21 Apr

John Craig


Download the EDCE 2017 App

EDCE Tickets

14 Oranges is the proud mobile app developer and sponsor of the Entrepreneurial Development Conference and Expo, being held in Halifax on April 28-29, 2017.

The event is going to bring together some of the sharpest minds in business to share learnings to help business grow in Atlantic Canada. As such, I’m humbled to be speaking on the panel about Marketing Your Business at 7:45am on April 29th, and sharing insights on how mobile has driven audience engagement for governments, associations and businesses.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Android App Download Apple App Download

20 Apr

John Craig


Let Us Port Your BlackBerry App To Apple and Android

Need to port your BlackBerry App?

So back in September (2016), BlackBerry announced they had stopped making their own phones and like all fans of the iconic Canadian technology, I went through the five stages of grief.

Denial: I can’t believe it! No way would BlackBerry do that! The keyboard …
Anger: It’s a conspiracy, like the Avro Arrow … the government wanted them to cancel this …
Bargaining: I promise not to never mock how slow the BlackBerry Playbook was again …
Depression: Life is pointless without a smartphone with a keyboard … I’m going back to a flip phone …
Acceptance: I’m getting an iPhone 7

I remember my first BlackBerry, a 957, which I acquired for a step $750 CDN back in 2002. I’ve owned or used just about every BlackBerry product since, and while I haven’t loved them all, I do respect the consistency in the security provided by the platform, and I know a lot of other enterprises and governments have as well.

And because of this, your organization may still have a number of custom apps developed for the BlackBerry, and now they are quickly approaching end of life.

Let us help you get that app off BlackBerry and onto an iPhone or Android platform. Give us a call and book a 30 minute discussion with us on how to get it ported quickly and painlessly.

19 Apr

John Craig


Free 30 Minute Mobile App Consultation

Free Mobile App Tune Up

Is your mobile app underperforming? Give us 30 min to consult on it, and help you make it a winner.

Did you start to sense it was underperforming when you read some bad user reviews in the app store? Did you see the worrisome “This app crashed when I opened it,” or the generic, “This app sucks” in the comment feeds?

Did Apple send you an email letting you know your app wasn’t up to their standard, and they were going to pull it from the store? Was the content out of date? Maybe the graphics looked pixelated on your new Pixel XL device? Perhaps that last push notification didn’t buzz on your new smartwatch?

There could be lots of reasons, but if your analytics are showing that your downloads and usage are down dramatically, your app is underperforming.

We can help you. Take us up on a free 30min consultation. We will tell you how to get your app back on track. We will apply our 8 years of custom app development experience to your underperforming app and tell you how to get back on track.

And we’ve done this before. In fact, Sylvain Marcotte, our CEO, has a passion for design improvement in the world around him. One of our first customers was his favourite radio station, whom he called one day after being frustrated with how their app worked.

“I love the music you guys play,” he shared, “But your app is terrible! Can I help you make it better?” Obviously, they didn’t want to be perceived as having a bad app, especially for what they were still being charged by their previous developer, and took us up on our offer and within a few months, the app was getting rave reviews.

Sharing the way to make things better with our customers is part of our DNA. We will make your great content and services available to your audience wrapped in the best approaches to design and delivery. Our process will help identify if you are hitting the real business driver for your app, and then tune it to best meet those needs.

So, don’t wait to get a call from Sylvain! Give us a ring. At 14 Oranges, we specialize in building apps that don’t underperform, and we have a passion for making the business behind your app better, and allowing you to get the value you deserve from your mobile app investment.

11 Apr

Shane Todhunter


Does Website Speed Matter?

I am hearing more, and more about website page speed lately, so I decided to do a little digging. I have lots of experience optimizing websites for speed on a variety of hosting environments, but in the past the requests for speeding up the site always came from customer requests or moreover complaints that their site was slow. Increasingly, I am seeing recommendations from the gurus of the interweb, a.k.a. Google and to a lesser extent Yahoo, that you should really spend some time speeding up your site. The devil’s advocate inside me says, “Oh yeah, why?”

So being pragmatic, I am going to ask the most important question of all:

If I speed up my website will I get more business?

So like anyone these days, if I have a question, and I need an answer, “Google it,” right?

So I cut and pasted that question into Google’s search box, and apparently it is a very popular topic. The results page was chock full of ‘6 ways to improve your site speed’ and ‘top 7 ways to make your wordpress site faster’. These are marketing pieces aimed at high keyword density, generally speaking, and not a lot of help. I already know these SEO tips, and how to increase site visibility in Google rankings. I also already know HOW to make sites load faster, I am trying to determine if it’s really worth it in the end.

Step 2 do a little more research.

I started pouring over analytics and research studies and found the following:

  • Mobile pages that are 1 second faster experience up to 27% increase in conversion rate
  • Sites taking longer than 3 seconds to load see a massive increase in bounce rate.

So put simply if my site takes more than 3 seconds to load people are going somewhere else and if I can speed up my site by 1 full second I will likely increase my sales (conversions) by nearly a third.


Note that here we are also talking about mobile.

This is where it starts to get interesting. Smartphone adoption is one of the biggest factors in the increase in importance for page speed. Smart phones and tablets account for more than half of the web traffic worldwide with more than 2.6 billion smartphone users. Mobile devices encourage speediness twofold; users are frequently accessing apps that have near instant response times so they expect instant web responses and mobile device data connections are often slower than traditional WiFi networks.

Ok so now things are starting to get a bit more clear. If the majority of traffic to your site is mobile, and mobile pages that load quickly increase conversions, it seems pretty clear I should make my site sprint like Usain Bolt for those all important mobile users.

So now what?

Ok, so I know pagespeed is important in conversion, so I want to make sure our site loads lighting quick. So at this point I need to find out if our site is already fast or sluggish. How do I test this you ask!?

I turn to our good friends over at GT.net for the win! (#FTW)

GT Metrix

There are a whole bunch of tools out there to measure page speed and they all tell you pretty much the same thing with slight variations. Most of the tools are pretty techy and require some skills to get them running. But GT Metrix is a bit different. You just type your website’s domain name and in click ‘Analyze’. GT Metrix does a whole bunch of magic stuff and comes back with a report card. Don’t be shocked with the first result, think of the report card like the first calculus test you took in first year university;you hadn’t realized you probably should do the homework on this one so the first test stings a bit.

This card gives you a nice snapshot of how well you are doing including your rank on Google’s pagespeed tools, Yahoo!’s YSlow tools as well as the general size of your site and how long it took to download.

Once you see these numbers you will instantly know if this is something you should be evaluating. If you are ranking less than 60% on either page speed or yslow and or your page load time is greater than 3 seconds (see above about bounce rate), you NEED to start talking to your web developers and the company that hosts your website.

Many of the issues you will find are present in the code, and are not a server problem.

Let me give you an example of a common mistake.

A request goes out for www.myslowsite.com/.

The web server says, “hey! you want the homepage? Here you go!” and sends back an html page to the browser. The browser grabs it, and starts breaking it down.

It finds some stylesheets in the head of the browser, so it fires of requests to the server to get those files. Then it starts putting together the page (note the end user still hasn’t seen anything). While it’s putting together the page, next it runs into a javascript file, and it is what we call render blocking. Let me explain how that works.

The browser, upon reaching the javascript file, now says, “STOP!”. It can’t keep building the page until this Javascript file is run. So another request fires off for the javascript file and everything stands still waiting. (another note, end user STILL HASN’T SEEN ANYTHING). Hmmm …. that doesn’t sound very user friendly, does it? The browser has almost everything it needs to paint the page now, but can’t do anything until the javascript file gets back to the browser and runs.

But wait maybe that javascript file is super important right?!

Good chance, it’s not. It could be your analytics script or a script used to validate a form on the page. But because it was included in the head of your document and not loaded asynchronously the browser has to sit still and show your potential customer a blank screen while all of this happens. And the worst part is, many websites have this render blocking javascript scenario present 10’s of times on each page. It is pretty normal for that file request to take a few hundred milliseconds. Do the math, and your 3 second max load time target (see stats above) is quickly disappearing.

A very quick evaluation can determine if these problems exist on your site. If they do you need to spend some time and talk to your developers.

If you are greeted by a blank stare when you have this conversation with your web devs, feel free to give us a call at 604-304-0020 or email sales@14oranges.com for an evaluation. Now this is not throwing your current provider under the bus or anything. Many web designers are great at making a website look great, but making it look great and load fast are two very different things.

Our approach is not just to provide your organization with a website, but we understand how to best host and resource it to meet your business goals. Now bear in mind your hosting provider may have blazing fast servers, and your site make look so pretty your wife wants to wear it to a fundraising gala, but if it is not configured correctly and built correctly it will score poorly.

Today, I was attempting to figure out in real world terms if speeding up my website would generate more sales. After sifting through the data it is clear that website goal conversions will increase the faster the site loads. So the takeaway for you is that with a little effort and a small budget allocation towards evaluating and improving page speed, the ROI is right there in front of you.

Contact 14 Oranges today for your free website speed assessment!

14 Mar

Shane Todhunter


One month with an electric car and I am loving it

Knowing that the George Massey Tunnel, the bottleneck on my commute, is being replaced by a super bridge, which will no doubt cause some serious lineups over the next few years, I went in search of an electric car that would lend me a hand. For those of you who don’t know, if you have a qualifying electric vehicle you can take the HOV lanes in British Columbia. More info on this program can be found here.

We opted for a 2017 Kia Soul EV, it is purely electric, not a hybrid. I have had my eyes on the Kia Soul for a while now. It seems it is a bit of a polarizing looking vehicle, you either love or hate it. I love it, and so does my wife, so it was an easy choice. The range is up to 150km on a full charge and it is really consistent and a pleasure to drive. The regenerative braking takes a minute or two to get used to, basically when you let your foot off the gas instead of coasting the vehicle begins to slow down immediately and uses the vehicle’s momentum to recharge the battery.

I commute from Tsawwassen in to Richmond, right by the airport, and do a bunch of running around at night and I have not yet come home below half a charge in a day. My commute to our office is generally 25km plus a few kilometers on either end depending on which route I take. The range is displayed with your charge indicator and seems to be very accurate. I did take it out to the Langley Events centre (approx 52km each way) and back with a bunch of running around and ran it down below a quarter, but it has not been difficult to manage.

The car comes with a standard 120V charger cable that you can plug-in beside your toaster and charges the car in 24 hours. As a bonus, Kia also gives you a rapid charger port, which charges the car in 4 hours, and we had a qualified electrician install it in our garage. This allows me to charge the car for an hour or two after work while I’m having dinner, and I’m finding that the vehicle is almost fully charged if I have to go back out again in the evening.

Charging cable in the storage compartment in the trunk.
24 hours to charge empty to full.

If and when you do run out of juice, there are charging stations all over the place and most are free. I had a good friend with an electric vehicle that gave me some of the info which was helpful. Basically you want to find the various charging companies and sign up for memberships. You have to put a credit card on file but I haven’t found a single one yet that charges you for the electricity or any fees at all, you just have to have the RFID card or app installed and it unlocks the charging station.

Fast Charger – Empty to full in 4 hours

The car is loaded with all kinds of bells and whistles including preset warm/cooling times. So when I get in the car to go to work at 6:30 it was all nice and warm, heated seat and steering wheel etc.

The price has come down on these vehicles, and most provinces and states offer rebates now. The BC Gov, is still offering $5000 back for buying one which Kia was kind enough to do on my behalf. More on this program can be found here.

Cost of ownership

We financed the Soul and my payments are smaller than my previous monthly gas bills were. So basically the car is free!

Ok so yes we do still pay for electricity so to be fair I did some digging. It seems that the stats indicate cost to charge our vehicle from empty to full would be about $3. I did the math on it myself and it looks to be the Souls battery holds 27 kWh and the bc hydro cost is 8.29 cents per kWh. So cost to charge $2.24 empty to full. This works out to $1.49 per 100km. So if I compare that to a super fuel efficient Smart Car which uses 4.9 liters of fuel per $100km or a cost of $5.88 that is a cost savings of $4.39 per 100km or $878.00 in savings over 20,000km of driving.

Oh and I wasn’t driving a SMART car before this, I was driving a 2014 Ford F-150 Ecoboost which was getting about 15 l/100km so the actual cost savings to me is triple that. My cost to commute in the truck versus the EV is 10 times!

Vehicle Cost per 100km
Mercedes-Benz Smart Car $5.88
Ford F-150 Ecoboost $18.00
KIA Soul EV $1.49

So in summary, I have been driving an electric car for more than a month as a daily commuter and I am totally satisfied. I haven’t had any issues with range, it’s saving me both time and money owning it, and it’s good for the environment. I’m sold! Electric cars are not a thing of the future. They are here to stay and they are not just for the super wealthy anymore. (Teslas are awesome but out of my price range.)

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, I would suggest you check out the all-electric options. You may end up as sold on the benefits as I was.

09 Mar

John Craig


New City of Richmond Mobile App Will Enhance Building Inspection Efficiency

City of Richmond Building Inspector Using Metro Grove App

The City of Richmond, British Columbia, launches Metro Grove, 14 Oranges’ mobile-first app service for managing field workers. Part of Richmond’s innovative Digital Strategy, the app will drive increased inspection efficiency making for a more business friendly and smarter city.

PRWeb: Richmond, B.C., March 9, 2017

The City of Richmond has launched a new mobile app to increase the efficiency of its building inspectors. The mobile application, based on the Metro Grove Mobile Workforce Management Service provided by Richmond-based 14 Oranges, allows inspectors to perform and file an inspection from their smartphone instead of the current mixture of paper and interactive voice response (IVR) based systems.

The new app is part of a broad initiative rooted in Richmond’s innovative Digital Strategy, which was approved by City Council in 2015. The goal of the strategy is to integrate the Cities’ systems using a middleware approach, dubbed the Digital Nervous Ecosystem and enhance customer service and improve efficiency through the use of new digital technology. This application is one of a part of a series of initiatives that will help improve the way the City of Richmond meets the needs of the public and businesses operating in the City.

Metro Grove Inspection App

The app provides a simple, straightforward way for Richmond’s building inspectors to view their respective inspection task list for the day on their smartphone of choice and input, post, and synchronize their results and comments to the existing inspection management system. This app simplifies the current approach of handwriting inspection results in the field that in-office clerks input later or navigating IVR trees to feed the information back into the City.

“Contractors and trades will be able to get almost instantaneous feedback of the inspection results and remediate any reported deficiencies sooner,” said Malcolm Brodie, the Mayor of the City of Richmond, “Overall, this enhances the customer experience and satisfaction, demonstrating that Richmond is a business-friendly city.”

The smartphone technology, developed against the 14 Oranges (http://www.14oranges.com) Metro Grove Mobile Workforce Management Service, delivers a persistent and stable connection to the legacy backend systems for data retrieval and updates enabled by Richmond’s Information Technology Department. As well, the mobile platform provides easy and uncluttered navigation between screens. This enables the inspectors to complete their assignments quickly and efficiently.

About the City of Richmond
The City of Richmond is BC’s fourth largest municipality with a vision “to be the most appealing, livable and well-managed community in Canada.” An Official Venue City of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Richmond is internationally acclaimed for its cultural diversity, healthy lifestyles, and natural environment. Home for Vancouver International Airport, deep sea port facilities, and the Canada Line, Richmond is a global centre for transportation, trade and distribution. The City of Richmond has received numerous provincial, national and international accolades for innovation and excellence in service delivery and local government administration.

Media Contact: Ted Townsend
Director, Corporate Communications and Marketing, City of Richmond
Tel: 604-276-4399, Cell: 604-516-9585
Email: TTownsend(at)richmond(dot)ca

About 14 Oranges
14 Oranges is a leading provider of turnkey mobile application services to support the efficient management of mobile workforces. Headquartered in Richmond, BC with offices in Ottawa and Halifax, 14 Oranges sells its services to government agencies and medium to large enterprises who are dependent on mobile workforces. 14 Oranges’ mobile application services brings a mobile-first design approach, allowing mobile workers to use their own smartphones to stay on-task, minimize drive time and increase valid data capture. Managers realize an immediate ROI both in terms of worker efficiency and the ability to manage more workers from a single interface.

28 Feb

John Craig


Cabo Transfers Deploys New Mobile-First Website In Its Unending Commitment to Serving Its Customers and Travel Partners

Cabo Transfers Mobile Web

Cabo Transfers today announced the release of its revised website to simplify booking and paying for private and group transfers from the San Jose de Cabo (SJD) airport to any of the resorts in the surrounding area. The new website, developed by 14 Oranges, allows customers and partners to book their premium services from a website or smartphone on the go.

PRWeb: Feb 28, 2017, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo Transfers, the premiere, private, full concierge transfer and excursion service for visitors to Cabo San Lucas and the surrounding area, today announced the launch of their new website supporting both standard web and mobile browsers. The website allows visitors and partners to easily book and pay for a comfortable and luxurious transfer from the airport to their preferred Cabo San Lucas vacation destination.

Cabo Transfers Web View

In addition to airport transfer services, Cabo Transfers also offers roundtrip private driver services for dinners, trips to the grocery store and excursions to noted local attractions such as Hotel California, the Palmilla Golf Club or Cabo Dolphin Encounters. With more travellers booking their accommodations through services such as Airbnb and VRBO, grocery store trips have become increasingly popular.

The website is designed to simplify quoting, booking and confirmation and provides an integrated payment system for their fleet of vehicles ranging from a Ford Expedition up to a full-sized motor coaches to accommodate any sized group.

One of the more innovative services supported by the website is Cabo Transfers’ new partner booking portal, allowing travel agents, wedding planners and hotel partners to easily book transfer services on behalf of their clients. As a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) this service fits tightly into the mission of shared knowledge and access to services between member organizations. The portal will be launched in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

“Our new website shows our commitment to our customers and partners as the safest and most trusted private hired car service serving Cabo San Lucas,” said Mark Diesvelt, the Online Systems Manager at Cabo Transfers, “14 Oranges has delivered an exceptional user website experience in line with this goal, helping us to service our stakeholders on the web or on the smartphone platform of their choice.”

14 Oranges is a leading provider of web and mobile services supporting on-demand services and the uberfication of everything. Supporting web and mobile solutions for the tourism, government and enterprise markets, our customers trust us with their most critical revenue generating and operations management systems.

About Cabo Transfers
At Cabo Transfers, we strive to provide the most elite transportation service in the Los Cabos area. It starts with our luxurious and comfortable vehicles. It continues with our high level of transportation service with our staff. Finally, our competitive rates will showcase why we are able to exceed our guest’s expectations. Cabo Transfers will keep you from worrying about your transportation needs any time you travel to beautiful, sunny Los Cabos. Cabo Transfers is a long standing member of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) and the only transportation company in Los Cabos with NLA (National Limousine Association) accreditation.

Contact: Mark Diesvelt, mark(AT)cabotransfers.com

About 14 Oranges
14 Oranges, is a leading provider of turnkey web and mobile application services to support our customer’s key requirement for simple end user engagement and efficient operational management. Headquartered in Richmond, BC with offices in Ottawa and Halifax, 14 Oranges sells its services to governments, retail organizations and enterprises. 14 Oranges’ web and mobile application services brings a mobile-first design approach, enabling our customers’ end users to connect with their organization on-the-go, while they in turn manage their organization from their smartphone. Managers realize an immediate return on investment (ROI) from increased end user engagement and an increase in their organization’s productivity.

22 Feb

John Craig


The Discount USA Car Rental App and the Uberfication of Everything

Discount USA Car Rental Closeup

Whenever I travel, I find myself inundated with requests to rent a car. Every time I purchase a plane ticket, or reserve a hotel room or visit a tourism website I’m asked if I want to rent a car from a certain provider at a discounted rate, and its never seems to be my preferred car rental agency.

Then when I go to my preferred car rental website, I don’t see that rate offered at that destination, or the car I wanted. I keep feel like I’m missing out! Why can’t I just go to one place and find it all again and get the best deal possible?

This is the frustration the Discount USA Car Rental app has been designed to solve. They have the same discounted rates offered up to all airlines and hotels through their site for all the rental agencies in one place. This allows you to see the best deals and allows you see the best deals available where you are going.

This app, developed by 14 Oranges for Discount USA Car Rental joins the world of “on demand” apps also discussed as being part of the “Uberfication of everything” trend. It’s the idea that consumers what to a single place to go and find the rock-bottom best price for good service, and it should be turnkey and as frictionless as possible.

Package deals for hotels, airlines and car rental agencies made sense at one point because of the literal friction involved in making bookings in the 70s and 80s. There was friction on your fingers while you leafed through paper catalogs filled with star rated hotels at travel agencies. There was friction from squirming in an uncomfortable chair at the travel agent while they booked your airline ticket through a 900 baud connected reservation computer. Then, after an hour sitting in the stale coffee infused travel office in rayon pants, a self-inflicted form of friction mind you, if the package offered you an orange Ford Tempo with roll-down windows as your air conditioning option, you took it just to get out.

Now with hotel and airline reservations literally available within seconds through on-demand discount airline and hotel apps, it makes sense to have a standalone rental app that also gives you the best deal without any of the packaged entanglements.

Because nobody wants revisit trauma caused by that family trip to the Florida Everglades in that orange Ford Tempo with no AC!

16 Jan

Sylvain Marcotte


Hiring – Entry Level Inside Sales Representative

Inside sales


We are looking for enthusiastic, self-motivated recent graduates (or individuals graduating this spring) to join our sales team on a full-time basis as entry level inside sales representatives. You will be required to research, contact and manage sales accounts for our major service offerings, and will receive mentoring in both traditional and digital sales techniques to ensure your success. Previous sales experience is not required, but previous work experience is an asset.

Responsibilities Will Include:
• Account and market research
• Account outreach and sales via cold calling, email and social media
• Report on your progress against key performance indicators
• Ability to learn new technologies quickly and adapt to ever changing circumstances

Desired Qualifications:
• A business, commerce, marketing degree, or an engineering/computer/science/math degree with a desire to learn the dark arts of sales and marketing
• Excellent written and oral English skills. French and Spanish would be considered strong assets
• An ability to speak with confidence
• Ability to listen to customers and take detailed notes on what they want
• An iPhone or Android owner, who uses and understands how apps work
• A desire to learn and grow a career in sales, sales engineering, marketing and/or sales operations
• A valid Canadian passport and ability to travel to the US
• You have watched the Salesforce (https://goo.gl/n3iJ4I) overview videos to understand the sales tools we are using before applying
• You are an avid reader of the news and actively stay informed about what is happening in the world

Job location(s): Richmond, BC.

Please send your resume and cover letter in PDF format to hr@14oranges.com with REF 14O-ISR17-W
Part-time applicants or those still needing 1 year to complete their degree need not apply.

06 Jan

John Craig


The secret rule for a successful Disney vacation

Walt Disney World

It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
– Walt Disney

If Walt Disney imagined hosting your 16-person family on vacation at his resorts, he certainly had one vivid imagination for the impossible; and I certainly had fun doing it.

Now, there is one rule to having a good time at Disney, both on the cruise and at the resorts. In all honesty, if you don’t apply this rule, you will be spending a lot of time waiting in lines, or missing out on some of the best perks available to you.

This one rule is book everything you plan on doing in advance.

This means, set aside any thinking you might have that Disney is something you can do ad hoc. You can try, but you are likely to be disappointed. To enjoy it, you have to book it all in advance, otherwise you won’t get to everything you want to do, or can do, in the time available.

When you get your cruise/resort package in the mail, they give you a date on which you can begin to book your adventure. On that day, wake up at 4am and book everything you want to do. This includes your Disney Fastpass for lineups. Do not try to wing this. On the day you arrive at the resort (we picked the Magic Kingdom) you will find every major ride is booked up within 30 min of the park opening and you will be in lineups all day. Lineups, especially on the most popular rides, run in the 120-150 min range without Fastpass, and watching your fellow Disney travellers waltz ahead of you in the Fastpass line will become vexing quickly.

Disney Lineups

The other thing you need to book in advance is your premium dining. Now if you are a foodie, like I am, there are some amazing restaurants in the Disney family. Our family was cruising on the Disney Dream, and it had two premium dining restaurants, Palo and Remy. Palo was an à la carte Italian restaurant and the Osso Buco lived up to its billing. Remy was a fixed menu set by two of the world’s best chefs, one the American head of the world class Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at Walt Disney World and the other a two star Michelin chef from France. Set with the right wine pairings we left full of truffle sprinkled goodness.

Remy Menu

That isn’t to say the standard dining is lacking in any way. My son raved about the burger we had in the Magic Kingdom, and I’m happy to say the hot dogs they served in the park where really good as well!

One of the best things to book on the cruise is a cabana on the private Disney Island. This gives you your own area on the beach, as well as snorkelling gear and private golf cart transfers to and from the boat. The snorkelling is terrific and Disney created a fantastic underwater park to swim through, complete with artificial reefs and statues of Mickey Mouse. Throw in a massage on the beach as well and you will head back to the boat relaxed and refreshed.

At Walt Disney World, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, with a room overlooking one of the many park’s savananhs allowing us to watch giraffes and zebras from the balcony. It really made for a special trip and the kids really enjoyed their stay at the hotel.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

One thing we missed out on booking in advance was the night trip through the park, allowing us to see the animals with night vision goggles. At the front desk they told us that the night trip through the park only takes 10 people out per evening and books up months in advance, taking me back to rule number one; make sure to always book in advance!

Before you go, you will want to download the Disney cruise and park apps for your smartphone. Login with your Disney account and you will be able to see your Fastpass bookings, dinner reservations and spa appointments. You will also be able to see the wait times for rides you don’t have Fastpass for before walking across the park. On the boat, the app allows you to text message your fellow passengers, allowing you to stay in touch over the boat’s WiFi network. This will help you track down your party when you need to get to your dinner reservation on time.

Enjoy the magic!