Confessions of a Disneyophile: Making Disney Friends

Series by staff writer Betsy Villanella. Photos Copyright © Betsy Villanella.

I’M VERY HAPPY with my Disney obsession. I’ve met many wonderful people because of it.

In 2001, while searching for discounts for one of our first Disney World vacations, I found a Disney message board. I learned a lot from reading it, and made good friends too.

I’ve been posting on that Disney message board with the same friends for many years. We come from different parts of the world but share the same love of Disney. Some members drop off, and some new join, but our main friendships have lasted over a decade.

DIS Board friends

Me and my awesome DIS Board friends: Kim in the middle and Ann on the right

Every time a couple of us get a chance to meet we tend to pick Cracker Barrel. We always ended up with a picture of us sitting in the rockers so it has now become a tradition. We met Ann for breakfast in St. Augustine, Florida on the way to Disney World and we did the traditional photo sitting in the Florida rocking chairs.

Meeting Disney friends at the Cracker Barrel

The Cracker Barrel tradition

Sometimes we meet in the Disney parks when we are going at the same time. It’s wonderful to tour the parks and share the fun with another Disney World fan.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Colleen and Robin met us at Mickey's Not-So-Scary
Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom

Special meets (Disney-themed conventions) happen around the world. The last meet we went to, we met with Disney friends Colleen and Andy. It was a fun and informative day. The back wall of the convention hall was filled with beautiful baskets that they raffled off to make money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation®.

Participants checking out the baskets to be auctioned for "Make a Wish"

There were talks and seminars on everything from photography and scrapbooking to Disney’s internships and becoming a Cast Member. The hall was decorated with balloons, and every table had a prize to be won at the end of the day by a random drawing. Ours was a Minnie Mouse garden statue, won by Colleen. This was the perfect match for the Mickey statue she had back home.

Colleen won the prize for our table at the Hershey, Pennsylvania Magic Meet 2007

We have also met Dis friends outside of the Disney setting. We first met Colleen when we went with her and her husband to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire.

Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

A harpist at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, Oct 2005

Another time Mike and I took a trip to Niagara Falls, Canada. We met Robin and her daughter there and spent the weekend touring and enjoying each other’s company. It’s great to finally meet people you’ve been corresponding with for years.

Marine Land, Canada

Robin and I enjoying the fallow deer at Marine Land, Canada

Our favorite gathering was a four-night cruise on the Disney Wonder in 2007. I’ve been on other cruises, but this was the most fun because we were able to share it with good friends.

Feature photo (see top of story): The Disney Wonder docked at Disney’s private Island, Castaway Cay, Bahamas. They keep the Flying Dutchman docked here when it’s not being used for a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Adventures Away! Sail-Away Celebrations on the Disney ships are the best way to start the cruise. Held on the main deck, there is lots of music and dancing. Cast Members offer beer and frozen drinks to the adults. Disney characters dance with the children, and everyone is in a party mood.

Sail-Away party on the Disney Wonder

Still in port, but starting the Sail-Away party on the Disney Wonder

Sail-Away party

The Sail-Away party in full swing

Standing at the rail of the ship as we start to sail out of Port Canaveral, we see the cast members at the cruise terminal waving goodbye with big Mickey gloves on their hands. Then we hear the ship’s horn blow its signature melody, “When You Wish Upon a Star” (my favorite part of sail-away), and we know we’re on our way to four nights of great fun and fantastic food.

A Mickey Mouse send-off

Cast Members from the terminal sending us off Mickey Mouse style!

The Disney princesses love to meet the little ones. They do this in the atrium. There was Cinderella, Ariel from Little Mermaid and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, among others. It’s so cute to see the little girls all dressed up in their finery, giving hugs or a pretty curtsey while they get their picture taken with their favorite princess.

The Disney princesses

The princesses meet their guests on board the Disney Wonder

There are Disney characters all around the ship. While Mike and I were on the elevator it opened to show us Alice and the Mad Hatter playing hide-and-seek on the stairs and elevators with a couple of kids. They were all having such fun!

One of the special nights is Pirate Night. It starts off with a pirate-themed dinner. Guests are encouraged to dress as pirates, and the waiters do too. They even parade around the room with the kids just before they serve the last course. Then off to the pirate deck party, complete with fireworks.

Pirate Night dinner

Pirate Night dinner

Pirate Night on the Disney Wonder

Left: ARRRGH! One of our Cast Member waiters | Right: Pirate parade

A neat thing I recommend is linking to each others’ reservations—that way everyone gets the same table and dining rotation. We had our days free to do whatever we liked, then met up for meals and evening entertainment. We all had daily adventures to talk about and had fun comparing notes and making recommendations for the next day.

Disney friends at dinner on board Disney Wonder

My DIS Board friends at our table with us

Every evening there was a Broadway-style stage show, with a Disney theme of course. They were well done and entertaining for all ages.

After the shows we would all meet up in WaveBands, a nightclub in the Route 66 entertainment area that offers family entertainment during the day but in the evening it’s adults only. It’s a very cool place, with vintage radios and hundreds of old records and albums covering the walls. There is dancing and karaoke and it’s great fun.

Karaoke time

Karaoke time

The Cast Members are very good at getting everyone who’s willing involved in the stage activities. We were surprised to find that Mandy’s husband Paul even got finagled into being the cowboy member of the “Village People.”

Village People

Paul (cowboy hat) and his famous Village People performance

The Disney Wonder has quite a few things offered for adults only. For instance, they have an adult pool area, and the Cove Café is a quiet place to read and enjoy a cup of coffee.

One of the things adults can do is go to a brunch or dinner or even a high tea at their adult-exclusive restaurant called Palo. We booked the brunch with Robin and her husband. We had a relaxing meal, in a pretty dining room with full windows all around to watch the sea while you dine.

Chef at the Palo

Left: Desserts on display | Right: One of our chefs at the Palo brunch

The food offerings were wonderful, and I couldn’t possibly have tried everything offered. There were huge trays with assorted cheeses, pastries, fresh fruit, vegetables and antipastos, crab legs and jumbo shrimp. They have a station were the chef will make you a personal pizza to order—or omelets, pancakes, Eggs Benedict and many other choices.

Made-to-order dishes offered at the Palo brunch

Fresh made-to-order dishes offered at the Palo brunch

Seafood galore

Seafood galore

The dessert offerings were like a dream. They had beautiful creations, such as white chocolate slippers filled with glazed fruits, and bowls of chocolate mousse with confection swans sitting on top, along with all kinds of tarts, and parfaits. More then anyone could hope for. The extra cost of $10.00 per person was well worth it!

Beautiful parfaits from Palo brunch

Beautiful parfaits from Palo

Mike and I will be taking another cruise with our Disney friends in 2012 on Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Dream. Maybe we will see you then too. It’s a wonderful way to meet up and make memories. Good friends and good times!


* Disney message boards contain a great deal of info and there are many to choose from. A few of my favorites: DISboards, and INTERCOT.

* It’s very true when people say “cruising makes your clothes shrink,” so pack a few things a size bigger than you normally wear.


* Among the amazing facts about the Disney Wonder is its eleven gargantuan decks and its capacity to accommodate 2,700 passengers—along with 950 Cast Members and crew.

* Disney partners with organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation® to provide wish granting for children with life-threatening illnesses. Disney Outreach says, “The number one wish of all children with life-threatening illnesses is a trip to a Disney theme park.” Read more here: Disney Worldwide Outreach

* White Glove Destinations notes that magical portholes in the inside staterooms of the Disney Dream offer a real-time view of the outside of the ship. The Sorcerer Mickey suspended from the back of the Dream weighs about 2,500 pounds.

* Disney Dream’s signature horn melody is “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” but it’s the first Disney ship that can also play several different melodies. And the first ship to offer its own onboard water coaster, known as the Aqua Duck.


Betsy Villanella

Our Disney specialist Elizabeth Villanella has lived in the Montrose, Pennsylvania area most of her life. Betsy married her high school boyfriend in 1973. As an Air Force wife, she has lived in Texas, Italy, and Virginia. Between the two of them, her sons have given her fourteen grandchildren and counting. Betsy and her husband currently live with Albert K. Ninestein, a mini Schnauzer who’s as smart as his namesake. She loves to travel and wants to experience (and share) as many places in this world as she can! Betsy tweets as @betsy_v.

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  1. Whoooo Hooooo! Another great article…. especially since I get a ‘nod”! I am SOMEBODY!!!! 😉

    • Andy!
      You have always been “SOMEBODY” to me! One of my good friends that “Disney” gave me!
      Thanks for checking it out! I’m glad you enjoyed it

  2. What a GREAT article and SO much fun! I love that the DisBoard friends have met so much! I’ve been on 4 cruises with Rick & Robin….and I can’t wait for the next one!

    Thanks for such a FUN trip down memory lane and the information about the cruise line…..

    You’re the best!

    • Ann,
      Thank you for the nice comments.
      Going through the pictures for this article was a lot of fun. I didn’t know you went on that many cruises with Rick and Robin!Great! I am really looking forward to the next cruise too!

  3. I’ve only ever been to Disneyland (grew up in southern California) — and I can tell from your post how deprived I’ve been. Not just of all things Disney (especially the cruises, wow) but of all the wonderful friends! It looks like lots of fun. What a great way to meet people and then to share good times together! (p.s. Twitter/blogger friend of Ann’s and I can only imagine the fun you guys have together — what a wonderful person!)

  4. Julia,
    Thank you!
    It is a lot of fun and I feel blessed to have found Ann, and all my other Disney friends. Its a wonderful thing to be able to share the thing you love with the people who love it too, and whats not to love about Disney!
    Why just Imagine the fun? Join us next Aug, the more the merrier!
    Any cruise is just a booking away!

  5. Great article. It’s surprising to find out how much I have in common with other people just by talking about trips to Disney World. It’s also interesting to compare cruising experiences, Disney is better!

  6. Wonderful story and pictures. I loved the trivia about the Aqua Duck . . . watching the video makes me want to take my grandson down that slide!

    • Thanks!
      I’m looking forward to the Aqua Duck myself….and I wont have kids when I go…but I’m the biggest kid I know!

  7. Mary Lou says:


    We will meet someday too! This article really makes me want to take a Disney cruise!

    • Mary Lou,
      I can guarantee if you took a Disney Cruise you will not be disappointed.
      I would love to meet with you sometime.

  8. Great article. Sounds like fun.

  9. Hi Betsy:

    Thanks for posting this great article. We had such a fantastic time together onboard the Disney Wonder and also the many other times that we have managed to get together over the years.
    Looking forward to many more years of fun and friendship.

    • Robin,
      I love re-living everything in this article!.. Disney has changed my life, if for no other reason then giving me a great way to make some great friends.

      Cant wait for Aug. to see you all again!

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