Many have been asking me about our Disney Cruise adventure, so here it is! :) I hope it’s helpful!
The first part of our summer vacation was spent aboard the Disney Disney Dream Cruise with the kids and my brother-in-law’s family (thank you again to my parents-in-law for such a generous summer gift!). It was a 5-day, 4-night itinerary, through the Bahamas. My husband and I had been on a 6-night Alaskan cruise before, and we thought the length of time might be too overwhelming for the kids (although the longer out you are at sea, the easier it gets on the seasickness). We’ve also always wanted to go to the Bahamas at one point in our lives, hence the consideration of this particular cruise. Disney also has its own island in the Bahamas called Castaway Cay (who buys an island I tell ya?!), which they say is worth a visit.
Based solely on this experience, I’d say a Disney Cruise is a good idea for a family vacation. It is enjoyable for everyone regardless of age. There’s always something for everyone to do at any point in time. It’s like they think of everything, it’s amazing how well-oiled the ship is run day in and day out. And they keep it current — Frozen and Captain America’s Winter Soldier were showing in the Buena Vista Theater for instance.
The Disney Dream is a relatively new ship too so everything looks and feels totally brand new and clean. The whole experience is totally exhausting though. We’re constantly moving from one point of the ship to the next, sometimes taking the stairs several flights up and down (it was faster), and getting in line for all sorts of things all the time. That said, I would still totally recommend it for any family, and I would love to do it again (which means I need to find a way to make money grow on trees).
To help make the most of your Disney Cruise:
For transcontinental travelers, arrive a day or so before you board the ship. Our cruise was set to sail out of Cape Canaveral on April 6, but my husband and I decided to book a flight into Florida on the 4th. It gave the girls a change to decompress and acclimatize, and get rid of some of the travel fatigue. We stayed with best friends in Tampa with no agenda but to sleep and eat. That helped relax us before traveling on the 6th to board the ship. The ship’s sail time on the 6th was at 5PM, but my husband booked us for a 1PM check-in, to give ample time for us to get on board, eat and explore before we set sail.
Pre-register and fill out the online forms. Weeks before you take the cruise, they send you a booklet containing forms and information you’d need to know. Read it and fill everything out before getting to the check-in area. It will make the process go smoother and faster, and faster is always good with kids in tow.
Also, you’d want to read through the activities in each port of call and already register yourselves for them. It saves a lot of time rather than standing in line on the ship getting the next available slot (that’s a separate line from check-in, by the way). I don’t suggest you fill up your whole day with pre-planned activities. Maybe just 1 or 2 per day at most, because again there are a lot of discoveries you’ll make when you finally get on board.
Here’s a tip: Bring food and water for the kids. With long lines kids get hungry while waiting. Best to keep them fed and happy. There are TVs playing cartoons in the waiting area so they can happily watch while you stand in line.
Verify other requirements. It was quite last-minute, but we learned that we needed a separate Visa into the Bahamas. Now this is debatable as well since some travel agencies say they don’t require it, but we chose to play it safe. We’ve heard stories of you not being able to board the ship at all if your visa requirements aren’t complete (even if you travel with a US Visa already). The nearest embassy to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is in China, and so it takes at least 3 weeks to get the papers all sorted out and back to Manila.
Also if you’re traveling with little kids, there are some additional requirements that might be needed, like a list of their medication or allergies and things like that. They ask you upon pre-boarding and if it’s not declared then you’d need to fill out another form, which will take time.
Allot time for lines. Everyday on the cruise, you’ll receive what they call the Navigator. It has every activity that’s happening, where and what time. It’s best to read through it well each night and plan your day around it. For the shows, allot at least 20 minutes before each showing to line up. The character pictorials as well will require time, and usually after about 15-20 minutes there’s someone standing at the end of the line to tell you that they have to close it because “Minnie has to fit her outfit for tonight’s ball” or something like that. So you may miss them — although not to worry, because everyday on the ship they’ll be around for one picture or another. Everything runs on time as scheduled, like a well-oiled machine.
Prepare to dress up. I wasn’t planning to pack girls’ princess dresses; then I remembered Peggy Orenstein’s comment about how kids always dress up when they’re in Disney. I got Elsa and Anna sister aprons for the girls at Celestina & Co., and a Sofia the First Princess outfit for Jamie. And it’s a good thing too, because when it was time to meet the princesses, EVERY little girl was in a princess dress!
Our cruise also had a pirate night, so I packed Jamie’s pirate outfit.
Sam didn’t have one, but thankfully our friends in Tampa had given her an Izzy costume when we arrived. And in the afternoon, you find on your bed, a little something to wear for the evening, for every member of the family.
A lot of the adults gamely dressed up as well during the cruise, which actually gave our boat a little bit more flavor.
Unplug and enjoy. Wifi wasn’t free, and it was costly. They charge on a per MB basis. I decided I didn’t need to be connected for 5 days (and anyway we were always busy and completely exhausted at the end of the day!), and it was quite liberating not to worry about emails and what I was missing on Facebook for a few days.
Expect to see everything Mickey. Of course, it is Disney. There’s “a hidden Mickey” everywhere.
I hope that’s helped some of the folks asking about our Disney Experience. Watch out for next week when I post our favorite part of our Disney Cruise experience!
If you have any more questions about our trip, please feel free to post them here and I’ll get to them as soon as I can!