The Best Disney Experiences Outside of The Parks

Is it possible to grow out of Disney?  My kids have been raised on Disney, with our youngest visiting for the first time at three months. While she certainly doesn’t remember that trip, I remember her first set of little ears like it was yesterday. Over the years, we’ve visited Walt Disney World a total of sixteen times and never once have we regretted spending our time there. It always feels like going home. 

grow out of disney

On our last trip though we tried something new, a land and sea Disney experience; four days at the parks and three days at sea. It was absolute perfection, and only confirmed what I suspected—we’ll not likely ever grow out of Disney. My teen girls, at 15 and 13, had just as much fun this time as they have every single trip before. As we get older, I can already see heading to Walt Disney World with their families. 

grow out of Disney

That being said, the Disney cruise did open my eyes to exploring other Disney options outside of Walt Disney World. After all, who wouldn’t want the Disney touch on everything they do? Disney’s exceptional service, eye for detail, and never-rest-on-it’s-laurels attitude is frankly what more of the travel industry could use. Related: See here for how Disney has absolutely RUINED cruising for me

Here are some Disney experiences outside of the parks worth looking into. 

Cruising, Disney Style

Disney offers cruises to Alaska, the Carribbean and Europe. With three new cruise ships being added to the fleet in 2021, 2022 and 2023, keep your eyes open for some really amazing itineraries to be added. 

Grow out of Disney, Disney Cruise Line

If you’re worried that Disney Cruise Line is going to be too juvenile for your family’s tastes, fear not, Disney has you covered. While they obviously still cater to the youngest Mousekeeteers, Disney Cruise Line also has a teen club that teens actually want to go to. There are also plenty of adults-only areas when you need a break from the noise, notably Senses Spaaaaaah, er I mean spa. 

Grow out of Disney

Adventures By Disney

What started with two adventures has now expanded to 38 unique experiences on six continents, and because it’s been pixie dusted you know it’s going to be magical from start to finish. Visit places like Norway, Italy and Vietnam, which of course have Disney magic weaved in seamlessly—you know you’re getting Frozen in Norway, right? 

Grow out of Disney, River Cruising with Disney

What really has me interested though is the expansion of River Cruising in 2019. There are an additional 21 itineraries added now on the Seine, Danube and the Rhine. 

Grow out of Disney, Try a Disney River Cruise

I’m excited because frankly I’m just at this point with my girls for travel. They are old enough to enjoy Europe and all it offers but not quite old enough to enjoy a traditional river cruise. I also love that Disney doesn’t lower the luxury experience because kids are on board, but rather brings the kids into that world in a way that’s fun and engaging. 

Disney Vacation Club

I will admit that I am quite intrigued by the Disney Vacation Club, not just because you have access to all the amazing Vacation Club Resorts that are near the parks but you can also take advantage of Disney Cruise line, Adventures by Disney and last but not least Aulani.

Grow out of Disney

While the Disney Vacation Club is in fact a timeshare, it doesn’t act like it. DVC is a vacation ownership program and unlike a typical timeshare, where you are confined to a certain size space, and must travel at a certain time of year, the Disney Vacation Club point system gives you the flexibility to book when you want and where you want. During a Disney Social Media Moms General Session it was brought to our attention that DVC is the fastest growing segment of their business right now, which makes me wonder, what am I missing out on? Cue the Disney FOMO.

Aulani

What do you get when you liberally sprinkle pixie dust over one of the world’s most stunning destinations? Why Aulani naturally, and it’s definitely a bucket-list destination.

Grow out of Disney

While Aulani is no where near a Disney park, you certainly won’t miss it with all there is to see and do.

Now that you know Disney spans the globe, where do you want to go first? 

*photo credit Adventures By Disney, WDW News
*photo credit Aulani, Disney Aulani News 



Disney Ruined Cruising For Me – There’s No Going Back Now

This is the story of how Disney ruined cruising for me. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed several cruises on various cruise lines and I thought they were quite good. After enjoying four days on the Disney Dream however, I realize I’ve been living a lie. Way to go Disney, now what am I supposed to do? 

Disney ruined cruising

How will I live without the cake of the day delivered to my room free of charge? What other cruise line will whisk me away to a private island? Who else will welcome me and my family onboard with a personal announcement and applause? No one I tell you, and it’s almost too much to bear.

If you’ve been thinking about a Disney Cruise for your family, please heed my warning. You’ll simply never be able to go with another cruise company again. Here are just a few reasons why. 

The Maintenance

This might seem like the most boring of all categories to go with first, but trust me when I say you’ll appreciate it more than you could know on board. The Disney Dream, at six years old, looks like it just came from the shipyard—inside and out. At no place will you notice this more than when you’re pulled alongside those other cruise lines.

Disney Ruined Cruising For me

Take a minute when you’re on a Disney Cruise to notice all the work that is constantly happening, and appreciate that Disney appreciates you enough to make sure whether it’s their first cruise or the 1000th, you’re going to get the same standard of care and service. That is truly a feel good feeling.

The Food

I honestly was not expecting the food to be as good as it was on the Disney Dream but it was absolutely amazing at all the restaurants we ate at. I was pleasantly surprised to find gourmet fare in each of the sit-down restaurants. Honestly, just the fresh crab at Cabana’s for lunch is enough to make you weak in the knees.  If you’re thinking you’ll have nothing but chicken nuggets for a week on a Disney cruise, you’re in for a treat.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

For something really special be sure to check out Palo. My husband and I booked a meal at this adult-only restaurant one night as a treat for ourselves. It will cost you an additional $30 per person but it is worth every penny. If you’re wondering where my kids went, they hung out at Vibe, the teen club, with new friends. We were not missed.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

My Dover Sole was the best I’ve ever had and my husband’s Filet Mignon could have been cut with a butter knife. My only complaint is that I didn’t have enough room to eat more onboard. Pack stretchy pants, you’re going to need them because saying no to the delicious food on this ship is impossible. Don’t worry you’ll be back to peanut butter and toast at home in no time. Re-entry is hard, oh so hard. 

The Entertainment

I usually skip out of shows on cruises because I find them super cheesy. I was advised by friends that Disney would change my mind and not to miss anything. I’m so glad I listened.

The production of Beauty and The Beast, onboard the Disney Dream, was produced especially for the ship. If you paid hundreds of dollars to see this show on Broadway, you would walk away raving about it and be glad you laid down the cash to see it. The best part though is you won’t find this version of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway (although I absolutely think they should consider it) and the show is included with your cruise.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

The first run movies will also blow your mind. When we were checking in, Kim, our cast member behind the counter at Port Canaveral, told us that Black Panther was showing that night. Incredulous, I said, “But, how could that be? It just came out this weekend in theatres.” Looking me straight in the eyes with just a hint of a smile, she said, “Well, we do own the company.”  Touché Kim, touché.

The Rooms

I doubt they called it the Disney Dream because of the comfortable beds, but I honestly can’t remember ever sleeping on a more comfortable bed on a cruise ship. Every night was like slipping into a cloud, and with the boat gently rocking, it was well, dreamy.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

We stayed in a Deluxe Oceanview Verandah Stateroom, and there was nothing better than sitting on our verandah enjoying the view each day. It was a little tight for two adults and two teen girls, but kudos to our stateroom attendant, Santanu, who waded through countless beauty products scattered around the room, and magically returned our stateroom to pristine conditions daily. Hmmm, I wonder if Disney supplied him with Pixie Dust? Must look into that.

Remember that cake of the day I mentioned? Don’t forget to order it to your room daily, free of charge. Trust me on this.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

Castaway Cay

If there was ever a place to get stranded, this would be the place to do it. With white sand beaches surrounded by turquoise waters, Castaway Cay is Disney’s own private island in the Bahamas, and is exclusively for their cruise guests.

Disney Ruined Cruising For me

I highly recommend booking the Castaway Cay Getaway Package that comes with a bike rental, a float rental, and snorkel equipment for the day. Try to do the bike tour first before it gets too hot; it’s also a great way to familiarize yourself with the island.

Disney Ruined Cruising for me

Another must-do while on the island is Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure. We absolutely loved this experience, and swimming with the gentle stingrays was beyond amazing. They are so graceful under water, and because space is limited in each time slot, you truly get time to enjoy it.

There is so much more that makes a Disney Cruise so special, and I plan on going back to do some more investigating. After all, no other cruise line will do now. 

 

Find out why I think travelling to Disney with teens is the best here

*photo credit for Beauty and The Beast Photo from Disney Cruise Line, Steven Diaz, photographer

*photo credit for Disney Dream Room, Disney Cruise Line, Matt Stroshane, photographer




The Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo Are Found with Cabo Adventures

When my husband and I booked a trip to Cabo, we knew before we got there that it was going to be a week on the move. Never ones to sit still, we immediately sought out the best adventure excursions in Cabo through our Sunwing Experiences rep on the ground. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo

Flipping through the book, we kept returning over and over again to one tour company, Cabo Adventures. They seemed to have everything we were looking for and when our Sunwing rep mentioned they had a Buy Two Excursions, Get One Free Deal, we were sold. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo with Cabo Adventures.

Before I go on to share what I believe to be the best adventure excursions in Cabo, we need a sidebar on Cabo Adventures. 

Over the years, we have done countless tours in various countries throughout the Caribbean and Mexico. Cabo Adventures now sits at the number one spot on a very long list of tour operators we’ve experienced. They were incredibly organized, we experienced no delays, the staff were friendly and professional, safety was their top concern, and all transportation was new and well-maintained. On top of all that, the meals provided to us on every tour were absolutely delicious. We didn’t know any of this prior to booking, so we were beyond delighted with our choice of tour operator. 

Best Adventure Tours in Cabo

While Cabo Adventures offers many excursions, I believe the three we chose to be the best adventure excursions in Cabo for three reasons. First, they are all unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Second, each encounter does come with some risk. Although minimal, risks are what adventure junkies are after, right? Third, each of these excursions are run in small groups, meaning you’re not tripping over other people to get the best view. 

Fun fact: My husband and I met each other on a scuba diving trip in Cuba. It feels like we’ve been in the water ever since, so it was no surprise that our first two picks were in the water. I longed to see a whale shark and swim alongside them, and my husband couldn’t wait to snorkel with sea lions; neither of us was disappointed with the other’s pick. For our third excursion, we decided to try something on the ground. 

Three Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo

Whale Shark Encounter

I have longed for years to swim alongside the gentle giant of the sea. Whale Sharks are incredibly fascinating creatures; mostly because the largest fish in the ocean happens to be a vegan. I suppose we should all be happy for that, since I can tell you that mouth is incredibly intimidating when you come face to gigantic face with it. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo

The Whale Shark Encounter is a full day excursion, with a two hour drive to La Paz from Cabo Adventures headquarters in Cabo San Lucas. Once in La Paz, guests change and go out in small boats into the harbour. 

Best Adventures Excursions in Cabo, whale sharks

The Mexican Government is incredibly protective of their whale sharks and there can only be five people in the water at a time with a shark including the guide. There are also a limited amount of small boats allowed in the area where the whale sharks feed. We actually had to move out at one point because there were too many boats. It made my heart happy to see such a massive respect for these incredible fish on both the part of the Mexican Government and Cabo Adventures. 

Best Adventure Tours in Cabo, Whale shark encounters

While out in the water we had three opportunities to jump in the water and swim alongside them. You’ll want to be moderately fit to keep up with the whale sharks, but they are fairly slow-moving, so it’s not terribly strenuous. You don’t swim with a life jacket though, since it would slow you down so much, so please be a confident swimmer before jumping in.

I found this experience to be almost spiritual, and my only regret was bringing my camera in the water with me. I honestly wish, I’d just let myself enjoy it. Cabo Adventures takes incredible pictures for you, so I highly recommend just leaving it to them and enjoying this truly special experience. 

Best Whale Shark Encounter in Cabo, Swimming with Whale Sharks, Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo

On the way home, we had a quick stop at the infamous Hotel California in Todos Santos. While the Eagles deny that the song is about this particular hotel, the locals say you need only listen to the words to know you’re in the right spot. Quick tip: Get yourself a Jalapeño Margarita here, you won’t regret it. 

Best Adventure Tours in Cabo

Sea of Cortez Adventure

Is there anything cuter than a sea lion pup? Those eyes, those whiskers, that playful personality! As soon as my husband saw this excursion he put dibs on it. Believe me when I say, I needed no convincing. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo, swimming with sea lions

The Sea of Cortez Adventure was by far the longest day we had out, but also the most rewarding. A two hour bus ride took us to our luxury catamaran just past La Paz. From there we ventured out into the Sea of Cortez headed for Isla Espíritu Santoa biosphere reserve teeming with marine life. Note: the trip here is another three hours from the harbour, so be sure to slather on your biodegradeable sunscreen. The staff also puts on a lovely breakfast with fresh fruit, yogurt and sweet breads. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo San Lucas

Our first stop was the Sea Lion Colony, and it did not disappoint. Hundreds of sea lions live in these waters, and the pups are particularly playful. Be sure to listen carefully to your guides here because the large males (roughly 1000lbs) are quite territorial so you need to make sure you steer clear of them. Believe me when I say this is a fight you’d never win. 

Best Adventure Tours in Cabo, Swimming with Sea lion pups, Isla Espíritu Santo

We spent about forty minutes in the water swimming with the sea lions before we made our way back to the catamaran. This is when the staff whipped out a fantastic lunch (see image at top) and started serving alcoholic refreshments. Along the way, we stopped at a beach at Isla Espíritu Santo to jump off the boat and go for a leisurely swim. The water here is the clearest I’ve ever seen, so be sure to take advantage and jump in for a dip. 

Best Adventure Tours in Cabo, Isla Espíritu Santo, Biosphere

Off-Road Adventure 

Here are three things to know before you head out on the Off-Road ATV Tour with Cabo Adventures. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo, Cabo Adventures, UTV Tour

First, leave your cameras, phones, video recorders, back in your hotel room. The dust on this trip will destroy everything you own, and Cabo Adventures asks you to lock everything up with them before you go out. So why even bother lugging it along, just leave it behind. Once again, Cabo Adventures will get all the best shots for you, so just enjoy your day. 

Best Adventure Excursion in Cabo

Second, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, because believe me, you will be covered in dust from head to toe when you’re done. 

Best Adventure Excursions in Cabo, off roading, Mexico, Cabo San Lucas

Third, don’t forget your driver’s license if you want to take one of these babies for a spin. I forgot mine and it killed me that my husband got to drive the whole day. I was totally bummed I didn’t get to put the Polaris UTVs to the test.  

Best Adventure Excursions with Cabo Adventures

This is the shortest of all the tours we did but still clocked in at around six hours in total. The tour takes you through the Baja Outback before heading to the beach for a drive along the Pacific Coast. It was a breathtaking, exhilarating tour that ended with an authentic Mexican lunch overlooking the Pacific. 

We’re already making plans to return to the Baja Peninsula next year, and I know the first place I’ll look for the best adventure excursions in Cabo will be with Cabo Adventures. 

Looking for something a slightly more low-key? Be sure to check out the Canexican Tour for a fun day on the water. 

Disclosure: We paid full price for our time with Cabo Adventures, and it was worth every penny. Enjoy!



The Canexican Tour in Cabo San Lucas – Fun On The Sea of Cortez

What happens when you throw a bunch of Canadians on a boat in Mexico? A fiesta naturally, because there’s two things Canadians know how to do well—party and socialize. The Canexican tour is offered exclusively through Sunwing Experiences and La Isla Tours to Canadian travellers out of the Cabo San Lucas harbour and is a perfect way to spend a vacation day. 

Good Times on The Canexican Tour with La Isla Tours and Sunwing Experiences

Once a week La Isla Tours and Sunwing Experiences load up a bunch of sun starved Canucks and take them out for a day tour on the Sea of Cortez. Before the boat leaves the harbour, the bonding begins. “How cold is it where you’re from?” “How long did it take you to get here?” Canadians get each other on a level that travellers from other countries simply can’t understand. That’s why no matter where we go, we tend to gravitate to each other. The Canexican tour builds on that attraction and offers a place for Canadians to bond under the sun.  

Tequila on the Canexican Tour flows freely.

This is where our Mexican friends come in offering authentic and delicious Mexican food, free flowing tequila, great music, and stunning natural beauty. This tour is family-friendly, so there are lots of non-alcoholic beverages available for the kids if you’re bringing them along. The food is the star of the show with mouth-watering fish tacos cooked up in front of your eyes, and a fun salsa making class offered on deck. Trust me when I say you’re going to want to write down how this salsa is made; it’s the best I’ve ever had. 

Canexcian Tour, authentic Mexican food served up fresh

The tour starts from the harbour and offers a quick sail by the beach before stopping to explore the area known as Lover’s Beach on the Sea of Cortez side and Divorce Beach on the Pacific Side. On the day I was there, our boat saw a sea lion colony and dolphins in the water, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. You’ll also want to be sure to grab a shot of yourself in front of the world-famous Archway of Cabo San Lucas. 

Canexican Tour stops for a great photo opp at the Archway of Cabo San Lucas.

From there, the Director of Fun, Lorena, kicks the party into high gear as the boat heads to calmer waters to anchor. Once anchored, guests can jump in the water from the top of the boat, or take the gentler way using the ladder. Either way you’ll want to get off and enjoy the water. Snorkelling is great closer to the rocks along the island, and it’s a great place to enjoy the Standup Paddleboards. 

Canexican Tour activities

The Canexican Tour runs from November 1 to March 30th and is approximately 4.5 hours in length. Be sure to pack biodegradeable sunscreen, swimsuits, a towel, hats, and cash for tipping. There are washrooms on board if you want to get changed into dry clothes when the tour is over. 

Want to know more about Cabo San Lucas? Check out my post on what you need to know before you go to Cabo

*photo jumping off boat courtesy of Sunwing Vacations

Disclosure: I was offered one complimentary tour from Sunwing Excursions. All opinions, as always, are solely mine. 



Before You Go To Cabo, Here’s What You Should Know

I didn’t always want to go to Cabo San Lucas. I dismissed it as nothing more than a party town for college students and wealthy actors, and looked elsewhere for sun holidays. As it turns out, I was wrong about Cabo. So, so wrong.

Go To Cabo to See The Famous Archway of Cabo San Lucas

I get it now Cabo. I understand why people the world over, choose to go to Cabo San Lucas again and again over any other warm weather destination. It is the whole vacation package—sun, surf, and social.

There are a few things though, that I’d wish I’d known before I landed in Cabo. So, in the interest of making your life easier when you visit Cabo San Lucas and/or San Jose Del Cabo, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of what you need to know before you go to Cabo. 

Before You Go To Cabo Best Tips

It’s One of The Best Places in the World For Sea Life

Hats off to the Mexican Government for protecting much of the waters in the Sea of Cortez; it’s positively teeming with life and is home to many endangered species. The best time to go to Cabo to jump in the water is definitely from mid-December to the beginning of April when the whales are migrating. Water temperatures during this time can be coolish, so be sure to pack a swim shirt or even a shortie if you get cold easily. 

Go to Cabo to See Whale Sharks

Amongst the types of whales you could see here are humpbacks, gray whales, sperm, blue and orcas. Of course, you can also find the gentle giant of the sea here in La Paz (a two hour drive from Cabo); the Whale Shark. As a fun FYI, the whale shark is actually a shark, not a whale but no worries, they are strictly vegan. 

There are also sea lion colonies along the coast where guides can take you to snorkel and scuba dive with them.

Bring Biodegradable Sunscreen

If you plan on going in the water during a tour, or at one of the swimmable beaches, you’ll need to make sure you have on a biodegradable sunscreen, in fact you should be doing this any time and any where you enter a natural body of water. 

When You Go to Cabo be sure to pack biodegradable sunscreen.

The chemicals in traditional sunscreens—oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene—kill the ocean. It’s that simple. The Sea of Cortez is one of the last places left on earth with an abundance of sea life, let’s keep it that way. 

The Timeshare Game is Strong Here 

Not gonna lie, I thought timeshares had died with the rise of AirBnb so I was a little disappointed that the “sales reps” were everywhere in Cabo. I was even more disappointed that we fell for it not once, not twice, but three times before we got wise. Consider my naiveté research for you. 

When you arrive in San Jose Del Cabo, there is a hallway just after you pick up your luggage that you have to walk through. For the love of your precious vacation time, DO NOT STOP HERE. We were even warned by our Sunwing flight attendants to not stop, but when a man in that very hallway asked me what company I was with I replied Sunwing, thinking he would leave me alone but no; he reeled me in like the sucker I am. He said, “Oh, here’s your rep right here.”, and led us to a man in an bright orange shirt just like Sunwing colours. The man behind the counter was charming and it wasn’t until I asked him point blank to show me his Nexus badge, that I clued in. 

When You Go to Cabo Avoid Timeshare Sales

The second time was upon check in at our hotel. Not gonna lie, this one really annoyed me. Just as we finished checking in at the main desk a man approached us and said he’d like to welcome us to the hotel and explain the property. He led us across the lobby, and shared a map with us and then casually led us in to a conversation about buying in to a place there. “So, a timeshare?” we said. “No, no, it’s like a gold club for members that want to return again and again.” Ugh. 

The third time was when a notice was under our door the first morning to please come to the lobby for a “welcome gift”. You know where this is going? We were led right back to the desks from the day before. 

We traded stories with others we met there who had been promised golf games or excursions. One man even told us how he was promised $400 if he’d only take a tour with them. What they failed to disclose was that it was $400 in coupons.

The long and short of it is this, if you want to go to Cabo, be a skeptic and question everything or you’re going to get caught in a timesuck. Nobody’s got time for that on holidays. 

Convert Your Money to Pesos

Before you go to Cabo, make a stop at your bank and convert your money to pesos. While American and Pesos get thrown around pretty regularly in Cabo (you’ll find most places list prices in both currencies), you’ll get a pretty terrible return on your US dollars when you purchase something. 

Before You Go to Cabo Get Your Pesos

More often than not, when we would pay for something in US, we would get our change in Pesos, and the exchange was frequently dead wrong. Thankfully my husband is a walking currency exchange, so he caught it. That being said, after a few tequilas, it would be easy to be less than accurate. 

Save yourself a world of aggravation and get your money in pesos before you go, or find an ATM down there that dispenses money in pesos. 

It’s Safe

It’s easy to read the news and think that Mexico isn’t safe, but I think it’s always a good idea to put things in perspective. If I was a person coming to my hometown of Ottawa for example, where there were 13 shootings in the first month of the year, I might question if it’s safe. 

When You Go to Cabo be sure to visit The Office

We had our perspective handed to us by an ex-pat on the beach who has lived in Cabo now since 2004. The violence, he told us, is primarily gang violence in Mexico, and they are targeting each other, not tourists. The violence is also not in areas like Cabo which are heavily guarded by State, Municipal and Federal Police. 

We felt perfectly safe walking the streets of Cabo San Lucas and downright chill in the quieter San Jose Del Cabo. 

The Beach At Your Resort Likely Won’t Be Swimmable (and that’s ok)

I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to find out that we wouldn’t be able to swim on the beach at our resort. I may have to relinquish my self-appointed travel expert title for that misstep.

When You Go to Cabo, know that most beaches aren't swimmable

As it turns out there are very few swimmable beaches in Cabo because the undertow is extremely dangerous. To see the difference between safe and dangerous in action, be sure to take a boat out to Lover’s Beach from the Cabo San Lucas Marina. The tip of land here is where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet. On the Sea of Cortez side you have Lover’s Beach, and a short walk to the Pacific Side takes you to Divorce Beach; you can guess which one is safe to swim on.