Travel & Leisure

D23 Expo 2017 – Tips, Tix, & Our Highlights

I wrote this on my old blog, but I’ve decided to crosspost it to here too. 🙂

We survived our first D23 Expo! When we say survived, we mean WE SURVIVED.
We read a ton of information online before our trip. We wanted to know it all – the good and the bad. There was so much information out there that it became overwhelming instead of being helpful.
We didn’t want to be disappointed by over-hyping the event, so we decided to go into the Expo with low expectations and lots of optimism.
We’ve compiled a few tips that we hope you’ll find helpful.

Tips

1. Stay nearby. It was so convenient to be within walking distance of the convention center. We stayed at Disney’s Paradise Pier and it was about a 15 minute walk to get to the center. It was nice not having to worry about parking. See the parking rates and information about the various parking lots on Anaheim Convention Center’s website… It was enough to deter us from thinking of driving!
2. Wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you!
3. Be prepared for long lines and lots of waiting. We knew there were going to be a ton of people there and I’m so glad we mentally prepared ourselves for it. The crowds were unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. We waited 2-3 hours each day just to get into the venue, but the lines don’t stop there. There are lines for everything – to go into the exhibits, to go into the stores, to purchase food, to go into the restroom. Some exhibits had minimal wait as the day went by and some exhibits always had a long line (for example – Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin always had a line!).
4. Bring portable batteries so you never run out of juice. We are so glad they had Wi-Fi at the Anaheim Convention Center. Having wireless data access helped make the time pass by while we were waiting in line. It was spotty at times, but I was so grateful to have it.
5. Bring bottled water. Save money and bring your own bottled water! The letter we received before the Expo said that food and drinks were not allowed, but bottled water is the exception. We also brought light snacks with us and weren’t reprimanded. I was hoping that there would be Disney food at the convention and unfortunately that wasn’t the case! We ate at the Anaheim Convention food courts… The meals were expensive and tasted less than mediocre. There were food trucks at the convention too, but there was a long line to get back through security. We decided to dine at the food trucks for dinner instead. The food trucks were expensive too, but at least the food offerings were plentiful and flavorful.
6. Prioritize what you want to see. Especially when it comes to the panels. Some people wait hours to get into the highly coveted panels, such as the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts panel. While it would have been AWESOME to be there in person and feel the energy of excitement from the crowds, to us it wasn’t worth waiting 4 or 5 hours. We saw all the updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while we were doing other things, so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything.
We wish they presented panels multiple times throughout the Expo, but they don’t. The only presentation that had 2 sessions was A Whole New World of Alan Menken (which was AMAZING!).
7. Save money and leave room in your suitcase for D23 Expo exclusive merchandise. There were a ton of cool D23 Expo exclusive merchandise! The lines to get into the Dream Store and the Disney Store was always at least 45 minutes long to get in. We didn’t buy a lot of things, but we saw people with BAGS AND BAGS of stuff. American Tourister hosted a bag check area and I believe their fee was a reasonable $2/bag for them to hold.
8. Beat the heat – bring a personal fan. We just used paper fans and they worked great. They don’t take up a lot of space and you don’t need batteries for them.

Tickets

There’s definitely an advantage of buying Expo tickets early. This image is from D23’s website:
We bought 3 day tickets during the Early Bird special. I don’t see why anyone would pay for non-member pricing, signing up for the basic tier of D23 is free!
They also have premium “Sorcerer Package” tickets which are pricey at $2,250/ticket. Not sure how many of those tickets are available, but we heard that they did indeed sell out. Check out what is included on D23.

Our Highlights

Voices of Disney Parks panel
Have you ever wondered who the voices behind your favorite Disney attractions are?! This was such a magical experience! My little sister’s favorite ride is “It’s A Small World” and her face lit up when she saw the narrators of the attraction – B.J. Ward and Yeni Alvarez. We also saw Bill Rogers and Camille Dixon. We loved seeing the dynamics between all of the presenters!
View the video on YouTube, uploaded by Inside the Magic.

Once Upon a Time panelOne of our favorite shows of all time is Once Upon a Time. There was no way we were going to miss this panel! The stage host was Jeffrey Epstein and Colin O’Donoghue, Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz graced the stage. It was a cool treat to see Colin sing his song from he Musical episode.

We are sad to see several of our favorite characters go, but we are also excited to see what they do with the show. I’m sure we’ll see each of them in future episodes anyway, in true Once Upon a Time fashion. 🙂

D23 has a great review article on their site and Disney Dwayne uploaded a highlights video on YouTube.

A Whole New World of Alan Menken presentation

The Alan Menken performance was a once in a lifetime experience. Never in our lives did we think we’d get to witness Alan Menken perform in person. He wrote music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Hercules, Tangled, etc.! It was neat learning about his life and learning how some of the greatest songs came to light.

Meeting Charis Lincoln

Okay, I (Lin) have been following Charis on various social media platforms for a while now. My sister and I have always admired her optimism for life. She lives in Alaska too! In North Pole. We’ve always wanted to meet her and we got our chance at the D23 Expo. She is just as bubbly and warm in person as she is in her YouTube videos.

If you need a daily dose of positiveness and happiness, definitely check her out!

Instagram
YouTube

 

Thomas Kinkade painting

We have several Thomas Kinkade canvases and we added this Mickey & Minnie Mouse canvas to our collection! Thomas Kinkade Legacy artist, Dirk Wunderlich, even signed it.

Fun Photo Opportunities

There were plenty of fun photo opportunities all over the place.

A Honda MINNIEvan!
I really wanted one of these famous Pixar balls!
Don’t let Olaf steer your sleigh!

Was it all worth it?

There is definitely more room for improvement. Our suggestions that could have made the experience better: have a more efficient crowd control system, show panels multiple times throughout the schedule, and tell Anaheim Convention Center to serve better food.

We had a great time overall and we look forward to going again in 2019!

With Love
Travel & Leisure

Disney’s Castaway Cay Cabanas

Castaway Cay is pure paradise. If heaven was a place on earth, we are sure that it is Castaway Cay! It’s Disney Cruise Line’s private island and all of the Bahamian and Caribbean sailings include it as a stop on the itinerary. Some sailings even make 2 stops there. We haven’t enjoyed that type of itinerary… yet. 🙂

We’ll write another post about Castaway Cay itself later, but our very first post for our blog is dedicated to the highly coveted cabanas. Castaway Cay is an amazing experience on its own, but having a cabana elevates your experience to a completely different level.

Castaway 7

The Cabanas can be very hard to get… There are only 25 cabanas on the island. 21 are on the Family Beach and 4 are on the Serenity Bay Beach (adults only). Often times they are snatched up by Platinum Castaway Club or Concierge tiers before they are available to other cruisers. This table indicates when you’re eligible for Activity Planning Access:

First Time Cruisers Silver Castaway Club Gold Castaway Club Platinum Castaway Club & Concierge
Begins after your 1st completed cruise Begins after your 5th  completed cruise Begins after your 10th completed cruise
75 Days
prior to sailing
90 Days
prior to sailing
105 Days
prior to sailing
120 Days
prior to sailing

See Disney Cruise Line to view all the benefits of the Castaway Club.

We are currently Silver members, so we can book online activities/port adventures (aka excursions) 90 days prior to sailing. We were always curious about the cabanas, but we were put off by the high prices, which does not include taxes:

 

Family Beach Cabana Grand Family
Beach Cabana
Serenity Bay
Beach Cabana
(Adults Only)
$549 $899 $399
Includes 6 Guests Includes 10 Guests Includes 4 Guests
Additional Guest $50
per person
Additional Guest $50
per person
Additional Guest $50
per person
10 Guests maximum
per Cabana
16 Guests maximum
per  Grand Cabana
10 Guests maximum
per Cabana

We wanted to make our January 2017 trip extra memorable – I was turning 30 years old and we were about to fulfill our Disney Goal of sailing on all 4 DCL ships. We also wanted to see if it was worth the hype and premium price.

So 91 days prior to our sailing, we logged into the Disney Cruise Line portal at 7:55 pm (Alaska is 4 hours behind Eastern time, which is the timezone the website operates on) and I kept refreshing the Internet page like a maniac. THEN IT HAPPENED. OMG – CABANA #9 IS AVAILABLE! I didn’t even waste any extra brain power to see if other cabanas were open – I don’t think I ever clicked so quickly in my life to secure something. I felt so relieved and incredibly lucky that we got one! I imagine that this is the feeling shoe collectors get when they get to buy the design and size they want, haha.

I was stoked about having a cabana on the Family Beach, even though we weren’t traveling with any kids. You get a lovely view of the ship (you can’t see it from Serenity Bay) and it’s near the hustle and bustle of everything.

There are 3 reasons why we think we were able to get the cabana:

  1. Our sail date was in January, aka an off-peak season.
  2. We sailed on a smaller ship, the Disney Magic. It’s smaller than the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream ships, so we had less people to compete with.
  3. We have incredible planning skills! We logged in RIGHT when our booking window opened.

If getting a cabana is high on your priority list and you’re not sailing Concierge or a Platinum Castaway Club member, our best advice is to follow the 3 steps above. If you aren’t able to get one, we suggest to check from time to time since people change plans. If you still can’t get one, don’t fret – you’ll still have a great time on Castaway Cay!

What is Included?

  • Private Beach Retreat – you have your own strip of the beach!
  • Comfortable and ample seating
  • Fresh water shower
  • Towels – you don’t have to grab one as you disembark the ship, there are plenty in your cabana
  • Chilled towels – so refreshing to use on a hot day
  • Hammock
  • Unlimited bottled water and soda
  • Fresh fruit and snacks
  • Coppertone SPF products
  • Snorkel Equipment (Family Beach)
  • Floats and Tubes
  • Bike Rental (1 hour) – 1 hour seems short, but it was plenty of time for us to ride around and bike to the lookout tower
  • Sand Toys (Family Beach)
  • Safe – an extra level of security to store important belongings
  • Power outlet – so convenient to be able to recharge your camera and other electronic devices
  • Fan inside the cabana – perfect when it’s too toasty
  • Privacy – the cabanas may look like they’re close together, however they are angled perfectly so you feel like you’re there by yourself

 

Castaway Cay
This was hanging on our stateroom door the evening before Castaway Cay. Inside was a pamphlet about what was included with the Cabana as well as information about the island. The envelope also enclosed our wristbands.
On the morning of our big day, we ate breakfast and then disembarked the Disney Magic. We walked to the Cabana check in kiosk and a golf cart whisked us away to our sanctuary. Our cabana hosts were warm and welcoming and gave us a tour of our little slice of paradise.
Our view was so magical! I was stunned by how post card perfect our view of the ship was. It felt unreal to be able to experience it. Our time spent there is definitely one of our most cherished memories together.

 

Castaway Cay 9
The entrance to Disney’s Cabanas at Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay 2
Our fridge was well stoked with chilled towels, bottled water, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and a lovely plate of fruit.
Castaway Cay 3
I think the presentation would have been better if these snacks were in a smaller basket.
Castaway Cay 4
Sorry guys, drinks are an additional cost. They also have drink packages available. With a press of a button, your cabana host will come to take your order.
Castaway Cay 10
Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay is only a short stroll away.
Castaway Cay 11
We brought our lunches back to our cabana. Look at that view of the Disney Magic!
Castaway Cay 8
A nice supply of tubes and floats ready for your use.
Castaway Cay 1
Such a MAGICal view! See what I did there?
Castaway Cay 6
These chaise lounges were so comfortable.
Castaway Cay 5
Remember to use sunscreen!
Castaway Cay 16
The private beach for the cabanas.
Castaway Cay 17
The Family Beach/non cabana side!
Castaway Cay 14
Sean and I’s thrones. Lol!
Castaway Cay 13
Another view from the hammock.
Castaway Cay 12
Enjoyed a lovely nap on the hammock.
Castaway Cay 22
The view from the Observation Tower.
Castaway Cay 21
1 hour was plenty of time to see around the island.
Castaway Cay 20
I wish I took more pictures of the inside of our cabana! There is also a curtain on the right, so you can have privacy to change into/out of swimwear. Another thing to note – there is no bathroom in the cabana. The restrooms are just a short stroll to get to though.
Castaway Cay 19
Look who we found!
Castaway Cay 18
Jenn took this awesome picture of us!

Was it Worth it?

From a value standpoint, no. $549 for just the 3 of us, not including taxes, was a hard bullet to bite. The cabana rental was incredibly convenient, but it isn’t necessary to have a great time at Castaway Cay.

From a WORK HARD, PLAY HARD, RELAX HARD standpoint, we scream that it’s ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT!

 

With Love