Hi everyone! We’ve been back home now from vacation for a week now and I’m glad to be getting back into a routine. And back to blogging! I shared some photos and videos of our trip on my Instagram stories. Many of you have enjoyed catching a glimpse of the activities and some of you have asked for any tips on planning your own Disney cruise. I hope to get you pumped up for your upcoming vacation or help you make the decision to plan one if you have been tossing around the idea. And for those of you that have been on a Disney cruise before, here’s to reliving those magical memories through this post.
Here’s a little background on my perspective:
1) Our family has been on five Disney cruises. Our first was in February 2015 on the Disney Magic. We went on the Disney Dream later that year. In 2016, we sailed the Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder. And we just returned from our latest cruise on the Magic.
2) We are not what I would consider true Disney fanatics. I haven’t seen all the movies. I can’t quote the movies that I have seen. My daughters went through the princess phase loving the Disney Princesses. Mickey and Minnie make us smile. The music of the movies, especially the newer ones, speaks to me and that’s a lot of my enjoyment when watching Disney movies.
3) We’ve been on short cruises and week long ones.
4) We’ve stayed in different room types and classes.
5) We’ve used a travel agent on some trips and planned on our own with other vacations.
6) Our basic requirements for family vacations are: warm weather destination, activities for us and the kids, alone time for us while the kids are busy, easy access to food, family friendly evening entertainment, good service.
Let’s start with the planning process. As I mentioned above, we have planned our cruises both ways… with a travel agent and on our own. And I will always plan any future Disney Cruises with a travel agent. No matter how much online research you do or word of mouth you get, there are always some useful and practical tips from travel agents that specialize in Disney cruises. Our travel agent is Beth Fejer from Dreams Unlimited Travel. She is a Disney specialist. She has always been helpful in any step of the planning process from answering questions to making any changes along the way. She also books vacations to Disney World, Universal Orlando, and other cruise lines. I like being able to shoot her an email about a reservation and have it all taken care of by her. Did you know this service is FREE too? AND, depending on your total vacation package cost, you get money back as on-board ship credit. Yup, that’s right… cruise cash that is put back into your on-board account. This comes is handy for on-board activities, cruise excursions, souvenirs, or drinks. So the service is free AND you get cash back to use for your cruise. A win-win in my book. So don’t hesistate to use her for planning your Disney cruise. Here is Beth Fejer’s email address. If you already have a reservation for a Disney Cruise, contact Beth and see if you can have it transferred to a Dreams Unlimited booking and get all the benefits!
When your final payment has been made and your booking window for activities opens (90-120 days pre-cruise), book your activities as soon as possible to get the choice time slots. You will be reminded of this date through emails and mail. For us, this means booking brunch at Palo, getting meeting times for the Princess Gathering, and Bippity Boppity Boutique appointments for Pirate Night.
Now let’s talk packing. The best suitcases my husband and I have ever had is this luggage. We have two this size and they have been put through a lot, without any issues. They are a great deal when there is a promotion going on at Macy’s. We have come to realize that for a 4-5 day vacation, we can get all of our stuff for a family of four into two of these luggages. Any longer than that, we need a third smaller luggage. Especially for all the stuff we seem to pick up on our trips these days!
So here’s a list of things that you may not think to pack for your Disney Cruise:
1) Clothespins: If you have a room with a veranda, these come in handy to hold down your swimsuits and coverups to dry out. You can also use them on the pool deck to keep your towel on your chair. I use the old-school wooden ones from the dollar store.
2) Plastic baggies: If you are going off ship exploring, grab some fruit or food that won’t go bad in the heat and put them in baggies for your day bag. Especially handy with kiddos. The buffet restaurant, Cabanas, will always have something to grab and go at breakfast before you get off the ship.
3) Water bottles and insulated coffee cups: On the pool decks, there are drink stations with water, sodas, coffee, and tea. Fill up anytime you want.
4) Hanging toiletry bag or plastic shoe organizer: You probably already know that space in a typical cruise cabin is limited, although I feel that Disney cabins are pretty well equipped storage wise. There are these knobs on the back of the bathroom doors to hang stuff and these types of hanging organizers will make up for the lack of counter space for all of your stuff. Whatever you get, it has to be hung on the knob on the door, not over- the- door type.
5) Grocery store plastic bags: For wet swimsuits, dirty shoes, extra clothes in your day bag off ship.
6) Packable plastic rain ponchos: I like to be prepared. There are sometimes short rain showers in the Caribbean so I like to have these ready in my backpack if needed for me and the kiddos. The hubby thinks it is overkill 🙂
7) A warm hoodie and a lighter-weight sweater cardigan: We’ve had some cooler temps on some of our cruises and especially on the top deck the wind is so strong! Nice to have when watching movies by the pool in the evening. And I also like to have a cardigan with me to wear to dinner and to after-dinner shows or adult areas.
8) Adults 21+ are allowed to carry on a max of 2 bottles of wine or champagne or a six-pack of beer upon boarding and at each port. It has to be in your carry-on bag and not in your suitcase. I didn’t find drink prices to be too outrageous compared to eating out at home, but you will definitely save money if you take advantage of this policy.
9) You can carry on a case of bottled water for your cabin. This will save you trips up to the drink stations. Otherwise, you can order bottled water and have it delivered to your cabin at a cost.
10) Glow sticks/ glow jewelry to play around with on Pirate Night.
11) Pirate costumes for Pirate night: You can go all out with a full pirate outfit or wear a DIY version. They give you a pirate-themed red bandana. For the kids, I’ve taken a plain white tee and cut uneven edges onto the bottom hem, sleeves, and collar, and paired it with black cropped leggings. I’ve also paired it with a thin red scarf to use as a sash, or they just wear their bandanas. This last time, the girls just wanted to wear black clothes, and the rest of their outfit was completed with the things they get during the Pirate Princess makeover appointment in the Bippity Boppity Boutique (bandana, eye patch, earring, sash, sword, and necklace) . I don’t like to dress in costume, so I usually just make use of the bandana and wear black and white. My husband wears this costume pirate hat with long scraggly hair built into it! And also a pirate tee similar to this one.
12) Cabin Door Decorations: My cousin, who is a huge Disney fan, gave me these magnetic door decorations for Christmas. So cute!
Shop Planning and Packing Items Above:
Insider Tips on Board:
1) They announce your family name as you board on embarkation day. Such a cute touch! Have the video ready.
2) Rooms aren’t ready until around 1:30pm. Everyone is excited and hungry when they get on board and the crowd at Cabanas (the buffet) can be pretty big. There is always another restaurant on board open for boarding lunch and even the poolside eats. So if you are overwhelmed by the buffet on embarkation lunch, check out any of these other areas.
3) Have your swimsuits/swim gear packed in your carry-on bag on embarkation day. That way, you can change once onboard and head to the pool and stay there until your room is ready. And have your lunch pool-side!
4) Cove Cafe is an unused gem. It is an adults only coffee bar, but it also has fancy little pastries, dessert, and snacks all day. You can stop in and grab yourself a plateful of goodies to take back to the room for the fam.
5) Photos: There’s lots of opportunities for professional photo-ops by Disney personnel. These will be available for purchase of course. But I do find that they are also open to taking a picture for you with your own camera. Just ask. I just let them take their professional photo first.
6) Character Meet-and-Greets: This is a huge part of the Disney Cruise experience. You will get a paper navigator and be able to see the times for each character meet on the Disney Cruise app. If you want to minimize wait time, get in line at the meeting place 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. Have your autograph books and pen ready. Again, the professional photographer takes pics, but you have the opportunity to take your own pics with your camera right afterwards.
7) Evening Shows: The Walt Disney Theater does fill up fast! Again, get there about 20 minutes ahead of showtime to get good seats. Maybe even closer to 30 minutes early if you have a bigger group or want choice seats up front.
8) Pirate Night: The deck party starts around 7:30. Our kids like to be up in front of the stage for all of the action, so we get there about 15-20 minutes early for the show.
9) On-board booking your next cruise: If you are having a great time (which you will) and anticipate a future Disney Cruise Vacation, be sure to book your next cruise on board. You may qualify for a discount. Try to meet with someone at the planning desk earlier in the cruise, as the lines/wait time get longer the last day or two. If you don’t know the exact dates that you would like to book your next cruise, you can book a ‘place-holder’ cruise and obtain the on-board booking discount if you qualify.
10) On the last night of the sailing, there is a goodbye party around 10:15 in the atrium. All of the characters come out for a few minutes and do a little goodbye song and dance. We went to it once and I don’t want to do it again. It was so sad! Little kids were crying and I myself had gotten teary-eyed from the whole scene. It didn’t feel like the happy ending to a wonderful vacation, so we’ve avoided it ever since.
11) If you are looking for a quiet place to sit and enjoy the view, find a lounger on Deck 4 mid-ship. I found it so relaxing.
Are you still with me? If yes, I have one last point to share.
Is Concierge Worth It?
If you have done your research, you know that Disney cruises are more expensive than other lines that cater to families. And if you add in the cost of Concierge level, it becomes a bit of an investment. We have done three cruises concierge and two non-concierge. The biggest advantage to concierge for me was the cabin. So much room in a one-bedroom suite! Two full-size bathrooms with a huge master bath. There’s a table and chairs good for meals with a sitting area; it felt so homey. It was definitely nice to have a little separation from the kids. And the balcony is huge! Other plus is having access to the Concierge Lounge. Basically, your own little spot open to other concierge guests only, with a concierge host on staff. Great coffee, snacks, desserts, and light meals here. Just a nice place to hang out. And there were happy hours twice a day! They also have little socials for the concierge guests a couple times during the sailings. My husband also likes the no-wait perks: first to board the ship, first to get off, first to get off at ports where you have to tender. As implied by the name, the concierge hosts take care of everything. They end up feeling like good friends.
On our recent cruise which was non-concierge, the only thing I may have really been missing was the extra cabin space. Our Balcony Family stateroom was nice, but having had the extra room in the past, it was different. All of the other perks, I didn’t really feel like I was missing out. I kind of liked having the freedom of time, in terms of not feeling like I was missing out if we didn’t attend every single happy hour or social event. It was still a great vacation. I would say it all depends on what you are looking for. If vacation to you means the ultimate in pampering and you really need the extra space or convenience of services for you family, then concierge may be worth it for you. If all of the extras (which truly are just extras) don’t justify the cost, then stick to non-concierge. In the end it will be what you make of it anyway.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you! You must really be a planner and looking forward to your cruise. Please share this post with anyone you think would be interested. I know my husband and I looked at a bunch of posts just like this years ago before our first cruise. And for you seasoned Disney cruisers out there, please comment below on any other tips you have. If there’s any other specific questions that you have, please don’t hesitate to ask!
And I’m leaving you with some fashion posts from our cruise. It was abnormally cold, so I couldn’t wear any of my tropical weather looks! Glad I had these pieces packed.
*All outfit details are linked in the sidebar section “Recent Instagram Looks” and on the Shop Instagram page.
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