- If you are cruising on a budget don’t be scared to book the cheapest interior stateroom available. There are so many things to do on the boat that we were really only in there to sleep. There was enough space, a bathtub for the littles and a magic porthole that we all loved. We also loved that they could be made totally dark so that after our late nights everyone would sleep in. A miracle for my two boys!
- Check-in online as soon as your window opens. This is where you get your port arrival time and how the determine the order in which you board the boat. We picked 11AM and were on the boat by 11:45 with a good couple of hours to enjoy the pools and AquaDuck before the crowds.
- Go ahead and register your kids for the kids club when you check-in online in advance of the cruise. This will save a lot of time and does not commit you to using it. But you’ll be ready when you see how fabulous it is and how much your littles love it :-)
- You can bring on your own alcohol in your carry on bags! We packed a couple of bottles of wine. Don’t forget the opener!
- Budget for the tips that will be added on at the end of your voyage. Ours totaled about $200. The tips were well earned as every cast member was overly attentive and super helpful.
- Be sure to schedule a character call for your little ones before you leave! It’s free and we did ours the night before we left. They loved it! You do it through the on-line cruise planning center.
- We were a little worried about where all of our luggage would fit. Never fear! The beds are raised and we could easily slide everything under the bed after we unpacked.
Getting on the boat
- You will stop curb-side at the terminal to unload everything except your carry on bags (1 per person + a purse). We were thrilled to not have to coordinate rolling it all from the parking garage through the lines to check-in. Have cash on-hand to tip the baggage handlers.
- Parking at the terminal is $75 flat fee. We experienced a little sticker shock here.
- After you check in at the terminal you will see 2 long lines – one for a photo with Mickey or Minnie and one for kids club registration. Skip the kids club registration and go for the picture line instead. You can do the kids club thing once on the boat but this is the only chance to have the picture made with the boat in the background for embarkation day.
- We wore our swim suits under cover-ups and had already applied sunscreen. We were the second family down the AquaDuck and the first family in the pool. We literally rode the slides five times back to back with no line at all. If you want to beeline to the slides, get on the boat, take a right for the elevators and head to deck 11.
- You won’t get your bags in your rooms until much later in the afternoon so have your camera and anything you might need in your carry on bags.
- The kids club is open for tours, questions and getting wrist bands starting at noon. I headed up there with the kids around 12:30 and there was no line. They eased all of my fears about dropping the littles off. I was so glad I took the time to do this on the first day!
On the boat
- We only saw a few clocks on board and are the kind of group that wanted to make certain events. Next time I’ll definitely wear a watch.
- The pools get very crowded. Just be warned. No diapers are allowed in the pool so I wouldn’t even go on the cruise until everyone was potty trained. There is a Nemo splash area for little ones that aren’t potty trained.
- Check the height requirements on the Mickey slide and AquaDuck. Again, for the full experience I would wait to go until everyone could ride.
- Speaking of the AquaDuck, they were very super duper strict about the height requirement. My littles got measured each day with shoes off. They were given arm bands for the rest of the day. Red (Whit) meant they had to ride with a parent. Blue (John) meant they could ride with another blue or a parent. No arm band means you could ride alone.
- On the Mickey slide they ride alone. Both of mine were tall enough. You can’t ride together so I’d make sure they weren’t scared to do it alone.
- If you like a fruity tropical cocktail while cruising, buy the signature cocktail in the souvenir cup the first day. It’s $9 and change. But you will get the cocktail of the day for the rest of the trip for $4.50 (or $4.75). As many as you want! The BBC was the best drink ever and I could hardly stand to drink anything but that the rest of the trip :-)
- The rooms do have small refrigerators and small safes.
- There are so many fun things to do on board! We loved mini-golf, shuffleboard, ping pong and the Arr-cade. We didn’t even have time to do everything we wanted to.
- The district is the adult night club area. Pink is a very cool themed bubbly bar you must check out. That being said, when we had time for a drink at night without kids we loved just being on the deck near the adult pool and bar.
- We didn’t even get off the boat in Nassau. It seemed like a lot of others stayed on too. It was a great time to just relax and watch Disney movies on the big screen over the pool.
- Definitely sign up for the Detective Agency and complete a couple of the mysteries while on board. This is great for the day at sea. The PCP loves Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and it's a very similar yet less time consuming activity.
- Bring costumes for Pirate Night! Our little ones loved dressing up. Your stateroom attendant will leave a bandanna in the room for each person as well. Honey just wore that and we brought a little eye patch and earring. Some people go ALL.OUT!
- The fireworks on Pirate Night were great. It was very very crowded so I’d probably go early and stake some claim with beach towels. They shoot off the side of the boat by the Arr-cade.
- The kids club is AMAZING. It kind of made the trip for us. Mine begged to go and wanted to stay all night. Okay… done! In my opinion it was clean, safe and very well run. To check out, you must have your key to the world card, your secret password and tap the kid’s wristband. They have these cool automatic hand washing stations that the kids use as they walk in. Send them on the night of Pluto’s PJ Party – the baby colored a darling Pluto pillowcase that just might be his most prized possession.
- Speaking of the kids club, we had the early dinner seating (5:45). Dinners are great, but long. Two nights we fed the littles within the first 30 minutes and then one of us ran them up to the kids club for fun and games while the adults finished our meal. At the late dinner seating (8:15), cast members will escort littles to the kids club for you!
- There is also a kids club at Castaway Cay! We took ours for about 2 hours and they loved it, of course. I’d go ahead and have them wear the wrist bands. They loaned us two, but we heard someone else say that they weren’t offered a loaner.
- A cast member will text you on your Wave Phone if your little one is ready to be picked up. We told ours we’d check in on them (and we did) but we also made sure they knew that all they had to do was tell someone they wanted to go and they would call us.
- We loved the buffet lunch in Cabanas. Something for everyone. Our party gravitated to the shrimp and crab legs. YUM!
- Dinners are fantastic and the service was just outstanding. Don’t be scared to order two appetizers or two desserts if you want. They were so accommodating.
- Don’t miss dinner at Animator’s Palace. Such a fun little interactive show!
- We went to the breakfast buffet at Enchanted Garden each morning since it was on deck 2 next to our staterooms. Everything was yummy here as well.
- Our favorite experience of all was the Champagne Brunch at Remy. There were only 8 people dining and it was just gorgeous and luxurious and delicious :-) We sipped on bubbly while noshing on scrumptious eats with nothing but blue waters all around. This was a huge splurge and the most expensive meal I’d ever had. But worth it… so worth it!
- The Broadway style shows were fantastic! The Golden Mickey’s was our favorite and one the kids will love. Villains Tonight and Believe were also super. The shows last one hour and are the perfect length. My littles did not attend all of the shows – we’d run up to the kids club and ask if they wanted to attend and sometimes they said no :-) You can buy bags of popcorn at Preludes for a couple of dollars and there is enough to share. We brought in our own wine and soft drinks from the pool for the littles. We also arrived just on time each night and snagged the last row. It was still great for viewing and easy to escape if you need.
- The Sail Away Celebration and Pirate Night deck parties were crowded and just okay. I’m glad we did them this time but am not sure that I’d try to wrangle the troops in the crowds next time.
- Get off the boat early to enjoy this fantastic day!! Trams will take you to the beaches. As far as I could tell they were the same on both sides. We went to the further beach (stop 2 I think) and were right by Pelican Plunge. The kids club was on the other side.
- Purchase post cards at one of the shops on Castaway and mail them from the post office to get a Castaway cancellation mark! I of course forged notes from Mickey to my littles and can’t wait for them to arrive!!! The postcards were a couple of dollars each and the stamps were $0.65.
- Check out the kids club.
- There are free soft drinks, ice cream and wonderful fruit stands all day long. YUM!
- We didn’t do any pre-rentals of floats or snorkeling. Floats were easy to rent once we were there but ours honestly didn’t get much use.
- There are lifejackets available and we made the baby wear one most of the day. That being said, the waters were very calm, they were roped off and they were so shallow that he could touch the bottom all the way to the end. There are also lifeguards.
- There is tons to do here – bike rides, boat rides, sting rays and snorkeling to name a few. We just hung at the beach and had a great time! I thought mine were a little too young to really appreciate any of those things and think it was a good call in the end.
- Okay, we LOVE characters in this family so this was like a dream come true. There are so many of them all day long! We carried our signature books in zip top bags with sharpie markers for signing. You never know when you’ll run into a character so we kept them in our pool bag. They all spent a good deal of time with the kids… I mean, Donald danced Gangem style with my littles! So cute.
- Here’s how the times work – for example, you will see in the Navigator that Peter Pan is at Deck 4 Balcony from 4-4:15. I thought no way… how on earth will we ever see him! What that means is that everyone that gets in line between 4 and 4:15 is guaranteed to see him no matter how long it takes! Perfect!
- On two mornings of our trip, all of the princesses on board gathered for pictures. One line… five princesses. A girl’s dream come true. We didn’t do this, but the line was the longest we saw. I would definitely get in line about 15 minutes early for that one.
- Similarly, there is one afternoon that Disney Friends had a gathering. An easy way to get the fab 5 with waiting in line only one time. We got there about 10 minutes early and were hugging Mickey in no time at all.
- I found lines started to form only 10-15 minutes in advance. But remember, as long as you are there by the listed “end” time, you will get to see the character.
- Cast members will always take pictures on your own camera. The rule seemed to be 2 pics for the professional photographer and then 2 pics on your camera.
- Go to the See Ya Real Soon party on the last night. The baby was in heaven. They sing and dance and welcome everyone up for one last hug with their favorite character. Mickey confetti comes from the ceiling and it’s just as sweet as can be.
- I sell cruise signature books based on your itinerary in my etsy store!
- You can drop off two items per stateroom with Guest Services for character signatures. I purchased these Classic Storybooks (saw them on Amazon and ebay) for $12 each. Drop them off on the first night with markers and fill out their short form to request princesses or Mickey and friends (we did both) to sign. I read online that you will get more signatures if you leave a little treat so we did lifesavers and chocolates. I’m not sure that this is really the case though and I’d bet you’d get exactly the same if you didn’t send a treat. They were delivered to our stateroom on the last night and were SUCH a sweet surprise for the littles and a keepsake they will have forever. I’ve also heard of people doing pillowcases and picture frame mats.
Since I’ve received quite a few emails and comments with questions, I want to open the floor to a Q&A. If you have any question at all about anything to do with the cruise, feel free to leave it as a comment and I’ll answer them in a blog post later this week!
I can’t say enough what a wonderful vacation and memorable experience this was!!