6.12.2013

Disney Cruise: Tips & Tricks and a Q&A Invitation

Let me preface this by saying that there are loads of repeat Disney cruisers out there with ten times as many voyages under their belts as I have.  That being said, here are a few tips and tricks we learned or wished we had learned before heading out to sea.


June 2013 386

Planning
  • 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.

Pirate Night
  • 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.

Kids Club
  • 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.

Meals
  • 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!

Shows
  • 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. 

Castaway Cay
  • 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.

Characters
  • 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!
May 2013 463 copy
  • 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.
May 2013 504 copy

May 2013 505 copy

May 2013 506 copy   June 2013 434 copy

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!! 
xoxo

31 comments:

Audrey said...

AWESOME post! A few questions:
did you do the the fish extender activity? it's all over DIS Boards and I didn't know if was something that people really did or they just talked about!
Also, did you hear anything about the Castaway 5k? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the awesome tips! Most importantly, where did you get the black striped dress??!! ;)

Lauren & Eddie said...

Where did you get Whit's pirate costume? My biggest has put in that he wants to be Captain Hook for Halloween.

Rebecca said...

Which Disney cruise ship were you all on?

I've always wanted to do a Disney cruise. I love being able to "cruise" through your pictures and posts.

Annie Whitehurst said...

Your Disney cruise posts are making me want to go back!!! We took a trip, also on the Disney Dream back in April and it was FANTASTIC! Best cruise EVER. We LOVED it and can't wait to go back! I am dying over getting the book signed, LOVE that! I did a photo matte for my girls & it turned out so great, but I will def. be stealing the book idea on the next Disney cruise...and of course there will be a next one! Once you go, there's no way not to do another! :)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU for all the tips and advice! We LOVE disney at our house and have been going for 25 years but never have done a cruise! We have it in the plans for next spring! Loved all the advice!

Holly said...

Looks like an awesome time!! You know we are big fans of family cruises! You took all the kids at great ages! We've always wanted to try a Disney cruise but haven't found a reasonable way for a family of 5 to do it. When you add that 3rd kid on the booking, it doesn't allow you to book a less expensive interior room and only gives you room options that are almost double the interior room rates. Lmk if you heard of any better options! Btw- no matter what cruise line you go on, kids clubs make the cruise for the adults :-)

Anonymous said...

Did you feel that your cruise was a good length of time? It looks like your family was able to do so much in a short amount of time.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! Thanks for the great tips! Did you need a passport to sail? Thanks!

The Gunter Family said...

Ahh!!! Everything sounds fantastic. Our boys are 4 1/2 and 14 months and I'm itching to take them on a Disney cruise! We LOVE anything Disney so I know a cruise would be a big hit. We'll definitely take your advice and wait til the baby is potty trained! :)
Is the kids club included in the price or do you have to pay by the hour? Good to know about the souvenir glass for cocktails! :) Thank you so much for providing all of this info! So helpful!

palmbeachprep said...

can you give some packing tips? things you packed, wish you had packed and how you determined what you were going to wear? like what clothes/shoes/makeup would be good to bring along the cruise? (i'm such an overpacker who loves clothes!)

love your tips!! i am going on a cruise soon so this is SOOO helpful!

Anonymous said...

Have loved reading about your cruise! Sounds like a wonderful time. Have always wanted to try the Disney cruise. Would love to see more pictures of the beach at Castaway Cay!

Hayden said...

Thank you for this Q & A post! It answered a lot of things I was curious about :) I am wondering, did you feel the ship moving at all and did it bother anyone in your group? My kids have never been on a boat before.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving so much helpful info!!!;)

How crowded did the boat feel? In pictures from some people's cruises it looks like the boat is full but it doesn't look very crowded in your pictures!

What are the rails like? Did they come up high? Did you ever worry about your children near the rails along the side of the boat?

Anonymous said...

Were there many older kids on the boat like teenagers or just younger ones like yours?? I wonder what age kids feel "too old" for the cruise?? Looks like you guys had a blast!!

Julie and Scott Cooper said...

Looks like an awesome Disney cruise! I have been meaning to ask you about Disney's Enchanted Call. I saw that Mickey called your boys before a previous Disney trip, and I am wanting to do the same. I cannot get the link to work and upon googling it I am not having much luck either. Do you have any new tricks or new links you have heard about for this?
Thanks! I always enjoy reading your blog!

Haley said...

As far as parking and logistics go... Did you guys stay in a hotel there the night before or drive and embark the same day? Also, do you park at the dock or close to it? Or do you need ground transportation to and from hotel or parking deck?

Zadie said...

I already tried to register my kids at the kids club online but it appears as "sold out" ...
Please tell me there will be año their chance to check in in board!!!
And what do you think of the tours at the islands in the Caribean? Lot's of them also showed as "sold out"
Is there one you recomend? Or not recomend?
Thank you so much
Zadie

Dixie Delights said...

I can't believe the oceaneers club would sell out?!? Definitely call! The nursery might - are you looking at that? We didn't do a single excursion and had an amazing time - there was so much to do on the boat that we were glad we didn't sign up for things!

Nathalie said...

This is by far the BEST Disney Cruise Tips post I've found. Thank you!

Nathalie said...

This is by far the BEST Disney Cruise tips post I've found. Thank you!

heather wyatt said...

The kids club, are they free or do they charge extra for them?

Dixie Delights said...

Everything is included!!

Michael Thomas said...

You provide some awesome tips here. Keep in mind that if you are traveling with a larger family (five or more), Disney and some travel agents will often suggest reserving an expensive stateroom. Be aware that two adjoining rooms in a lower Category (price) may actually be less expensive, more private for parents and net you an extra, all-important bathroom.

Michael
Longview, WA
http://cruisevacationtip.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the info

What kind of activities were included in Castaway Cay?

Were you able to get unlimited soda from one location or from multiple locations? My co-worker said on the other ship, it was only at one location behind the Mickey pool.

Dixie Delights said...

At Castaway we spent the day at the beach and on the slide. There was also w little splash area that the kids enjoyed. You can rent snorkel gear and bikes but we were entertained all day without. Free drinks are in the pool restaurant and on that deck. We never found it to be inconvenient.

Yizi Esteves said...

Hello. Where can you drop off the pillow cases for autographs??

Dixie Delights said...

Drop them off at the main desk right there where you get on the boat. It will be slammed the first day, so go early the second day!! They bring them back to your room on the last night.

Shanna B said...

Excellent information! We are researching for our very first cruise. It is my family's dream vacation! Thank-you!

Jullie Jackson said...

Great information!! Funny thing is that my son is also named Whit! Thanks for all the information! We are going on our first cruise in May on the Fantasy! We are so very excited!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the tips. My kids are older, so they will be in Edge. I cannot find where to register online. There is a lot of confusion if jeans and shorts are allowed in dining on casual nights? What clothing did you remember? BTW, you have a beautiful family!

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