Last April we decided to do a Disney Cruise. This wasn’t our first Disney Cruise, and in fact we loved our first one so much we decided we had to do another one. I don’t say family vacation because I always feel when I get back from the cruise that I actually need a vacation from my vacation. This is a positive thing, not a negative, because we have so much fun and are constantly on the go that we absolutely love the cruise!
We went with another family who had children close to our kids ages. We decided on going the third week in April, hoping that the ship wouldn’t be packed full of people, but we were wrong. None the less we still had a blast.
We took the 5 day cruise to the Bahamas. This allowed us to visit Nassau and Castaway Cay. We visited Nassau on our first cruise and took the trip over to Atlantis. We were not impressed at all with any of Nassau so this time around we decided to just get off the ship and visit the shops at the port. We bought some of their notorious rum cake, which was super yummy and took advantage of some of the other deals. The weather was absolutely beautiful that day and the people were friendly. Of course, most of the people in port are trying to sell you something and will get in your face, but if you give them a friendly “no thank you” they will move on. We never had any issues with them being too pushy, maybe it’s because it is what we expected.
Our next stop was Castaway Cay (for people who are new to the Disney Cruise this is pronounced Cay (Key). Our first visit to Castaway Cay, the weather was rainy and cold. We went in February so I am not sure if that is the typical weather, but that’s what we got that day. We had gotten up early and off the ship as soon as we were allowed. We did this with half of the other ship, so it was pretty much chaos. We learned later that day from some people that they had waited until the rain cleared out and went ashore and the beaches were completely empty. So lesson learned, if the weather is cruddy, give it some time and get off later in the day to avoid the crowds. When we went in April, however, the weather was beautiful so we got off with the morning crowds. It was difficult to find open chairs at the beach, but we finally did. We all hit the water, which was a little chilly at first (but what water isn’t). We had bought cheap snorkels and took them with us. I believe you can rent them, but for the price of the cheap ones we got, it was worth knowing that we were the only ones who had placed our mouths on them. Remember to take your sunscreen. There is a shop that you can buy sunscreen, but it is more expensive than if you bring your own. Lunch is served on Castaway Cay and is free. This is fabulous because you don’t have to leave the island and get back on the ship to enjoy the free meals, they are served on the island at no cost to you. They also have free, unlimited ice cream and pop on the island.
Decorating your door
We tried to get as involve as we could on the cruise and I did a lot of research before hand to try and make this as fun as we could for the kids and the adults. One thing that the kids absolutely loved was having our door decorated. Not only was it fun to do, but it made our room easier for the kids to find. You can go onto Etsy and purchase magnets that can be customized to fit you, but I decided to make my own. I just purchased magnet sheets from Amazon. I got onto the computer and created designs with our names on them (I used PrintMaster to do this) and then printed the designs onto the magnet sheets and cut them out. I did a pirate Mickey for each of us and then did a couple of fun photo pictures.
For those of you who have never done a Disney Cruise, they have a pirate night. This night is all things pirate. The dinner menu is pirate themed, the characters are dressed up like pirates, they do a pirate show on the deck and this is the night they shoot off fireworks. You are not required to dress up for pirate night, but I would highly recommend it. My opinion is (and this is just my opinion) that if you are going to do a Disney Cruise, you have to take full advantage of it and dressing up is part of getting involved. You don’t have to go out and buy a fancy pirate costume. This year we made our costumes. We used plain white t-shirts and cut them up to look ragged. I made skirts for the girls and they wore black leggings underneath. I just wore black leggings and draped a red piece of fabric over my hips. You can go onto Pinterest and find many ideas on how to make cheap, fun costumes. You will get a pirate bandana courtesy of Disney to wear that night, so even if you don’t want to have a full costume, you can wrap it around your head to at least play along. If you decide not to dress up, make sure you at least don’t miss the fireworks. They shoot them off the side of the ship and they are spectacular out in the middle of the ocean.
On our first cruise we got the early seating which was at 5:45. This allowed us to go to dinner first and then enjoy the shows following dinner. This was perfect for us because we are usually early eaters and it seemed logical for us. Our children were 7 and 9 at the time so it didn’t seem anything but perfect to get their bellies full and then go enjoy the show. The second time around when we booked we were slotted for second seating. Needless to say, I freaked out. This put us eating dinner at 8:15 and this just wasn’t going to work for us. My kids who were going to be 9 and 11 were going to be starving and do nothing but complain throughout the whole show making it miserable for us. After booking I got on the phone and called and requested main seating. They told me they would put us on a list, but there were no guarantees. Cruise date came and I still hand’t heard anything. Our itinerary was still showing second seating. I finally faced the facts that this was what we were going to get and we would make do with it. I definitely blew it way out of proportion. You are so busy on the ship that time moves quickly. We got popcorn at the shows and shared just enough to sooth our tummies, but we were still hungry by the time dinner rolled around. In all honestly you lose time on the ship because of all the activities and eating at 5:45 or 8:15 didn’t really matter when it all came down to it.
Each night on the ship you get rotated to a different dinner hall. On the Disney Dream (which is the ship we were on) they have the Royal Palace, Animator’s Palate and the Enchanted Garden. If you are on the ship for more than 3 nights you will eat at a couple of the restaurants multiple times. Our favorite restaurant to eat at was the Animator’s Palate. They have screens up all over the restaurant that are interactive with you. The other restaurants are really neat too, but on both cruises we all agreed that Animator’s Palate was our favorite. On our first cruise we sat next to one of the screens and Crush (the turtle from Finding Nemo) swam onto the screen and started chatting with us. Pretty neat, right? More than neat, because not only did he talk to us, he interacted, he actually made conversation with us. We were flabbergasted. To date I still don’t know how they do it.
I did read that the meals are all you can eat. If you can’t decide on an appetizer, entree or dessert you can always order more than one. You can honestly order as many as you would like, but I am sure they frown on this if you don’t eat all the food. We never actually took advantage of ordering more than one meal because we were always so stuffed at the end of the meals that we ordered there wasn’t any reason to order more.
Free (Well I guess in so many words it’s free. You do pay quite a bit of money for the cruise overall so you are only getting your money’s worth.)
Ice cream is unlimited on the ship and at Castaway Cay. You can go get as much ice cream as your tummy will allow. The things I learned that I will change next time I go is to take cups for the ice cream. You can only get cones to put your ice cream in, which is good, but could be better. My favorite ice cream’s on the ship were the banana and chocolate. I really, really wanted to mix the two together, but doing so with a cone was almost impossible without making a huge mess. I will remember to take a cup next time so I can enjoy both flavors together. You will also probably need to take some spoons because I don’t believe you can get a spoon other than in the restaurants.
The other free unlimited item on the ship is pop. I don’t drink much pop so I didn’t take advantage of this, but my kids loved being able to fill up whenever possible. I did order water bottles to be delivered to our stateroom for me. I try and drink a lot of water and honestly I found the water that was served tasted like toilet water. I could barely stomach it so I was glad I had the bottled water delivered when we arrived so I could take one with me.
Disney Cruise Line App
Get it!! Sign up for it when you first book your trip. You can download it on your smart phone and then put in the date of your trip. It will give you a countdown calendar that you can constantly check to see how close you are getting. Once you are on the ship you can connect to the ships Wi-Fi and text other parties in your group. They also have fun Disney emoji’s to play with.
Our first cruise was on the Disney Dream and our second cruise was on the Disney Dream. We never missed a show the first time around and we loved them. It was like going to a broadway show every night. On our second cruise we found out that none of the shows had changed so we weren’t as excited about them, but we still went because we were with a family that had never been on a cruise before and we didn’t want them to miss out. We were glad we went. There was a lot we had forgotten in the couple of years since our first cruise and they were still just as amazing as the first time we watched them. It is Disney so you expect the best and they definitely put on the best. Lots of singing, dancing, action, lights, music, etc. I don’t know if you have ever been to a Disney on Ice or something similar to that, but I was never impressed by them. The costumes always seemed so cheap and the whole performance was just lacking. This is NOT the case on the cruise ships. The costumes are nothing but the best, the performers are nothing but the best and they put on nothing but the best. I would highly recommend not missing these shows.
Fish Extenders Group
Our first cruise I had no idea there was such a thing. It wasn’t until I started researching for our second cruise that I learned about fish extender groups. I found a Facebook group for our cruise and they had fish extender groups you could sign up for. I thought, what the heck and signed our families up. I went way over board and I learned my lesson. I made a gift for every day we were on the ship. Doing a gift every day isn’t required and I wouldn’t recommend it. After I was done making all my gifts I was going to need a whole suitcase just to get them on the ship. I ended up having to split the gifts between all of our suitcases and worrying that I was going to make our suitcases over weight. When I do it in the future I will only do a couple of days and try and put more effort into making them better. It won’t be about the quantity it will be about the quality. Don’t freak out on this. This is supposed to be fun and people will enjoy whatever you get. You don’t have to even make the gifts, you can purchase them. They don’t have to be extravagant gifts, either. Below are some of the gifts I made.
I purchased the digital package on both cruises. The first cruise I purchased on the ship and had to pay full price. It is expensive to purchase this, but I love to do photo books for each vacation and having these pictures on a disk really helped. Plus we like to get dressed up for pirate night and formal night so it was kinda our “family” picture time and was worth the money to us. Just so you know, if you purchase the digital package prior to departure you can save up to 15% on the original price. On the second cruise I purchased prior to the cruise and did receive my discount. I remembered seeing something about another stateroom getting an additional 50% off with my purchase. Our friends hadn’t purchased theirs ahead of time, but after viewing their pictures on the ship they decided they wanted to purchase theirs. I went with them and asked about the discount and without hesitation they gave them 50% off their purchase. I didn’t benefit from this because I had already paid, but knowing this in the future I will work something out with our companions to split the discount. I was happy with my 15% discount, but wouldn’t mind getting an additional one.
This is probably one of my least favorite things on the Disney Cruise. The main pools are so small and all our kids wanted to do was be in them. Our first cruise I about had a panic attack watching my kids in the pool. They were decent swimmers, but they were literally packed into the pool like sardines. My biggest concern was they were bobbing in the pool and as soon as they would go down, the other kids would fill in around and over them and we kept getting nervous they weren’t going to be able to come back up. Our second cruise wasn’t nearly as bad, but it was still packed in the pools. What was neat was that they were filming on deck with a bunch of Disney actors and our kids got to be up close to the actors/actresses and actually watch the process of filming. I don’t think this is a frequent thing, but it was neat to get to watch.
On both cruises we got a room with a verandah. We were nervous about sea sickness because my daughter had gotten really sick on a boat once, so we wanted to have the option of open air at all times. Just to clarify, none of us ever got sea sick on either cruise and none of us ever felt like we were going to get sea sick. We got the verandah the second cruise because we loved being able to go outside and view the ocean and watch as we pulled into ports. We have never done an inside stateroom or one with a window so I can’t give an honest opinion about them. I waiver on whether I would actually ever try one either. I guess it all comes down to money. If I have the money and I am going to book a cruise, I will definitely choose the verandah because my family loves the open air and loves being able to go outside in the morning and evenings and breathing the ocean air. Honestly, we did spend a lot of time on the balcony and definitely got our money’s worth. If we go to book a cruise and money is tight, I would book what I could afford, but I know I would miss that open air and probably regret it.