Disney Cruise Line Series: How tender boats work on Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

I’ve been to a number of Caribbean islands now by boat using Disney Cruise Line.  One of the islands I particularly enjoyed was Grand Cayman.  However, Grand Cayman doesn’t have a pier like other islands because it is surrounded by a corral reef.  As a result, when you take a ship like the Disney Fantasy, they have to drop anchor and bring you in on smaller boats called tenders.  This leads to a bit more chaotic of a situation when you are trying to get off the boat.

When the ship drops anchor, they will make use of six smaller tender boats that will transport guests to and from the island.  These guests can only hold 200 people at a time so as a result, that means you are going to be waiting around a bit.  To tender to the island, you have to meet at the Walt Disney theater.  Here they will hand you one “tender ticket” for each guest in your party.  Make sure you all arrive together.  Then they will have you take a seat somewhere in the theater.  As you wait they will have cartoons running that will provide some minimal entertainment for the kids.  Plan on waiting 30 – 45 minutes.  Once it is your group’s turn, they will instruct you to follow the leader to either the forward, mid-ship, or aft of the boat.  There you will scan your Key to the World card to leave the ship just like you would leave the ship normally.  Then you will board the tender.

If you don’t have an excursion that starts early, your best bet is to wait before you try and board a tender.  Wait until noon or later to get off the boat to skip the lines.

Tenders look like old beaten up boats that have seen a lot of abuse.  They aren’t meant for comfort, just to get you there.  When debarking the ship, you enter the boat from the second deck of the tender.  When boarding from the pier, you will enter from the first deck of the tender.

A Tender boat at the pier of Grand Cayman waiting to return to the Disney Fantasy

A Tender boat at the pier of Grand Cayman waiting to return to the Disney Fantasy

When returning to the ship, you can get some absolutely amazing photos of the ship.  This is one of the best places where you can take a picture from the ship head on.  Plan accordingly when you are taking your seat on the tender to get the best spot.

The front of the Disney Fantasy outside of Grand Cayman taken while aboard a tender.

The front of the Disney Fantasy outside of Grand Cayman taken while aboard a tender.

Here’s a shot just after we left the port.

The Disney Fantasy achored outside of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

The Disney Fantasy anchored outside of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

When you reach the ship, they will extend the gangway to the top of the tender boat where you can board the ship.  The top deck of the boat exits first.

The gangway that the tender boats will use to allow passengers back on board.

The gangway that the tender boats will use to allow passengers back on board.

It may sound like a pain to use a tender to get to Grand Cayman.  Admittedly it really is.  However, Grand Cayman is one of the nicer islands and has some great port adventures (excursions) such as getting some hand on experience with sea turtles.

Turtles from the Grand Cayman Sea Turtle Farm

Turtles from the Grand Cayman Sea Turtle Farm

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Southwest offering $15 off your ride to Dallas Love Field with Lyft

LyftThe parking shortage continues at Dallas Love Field as we enter the summer season and a new garage is years away.  To encourage users to ride to the airport instead of parking, Southwest has partnered with Lyft to bring you a discount to and from the airport.  If you are not familiar with Lyft, it is another online ride service similar to Uber.

You’ll get a promo code automatically via e-mail when you checkin for your next flight.   The promotion code is good for up to $15 to and from the airport.  Each voucher is good for two rides (i.e.: there and back).  Promo codes expire August, 15th, 2015.

I have a few promo codes that I won’t be using (since I live really far away), so help yourself.

  • LOV38581
  • LOV90945
  • LOV87877

I am guessing you could just put any five digit number after LOV and it will probably work.  If you use one of the promo codes, leave a comment and let us know how your ride was.

Download the Lfyt App now to get started.

Be sure and check out my post on the Dallas Love Field parking shortage for additional tips.

Fly you and a companion to Dubai on Emirates for only $1299

Dubai is by far one of the coolest places I have visited.  If you have ever been thinking about visiting there, now is a great time to book.  Two of you can fly on Emirates for only $1,299.  That’s less than I paid for my first ticket.  That’s less than you’ll usually pay going to Europe.  This offer only applies if you live in one of the cities that Emirates flies to in the United States which includes New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Washington DC (IAD), Houston (IAH), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW).  You must book by June 14th and travel by December 18th.  A few blackout dates also apply.

The flight from Texas is a brief 15 hours. :)

For you high rollers out there, you can also fly Business Class for a mere $9,999.  I find that Business Class is usually booked up well in advance though.

Use promo code MFmVDxXm1MU when booking.

$1299 Emirates Offer

There is also a companion offer from Atlantis where you can save 25% on all room categories.  That means you will still pay a lot but the place is awesome.  You don’t have to stay there though, hotels are pretty cheap throughout Dubai.

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones – a great travel companion

The box of the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

The box of the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

I recently won a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones (QC20) at a conference.  Technically, most people would call these earbuds, so whatever you want to call them,  I’ve always known of the Bose name but I could never come to spending the money on their products.  However, since I got my pair free, I was excited to try them out.  Planes are noisy and I fly a lot.  I’ve considered buying noise cancelling headphones but was never sure if they were worth the money.  These ear buds have changed my mind.

If you have used inexpensive earbuds like me, you know how loud you have to turn up your music or movie when you are on the plane just to hear it.  I’m sure I have permanently damaged my hearing as a result from all of my flights.  With regular earbuds, I find that you are forced to push them into your ears just to hear the bass.  Not so with the QC20  Now, I’m no audiophile by any means, so I am looking at these strictly from a travel perspective.  To the rank audio amateur that I am these earbuds sound impressive.  You can have the volume down low and still hear a rich full sound with plenty of lows and highs.

Bose QC20 headphones with StayHere+ Tips

Bose QC20 headphones with StayHere+ Tips

Getting started

Bose QC20 Headphones

Bose QC20 Headphones

The QC20 is ready to go as soon as you unbox it.  Simply plug it into your tablet or phone and you are ready to go.  By default, they operate in aware mode.  This allows for some noise cancellation but you can still hear things around you.  This is good if you actually want to hear what the flight attendant is saying on the intercom.  Flip the noise cancellation on though using the control module and you can shut out the rest of the world.  I found that as long as you had music playing, you really couldn’t hear much around you.  The roar of the airplane is completely gone.  I did find that in between songs, you could hear a bit more around you.  I think that’s to be expected though.

Another problem I have with cheap earbuds is that they constantly fall out of my ears.  The QC20 features the Bose StayHear+ tips.  These tips have a gel curved hook that keeps the earbuds from falling out.  In all my use they have never fallen out.  There is almost a suction effect when you put them in that keeps them in place.  Bose recognizes that not everyone’s ear are the same, so they have included StayHear+ tips in small, medium, and large sizes.  The medium are pre-attached so you can start listening right away.

Know your QC20

The control module on the Bose QC20 allows you turn on noise cancelling mode.

The control module on the Bose QC20 allows you turn on noise cancelling mode.

If you are have never used noise cancelling headphones before, they are slightly different than a typical pair of earbuds.  Plugging them into your phone, laptop, or tablet is the same.  However, you will notice a small control module on the cord.  The control module serves the control to turn on noise cancelling mode as well as the battery that powers it.  It has indicators to indicate the battery state as well as whether noise cancelling is on or not.

The QC20 features an alligator clip which you can clip onto your shirt to keep the cord in place.  For men this works well with your button-up shirts.  Just above that is the inline control for the mic.  You can use this to mute the mic when you are on a call. Finally, the earbuds themselves look different than typical earbuds because of the StayHear+ clips attached.

Taking Phone Calls

The QC20 has a mic on it too which will let you take calls when attached to your phone.  There is an inline control on the wire that will let you mute and unmute as well.  I found that the sound quality on calls was good.  I also talked to my wife who was using her pair and I could hear her perfectly.

The inline control on the Bose QC20 allows you to mute the microphone when taking phone calls.

The inline control on the Bose QC20 allows you to mute the microphone when taking phone calls.

Inside the box

Inside the box, you will find the Bose QC20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones, a storage pouch, USB charging cable, small and large StayHear+ tips, and instructions.

Case for the Bose QC20 headphones.  The extra StayHear+ tips are also located inside.

Case for the Bose QC20 headphones. The extra StayHear+ tips are also located inside.

Battery Life

The battery life while in noise cancelling mode is rated at 16 hours.   The QC20 charges relatively quickly in about 2 hours.  I haven’t ran into a battery issue with mine yet.  The nice thing is that they still function if the battery dies because they just revert back to aware mode.  You just don’t get the full noise cancelling effect.  The indicator on the control module will blink to let you know when the battery is running low as well.

Traveling with the QC20

The QC20 is designed for travel in mind.  I recommend storing them in the travel pouch before putting them in your bag.  It’s easy for the control module or the clip to get hung up on other things and this will keep them safe.  If you like to listen to music while you are walking through the airport, using the QC20 in aware mode works well.  When you get a call, you can stop the music and answer your call easily and then go right back to your music when you are done. On the plane, they keep the noise out.  Once you turn on noise cancelling mode, you can turn out the world.  If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss the flight attendant coming by to offer you a drink.

While you are in flight, you’ll really notice the second you take one of the earbuds out of your ear how much noise they really block out.  I found that you could listen to music or watch videos and they perform great on the plane. When it comes to travel, I have been in the market for something better for a while.  Sure, I could have bought a pair of Beats by Dre headphones, but they are huge.  I simply don’t have the space in my bag nor do I want the added weight.  I’m sure they sound great, but I travel light.

Worth the money?

I think the lesson I have learned is that if you want headphones that sound good on a plane, you are going to have to pay a little.  At $299, the Bose QC20 comes with a steep price.  If I were to lose this pair, I would have trouble paying that much.  If you’re in the market for a good pair of earphones and were already considering a premium pair then I would definitely give these a try.  The reviews on Amazon are certainly good.

What is a “Wanna get away” fare on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines keeps their airfare classes extremely simple.  They don’t have Y, M, K, X, and other cryptic classes that only people with 10+ years in the travel industry understand.  They have three fares:

  • Business Select – Southwest’s top fare which includes priority boarding, more Rapid Rewards Points, priority screening, and a drink.  It’s also fully refundable and you can change your ticket at any time.  This is as close as it comes to first class on Southwest.
  • Anytime – This is Southwest’s fully refundable fare.  This fare allows you to change your ticket at any time without penalty.  It also allows you to fly standby at no extra charge.
  • Wanna Get Away – This is Southwest’s lowest fare aimed at the casual traveler.   You can get this fare by booking your flights in advance.  However, it comes with fewer Rapid Rewards points and flying standby will cost you extra.  If you want to fly standby, you will have to pay the fare difference between what you paid and the published Anytime fare.  On the plus side, there is no change fee charged on top of your fare.  You can change you flight at any time.  Just keep in mind fares go up as your travel date gets closer.

For the seasoned Southwest traveler, these fares may be common knowledge.  According to my analytics though, this is one of the top search queries directing users to my site.  For more information on Southwest fares, refer to this chart.

CLEAR opening in Baltimore and Miami – Get three months free!

A card reader at the CLEAR kiosk.

A card reader at the CLEAR kiosk.

If you live in Baltimore or Miami, now is a great time to sign up for CLEAR.  CLEAR is open in Baltimore now and opens on May 20th in Miami.  If you are not familiar with CLEAR, think of it as your personal escort through the security line.  Even if you have TSA PreCheck this can save you lots of time at busy airports in the mornings.  To sweeten the offer, CLEAR is offering three months for free, so give it a try and see how it works for you.  You don’t need to live in either of those cities to get the three free months either, so give it a try.

Be sure and check out my complete review on CLEAR for more details!