Every year near Christmas I travel to NYC for some holiday shopping! I wrote about my last few trips here and here, and this year was a little different because I spent the night.
My first time in New York I was there for about a week and did everything on the tourist bucket list. I’ve seen Times Square, Rockafeller Centre, the Empire State Building, and everything on those “must see” lists that you see over and over again on the Internet.
Each year that I go back I tend to choose the Christmas season because it’s so beautiful in the city, and I have shopping to do!
This year instead of flying in and out the same day, I stayed overnight to get more shopping time in. There were a few extra things I wanted to do this year as well.
As usual I flew Porter which I LOVE, but this year I used the new underground tunnel instead of the ferry. It was beyond fast and easy! I also tried their pre-booked parking as well which I really liked. I paid in advance to park, and a free shuttle took me to the airport in under 5 minutes. Porter really does think of everything!
One of the highlights of my trip was heading to Soho for some shopping, and to have lunch at Ladurée. I can’t believe I’d never been to Soho before! Especially since it’s right beside Little Italy which I have been to before.
There were so many great stores, from the fabulous and luxe Chanel and Louis Vuitton, to boutiques and shops that had independent designer wear and handcrafted goods that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
Ladurée was beautiful. There was a back terrace, along with a bake shop in the front selling their famous macarons. The restaurant was intimate, and very chic. The staff spoke French, and the menu was French as well. On my way out I obviously had to buy a box of macarons, and a few extra to eat as I shopped.
I had the Salade Soho, and I could hardly finish it, and I also had their Chocolat Ladurée. It was their famous version of hot chocolate, but it was more like a drinkable chocolate sauce. It was pretty amazing, and a must try if you visit!
After spending the rest of my day on 5th Avenue I made a quick stop at Sprinkles Cupcakes. There were many cupcake stops on my trip including to Magnolia and the bake shops at The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. Sprinkles was fun because they had a cupcake ATM! The inside of the shop was cute, but pretty ordinary. The cupcake ATM was a must-visit because hello, it’s a cupcake ATM! Oh yes, and the cupcakes were good too!
I arrived for a rather early dinner at 5:00pm, and the place was completely packed! I was so glad I had a reservation because the restaurant was full of women just like me, completely exhausted and ready for a glass of champagne!
I had the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese which was actually the best I’d ever had (and that’s saying a lot since I order it any place that offers it) and a glass of champagne. It was the perfect location, and a great restaurant for a girl who needed a shopping break.
Before I left on my trip I booked a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Last year I didn’t realize how busy it was, and I couldn’t get in because so many people had pre-booked tickets. This year I knew I wanted to see it so I booked my entry time online.
Even at 9:30am there was a line up just with people who had pre-booked tickets. It didn’t take long to get in, but when I left a couple hours later the line up was massive.
The museum was incredible. I realized after walking for a few minutes that it was a very different museum experience because there were no children, and everyone was very quiet.
Photos could only be taken in certain areas of the museum, and in most sections they were prohibited. It’s hard to describe the whole experience. I thought it was beautifully done, but I had a hard time seeing some of the photos and footage. It was amazing to see things that were recovered (such as seat belts from one of the planes) and things recovered from the buildings, but it was very emotional. I couldn’t get through some of the museum, and it still took me two hours from start to finish. I absolutely recommend seeing it for yourself – it was very powerful. I did need a bit of time once I left to get my head straight again as it was based on such tragic events.
On my way to Starwberry Fields in Central Park I happened to pass Tavern on the Green, and they had a beautiful patio that people were enjoying because of the amazing weather. I only wore a sweater while on my trip because it was so warm in the city, and I couldn’t help but stop for a mimosa on the patio.
I’d never been inside Tavern on the Green before, but it was gorgeous. It was packed on a Saturday afternoon, but the patio had lots of room so I took a breather. I can’t wait to head back one day to have lunch or dinner there. In this case I had no time, but it was the perfect spot for a mimosa!
If you are looking for a weekend getaway you should consider flying with Porter to NYC! The trip is quick and easy from Toronto, and I can’t wait to get back there.
On October 31st we left on a Disney Cruise Line adventure on the Disney Fantasy – Disney’s newest and largest ship in it’s fleet. Because we left on Halloween, our cruise was part of the month long Halloween on the High Seas series of themed Disney Cruises. The whole cruise was centered around Halloween from the décor, to all kinds of Halloween-themed activities throughout the trip. I LOVE Halloween so this was pretty exciting for me! Oh, and also for my toddler!
What to Bring
There were a few key things we needed for our cruise. One of them was a pirate costume for the pirate party on the ship. We all brought costumes for the pirate party, but once on board if you forgot your costume it was fine because free Mickey Mouse pirate bandana’s were provided in your room the night before the party. The on-board shops also had pirate costumes for kids and t-shirts for children and adults. EVERYONE dresses up like a pirate – there was no getting around this, so be prepared!
Of course a Halloween costume was required as well. There were actually two nights our son dressed up – on Halloween, and the next night when the actual Halloween celebrations took place. Because we all boarded on Halloween the actual party took place the next day since people may have been tired on the first night.
Getting on Board
From the initial planning stages, everything was beyond easy. Once our trip was booked a bound book full of our trip details arrived before we embarked, and everything we needed to know was in the book. Barcodes were printed inside the book which were scanned as we boarded the ship, waivers could have been printed and signed from the website, but they were also made available in the booklet which was great. Our excursions for the trip were also detailed in the book as well.
I called the Disney Cruise Line customer service line ten or more times just to ask details about our trip. Their customer service reps were amazing and had all seemed to have cruised themselves with Disney before so they had great advice.
Prior to your trip you can arrange a free call from a Disney character for your child to get them excited for their trip.
We decided to leave for our trip one day early so we were well-rested and ready to board the ship without being too fatigued. Disney Cruise Line prefers that if you use their bus transfers to the boat that you stay either at Disney World in Orlando, or at the Hyatt Orlando Airport hotel. We stayed in the Hyatt, and it was beyond convenient. It was actually located in the airport so we collected our bags, and went straight into our hotel! The airport shops just below our hotel were Disney themed, and there was a Starbucks for bonus points. We received a letter that evening detailing that we could hop on any Disney transfer we wished until 1pm the next day, and when we were ready we went down two levels to where the buses disembarked.
The buses were pretty amazing – they played a video which gave us all kinds of details about the ship, and then they played cartoons for the kids. The trip was about 45 minutes to the ship. Check in was easy because Disney has it’s own terminal at Port Canaveral, and we were on the ship in no time.
We lucked out. Our stateroom was at the top of the ship, and the last room at the back of the ship. We had an incredibly huge balcony! It was amazing to have a room at the very back of the ship, and at the top as well. We had an incredible view, and our oversized balcony was the coolest thing ever.
It was also a great spot to watch the fireworks after the pirate party. Yes, there were fireworks. Amazing, right?
Our room included a large bed, then a couch with a pull-out bed, and a bunk bed that came out of the wall with a starry ceiling. Our son slept in the wall bunk so we had lot’s of space to move around in the room. He loved his bunk! A curtain kept his room a bit separate from ours, and we could move the TV on the wall to our side of the room and were able to stay up late watching movies.
The bathroom set up was really cool! One room housed the toilet and sink, and the other room housed the bathtub/shower and another sink. It was great for getting ready in the morning.
There was also lot’s of hanging space and drawers for clothing – with all of the clothes I brought we still had lots of hangers and space leftover. The bed was also raised high enough to store our suitcases out of the way.
Once on board you received a ticket which provided details on where your would be dining each night. There was rotational dining schedule so you would have the opportunity to eat at all of the restaurants on the ship. We chose the later dinner time of 8:15pm, but even if you had the earlier seating all of the movies and activities on the ship were timed so you could enjoy them either before or after dinner – you would never miss out on anything.
Dinner’s were all four courses, and if you wanted more than one soup, salad, appetizer, entrée or dessert then you could indulge! I had two lobsters on lobster night – it was a little ridiculous on my part, but I loved it. Even the breads at the table were different each night. Children had their own three-course dinner options, and when they requested ketchup it was made into the shape of Mickey Mouse by the server. Our favourite restaurant was the Animator’s Palate. The characters on the screen at each table were interactive and spoke to us by name, and commented on our appearance! It was a great show to watch during dinner, and kept the kids busy.
On our second night for dinner at the Animators Palate we were asked to draw on our placemat, and after handing them in the drawings came to life in a movie on the screens. It was amazing!
Breakfast and lunch on the boat could be found at one of the cafe’s on board near the pools, and at some of the dinner restaurants as well (hours were always printed on our daily newsletter).
Room service was perfect for excursion days. We would order breakfast straight to our room for early mornings. We had a late diner seating, so we often ordered cheese trays and sandwiches in the late afternoon to our room as well.
The Oceaneer’s Club
The Oceaneer’s Club was the spot children could take a break from their parents, and I had never seen a place like it! As we checked into the cruise our son was outfitted with a bracelet that also served as a GPS tracker for the Oceaneer’s Club. The first day on the ship we went to the parents open house to check this place out, and we were beyond impressed. First of all, it was massive! No wonder the kids needed a GPS. A separate space was available for children under 3, but this area was split into two – one area for children aged 3-12, and the second for ages 13-17. Both areas were connected and our son could travel to both, but the areas were tailored to each age group.
As you walked in hand washing was mandatory. You placed your hands into two slots, and both soap and water would wash your hands for you. It was super cool!
Once inside kids could watch Disney movies, play with the light up floor, hang out in Andy’s Room from Toy Story, hand out in the Monsters University room, play games in the submarine, take a cooking class, do a craft, or take part in one of the million other activities each day. There were science experiments, Halloween activities, dance parties – what they offered was truly endless.
Our shy son spent one morning taking a cooking class, having his face painted like a pirate, doing Halloween crafts, and watching movies. While on board you are provided phones to take with you so if you need to be contacted the staff can call or message you.
We did an on-shore excursion where we could not be contacted, and although we were nervous, it was our son’s most fun day on the ship. The childcare staff were amazing and knew him by name, and knowing we would be off the ship meant he got some extra TLC. They made sure he ate lunch, and had a great time.
One parent was allowed to pick up their child at a time, and staff had us use a secret word to sign him out. Staff also stood by the multiple children’s washrooms (everything was a child’s height) to monitor who was going in and out.
The thing that really wowed me about the ship was how we were greeted when we came back ON the ship. Each time we returned to the ship there would be stations outside the entrance with water (fresh cold water with basil and melon, lemon, ect.), we would receive a sanitary wipe to clean our hands, take a drop of hand sanitizer, then a cool towel on our way back onto the ship. Loved this part! It was a nice way to come back to our temporary home!
We chose an excursion in Cozumel where we took a two-person speedboat to a private island, and then spent some time at a resort pool and had lunch. This was the day our son spent on the ship, and we had an amazing time! I would do this excursion again no problem!
In Jamaica we went to a resort where we spent the day at the water park, and on the beach with lunch included. This one was so much fun – the water park was very new, and super fun! We practically had the place to ourselves. The beach was amazing as well, and my husband went sailing there on a small catamaran.
We spent our time in Grand Caymen on 7 Mile Beach enjoying the ocean, and having lunch Oceanside. Each excusrision still gave us a bit of time to do some local shopping as well which was nice.
We also visited Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.
This island was absolutely amazing! Situated in the middle of the Bahamas, this private Disney island was beautiful. Only one Disney Cruise ship docks here at a time, and we could walk right off the boat to enjoy the island. It felt so safe! There was a private adult beach and dining area, and the rest of the island had everything from food, beach activities, snorkeling, boat adventures, bike rentals, and other fun activities to enjoy. The island was immaculate – there wasn’t a spec of garbage in site. There were more than enough beach chairs and umbrellas, servers walked around offering drinks, and food was available all over the island. We were told there would be a beach BBQ, but what it really was included much more. Fresh fruit stations, ice cream stations, and huge buffets filled with amazing food were on the island.
They even had the Oceaneer’s Club outside so your children could play in their own area while you were on the island!
On Board Activities
There was so much to do on this ship, there was no way we could take it all in.
We loved the movie theatre. We watched Big Hero 6, saw an extended preview of The Good Dinosaur, and movies like Inside Out, Avengers Age of Ultron, and Bridge of Spies (still in theatres) were playing every day. There was another theatre for live shows as well, and each day had a different show.
Morning’s included Disney Junior breakfasts where you could watch Disney Junior cartoons while eating breakfast, there was pumpkin carving, trivia games, live music in different locations, and character meet and greets. There always seemed to be an opportunity to run into one of the Disney characters throughout the ship.
The main deck had two separate pools where you could watch movies played on the big screen like Frozen or Finding Nemo, and there was also two separate spash areas for different age groups. There was also an adult-only pool at the front of the ship along with a few bars just for adults as well. The deck also had the Aquaduct – a super fun waterslide that went around the ship, and even pushed you along upwards! It was really fun.
There was a special pre-teen section as well where they could hang out with friends and eat food, and an arcade was on the ship as well.
We took our son to the Bippity Boppity Boutique to become a knight while we were on our cruise, and I would highly recommend this! He was outfitted with a knight shirt and cape, he had his hair done with Mickey Mouse glitter stuck in his hair, and he was given a sword and shield. It was really fun!
With Halloween being on the cruise we had a night where the kids dressed up and went trick or treating, and the Halloween tree changed each day with a little more décor.
When it was finally time to leave the ship, things were very well organized. Our Customs form was in our room the day before we left the ship, and instructions on how our final day would play out were made available. We were to have all of our luggage out side of our room at 10:30pm the night before we left the ship so they could be brought to a safe spot in the terminal. We were provided new luggage tags so we could easily find our bags, and we still had the option of carrying anything we wanted off the ship the next day. We were assigned to eat breakfast the next morning in the restaurant we had dinner at that night to make things easy, and that was it – we were free to leave the ship anytime before 9:30am.
Would we do it again? In a heartbeat? It was hard to find fault with any part of this trip. We truly had an amazing time.
The stateroom cleaning staff knew our whole family by name on day one, and each day checked in to make sure we had everything we needed. Our dinner staff catered to us completely and made sure we had everything and anything we wanted. The service was incredible.
One night my heel broke, and I called down to the customer service desk, desperately hopeing someone on board could fix my shoe. The next day my heels were back in my room with the heel fixed. Anything we needed was available to us. Softdrink bars were open at all hours, there was 24 hour roomservice, and an icecream station available at all times. There was even a café on board that made Frappuccino’s and other specialty cofee drinks.
Shopping on board was pretty impressive with everything from souveniers to snacks. They even had jewelry, luggage, and sunglasses from brands like Michael Kors and Ray Ban.
Our trip was incredible, and we can’t wait to go on another Disney Cruise Line adventure!
Last week I wrote about what I wore on my cruise – you can see the post here!
Stay tuned next week for details on our trip to the Kennedy Space Center!