with slippers and robes. Lol!

    Let’s talk about the elusive cabanas…again…platinum Castaway Club member here and my first Cabana. I can absolutely see what the fuss is about and they ARE worth every penny.

    We had Cabana #23 on Serenity Bay. I need this all the time. We took the tram to Pelican Bay (2nd stop) and then switched trams to Serenity Bay. Quick note that I had been there 3 weeks prior and it looked A LOT different as Dorian had left her mark. (We were the first passengers let off the ship on the 9/9 sailing)

    Once at Serenity Bay we checked in at the cabana check in and our concierge host was there to meet us. They put us on a golf cart and took us to the cabana. Paradise…it was a day in paradise.

    Cabanas:

    • Ceiling fan
    • Living area
    • Porch with seating
    • Floats
    • Hammock
    • Fresh water shower
    • Safe
    • Towels
    • Sunblock
    • Fridge filled with beverages
    • Cabana attendant

    Of course this cruise was filled with everything that I love about Disney cruising, tequila/margarita tasting, Palo Brunch, chocolate martinis, seeing my friends on board, like my dining team and Kerishia.

    Disembarking: This was the one thing, that while convenient, I didn’t love. As a concierge guest you have priority disembarkation. This means that from 7-8am the concierge hosts walk you off the ship. You must be out of your rooms by 8am which is standard. Why is this different than what I am used to and why didn’t I like it?

    You see, I don’t like leaving the ship. Let’s face it, who does? I usually get to the dining room for my farewell breakfast at 8am and leave the ship at 9ish. This time I was off the ship at 8am, I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends Burak, Helsniki, and Eka, and I didn’t get my Route 66. Keep in mind, it was my choice to try this priority disembarkation but in the future I will go to my farewell breakfast.

    Is concierge worth the money?

    I say yes, yes it is. If you like the extra touches, if you want the cabana, if you love your own space on the ship, this is the way to go.

    Now will I be happy in January when I am in my home stateroom 7614 Cat 4C?? HECK YES!!! Disney service is amazing no matter what category you’re in, whether you are on a 2 night or 14 night sailing, concierge or not. This my friends is the Disney Difference!

    Have you sailed concierge? Do you want to? Check out my Facebook page for the live tour of my suite! http://www.facebook.com/ftjbylaura

    Website: http://www.fairytalejourneysbylaura.com

    Email: FTJbyLauraGreco@gmail.com

    Phone: (845) 781-0315