My family just got home from our first ever Disney Cruise. We cruised on the Disney Magic to the Bahamas! What an experience! Disney knows how to travel! We chose this option for our winter break over a traditional Disney World vacation, because our kids are still fairly young, and we hoped this would be a more relaxing option! It definitely was! Time on the beach, a day at sea spent by the pool, and a day in Key West. Here are our takeaways:
Before Your Vacation:
¤ Your vacation plan starts with a deposit. The balance is not due until 75 days before your cruise.
¤ Leaving Buffalo in the winter can be tricky, so we flew to Florida a day early and stayed in a hotel. If you have concerns that your flight may get delayed or cancelled, do the same.
¤ As soon as your balance is paid, you can book paid excursions, free special character meetings, boutique appointments, etc. You can also choose the time you embark. We booked Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for Pirate Night ($45), floats for Castaway Cay ($7) and a Character Meeting with Frozen characters. I waited about 3 weeks to book after my balance was paid, and could only get 2 tickets to the Frozen Meeting. So, don’t wait. The other options included a dolphin encounter, glass bottom boat tours, etc.
¤ Pre-register your kids for Oceaneer Club, even if you aren’t sure they’ll go. I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave my kids there, but it was fantastic. There’s lots of Crew Members there, it’s very clean, and a great system to keep your kids safe (see here). If you don’t pre-register, don’t wait in line at the cruise terminal to register them, the line was way too long. We walked on the ship and registered them right at the Club without waiting.
¤ The day you embark, you will be met curbside with Cast Members taking your suitcases. It took a couple hours for our suitcase to get to our room. So, have a bag that you carry on the ship with sunscreen, bathing suits and whatever else you may need.
¤ Download the Disney Cruise Line app before you go. It has a trip countdown tracker. But, more importantly, unless you pay for WiFi on the ship, you can’t download the app! We did not pay for the WiFi. I do not even know how much it costs, but we wanted to “unplug” for our vacation and it was glorious! The app allows you to message other passengers, a map of the ship, the dinner and room service menus, and a full schedule of events. Plus, if your kids are in the Kids Club, the Cast Members can communicate with you.
¤ Disney allows each adult to bring 2 bottles of wine or 6 bottles of beer onboard. They are supposed to be in your carry on. (Nobody even checked this or noticed the 3 mini bottles of vodka in my suitcase.) I poured myself a large glass of wine and brought it to dinner every night. Also, the prices of alcoholic beverages onboard were reasonable.
What to Pack:
¤ Many passengers decorated their magnetic cabin doors. I saw lots of super cute Disney theme decorations with family names, birthdays, and other special events.
¤ Our second night at sea was Pirate Night. Everyone, including adults, dressed up in their best pirate garb, so pack accordingly. Don’t want to spend a lot of money? Cut some zig zags at the bottom of a plain white t-shirt and put a black belt around the waist. Disney left pirate bandanas in our room that day too.
¤ There are characters everywhere! So, bring your autograph book and pen. I even saw some passengers getting pillowcases and frame mattes signed. Cool idea!
¤ Bring your Disney lanyards and pins. There is a pin trading night with the Ship’s Captain.
¤ Everyone in your party will receive a Key to the World. The card is your room key, your identification and is used to bill charges to your room. It also shows your restaurant rotation assignment, table number and dinner time! So, it is convenient to have it around your neck in a lanyard. Repeat cruisers receive the lanyards as a thank you gift before cruising. We bought them onboard.
¤ Bring more than 1 bathing suit. They don’t dry fast enough in between uses!
¤ Pack your own reusable water bottles to fill up at the beverage station. We brought a case of water onboard, and that was not necessary.
¤ Leave the curling iron/straightener at home. The sea air took over and proved my hair curling a giant waste of time. Plus, you’re on vacation. Go for the “Beach Wave Hair”!
Time to Sail!
¤ Every family is introduced as you walk onto the ship. Hand your phone to a cast member and they will record it!
¤ The service on this ship is simply amazing! Everyone is so friendly and helpful. Our cabin was serviced twice a day! Room service food is FREE and super fast. Disney also helps you by billing suggested gratuities for your wait staff and room attendant to your card on file. Well deserved! If you want to change the amounts or pay with cash instead, visit Guest Services.
¤ The ship is so clean. The cabins, public restrooms, pool area, etc. Plus, every time we went to a restaurant onboard, there were Crew Members handing out antibacterial wipes.
¤ You will be able to meet so many different Disney Characters. We never waited more than 15 minutes in line. The DCL app and Navigator (paper schedule) have all the times and locations.
¤ Breakfast and Lunch are available at the various restaurants around the ship whenever you want. When you book your cruise, you choose your dinner time, 5:45pm or 8:15pm. Then, you are assigned a different restaurant every night. The same waiter and assistant waiter are with you every night, and you are at the same table number each night. I was so impressed, because on our first night I asked for a glass of almond milk for my son and a glass of cow’s milk for my daughter. Every night thereafter, those same drinks were waiting for them at the table! They even had their names on them! We had the 5:45pm dinner, and I would choose 8:15pm next time. This extra time would have given my kids the chance to rest after a day of fun, instead of rushing to dinner. Then, they’d be more likely to stay up later, allowing us to have a drink or two after dinner. Did I mention that the Oceaneer Club is open until midnight?!
¤ The nightly shows are fantastic, Disney themed and Broadway style. We saw 4 shows and loved all of them. Plus, each show runs twice every night so no matter which time you have dinner, you will be able to see the show.
¤ Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay is so beautiful. Clear water and blue skies. There is a tram that takes you to 3 different stops on the island. I’d recommend getting off at the 2nd stop so that you can play at Pelican Plunge! When you arrive, buy the Nemo sand pail for $7. My kids played in the sand for hours. Well worth it, even after we left it on the beach.
¤ Book an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for your kids. They offer princess, knight and pirate packages! The Crew Member spent 45 special minutes with my daughter and she truly enjoyed becoming “Gertrude Goldstealer” on Pirate Night.
¤ Book your next cruise before you disembark, but don’t wait until the last day. You only need to pay a deposit and will save 10%, as long as you cruise within 24 months. It can be changed or cancelled for a full refund of your deposit. We are going back next year for the Eastern Caribbean cruise. We cannot wait!