Walt Disney’s Moms Panel offers advice to travelers about their next Disney vacation

2. Disney Mom

ABOARD THE DISNEY MAGIC – The  handy shoulder bag she was wearing first caught my attention. It seemed like an ideal size with a good body strap for secure fit on a trip.

But I had no idea about the name emblazoned on the bag –  the Walt Disney World Moms Panel?

The baby in my family is 22 years old. Sure, I’ve visited Walt Disney World Resort and cruised a couple of times on Disney ships. But a Moms Panel? Never heard of it.

Now I know. I got a chance to talk with the woman wearing the Moms Panel tote. Her name is Marcy Galloway and she is on this Disney Magic cruise with her 4-year-old son Grayden. As a Disney Cruise Line Specialist on the Disney panel, Marcy shares cruising tips and answers questions from would-be cruisers in an online forum.

Sort of like asking a well-traveled friend some of the questions you have about a cruise. And receiving honest helpful answers.

So how did the Cincinnati mother end up with such a fun and fascinating job? I sat down with Marcy to hear her interesting story.

Now in its sixth year, the panel consists of moms (and a few dads, too) who draw on their real-world experiences with Disney to answer questions. Panelists also can be grandparents, guardians, aunts and uncles. Each year, Disney accepts 14,000 applicants.

The Disney Moms panel bag is an eye catcher.
The Disney Moms panel bag is an eye catcher.

“You fill out a form online,” Marcy says. “Then you submit a video and answer five essay questions… The third level of the process is a phone interview.”

Of the 14,000 applicants, only 19 were picked for 2013. The new panelists were then sent to World Disney World Resort for a training session. Panelists are not Disney employees and are not paid for their stint but do receive Disney trips for them and their families.

“Disney takes very good care of us,” Marcy says.  “This is my first year on the panel and I have a one-year contract. Typically, you do it for two years. Then you have to take a hiatus. You can’t do it for three years in a row.”

After a hiatus, however, a former panelist can apply to come back as an alumni. Since 2008, the panel has grown from just 12 members to 47 panelists. This year, the panel also got a new name – Disney Parks Moms Panel – to more accurately reflect all the Disney ground it covers.

“It’s a great opportunity and I love it,” Marcy says. “In my opinion, a good trip is all about the planning … On the panel, we answer questions from people to help them plan a better trip.”

For example, a mother sent a question to the online forum about needing a bed rail for her 3 year old on a Disney cruise. Should the mother carry a portable railing from home or would one be available after she arrived on the ship, she worried.

4. Disney Mom
A mom proudly wears her autographed T-shirt on the Disney Magic cruise.

“There are bed rails available on the ship and requesting one for your child’s bed is the easiest thing to do,” Marcy wrote back on the forum. “No having to travel with your own and you can be sure that the provided rails fit the bed perfectly. Your stateroom host or hostess will come and set that up for you, even if you decide a few days into the cruise that you need one.”

Growing up in Ohio, Marcy says she never cruised until she was in her 30s. “My first experience with Disney Cruise Line was seeing the Disney Wonder sail past as I was onboard another cruise line,” she says. ‘My daughter – who was 2 at the time (she is now 6) – turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, I want to cruise with Mickey Mouse.’”

After seeing how magical a Disney cruise can be, Marcy says, “DCL has been the only cruise line for us.”

A stay-at-home mom, Marcy says she knows how to economize in order to find money in the family budget to travel And she is happy to share those tips in the panel forum. “I’ve learned the best ways to make the most of our Disney dollars.”

For example, when someone asked about being able to bring their own alcoholic beverages aboard a Disney cruise, Marcy answered that Disney Cruise Line does offer that perk. Alcoholic beverages must be carried on by hand and not checked in luggage.

“We’ve done this a few times and picked up my husband’s favorite beer ahead of time to carry onboard with us,” Marcy says. “It’s a great way to save a bit of money and guarantee you’ll have your favorite brand available.”

However, Marcy adds, that the ship does charge a $20 corkage fee to bring your own wine to dinner. “I find that to be a bit pricey, when the bottle of wine itself might only cost that much,” Marcy advises. “So, another option is to pre-order a wine package with your dinner.”

Marcy shared some other tips in our conversation including one that solved a mystery I had noticed when boarding the Disney Magic. I saw youngsters and parents carrying new white pillowcases and T-shirts and packets of magic markers. Turns out that you can have those items autographed by Disney characters aboard the ship and not have to stand in line to get it done.

“Just turn in the pillowcase or T-shirt to the guest services desk the first day of the cruise and it will be returned the last night with all the character signatures,” Marcy explains. “Or you can request only special signatures like all the Disney princesses.”

What a nice program. Just another way Disney has of making cruises more memorable.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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