Hi All! Hope you are well! This Monday morning greeted me with a sick kiddo so best laid plans to start the week with a bang have a whole new meaning. I have been looking ahead to Mother’s Day, when I host brunch for our whole family every year, and in doing so I checked the weather and saw that we are expecting rain for the next two weeks. Seriously, cloud graphic with the rain pouring out on every.single.day. Yikes! So, not much I can do about that, but it did get me thinking about the amazing weather we had on our cruise that I have not shared with you…until now (warning- wordy post up ahead)!
In early February we went on a Western Caribbean Disney Cruise and it was AH-MAZING! It was our first big trip with the kids, ages 6 and 8. There was something for everyone and we had a great time! I am seriously still dreaming of the palm trees, sun, sand….and umbrella drinks!
There are a few tips I wanted to share with you should you have a trip planned or are thinking of taking the plunge. These are things I learned through the process of being a first time cruiser, or through our travel agent and/or fellow bloggers who are regular Disney Cruise aficionados.
NUMBER ONE: Pack ziplock bags of all sizes. We used these to bring things with us off the boat for our excursions, but predominately for ice. We filled the bags with ice and then purchased a soft sided Disney cooler bag with 6 bottles of water ($19 and available at debarkation on our first day of excursions). We then refilled the water bottles on the ship, and kept it all cool with the zip bags of ice. The stateroom concierge will bring buckets of ice to your room anytime upon request, or ice is available on the upper decks with the drinks.
NUMBER TWO: Water is free and available on the ship, but only from a dispenser on Deck 11 (on the Disney Fantasy). I had read the recommendation to bring empty water bottles to keep refilling, because if you have a kid who needs drinks at night and you don’t feel like running to the upper deck, you have your water bottle readily available. This worked well for us in addition to the aforementioned cooler we purchased. To save money you could bring all these items ahead, but our packing space was at a premium and as it was we went over on our bag weight on the way home!
NUMBER THREE: The kids club is amazing. Hands down one of the biggest sellers for us. It took my kids a few days to warm up to the idea of going, but once they met the counselors, and saw all the activities, they were thrilled to take part. By the half point in the trip we had a bit of a routine in that we would do the pool first, have lunch, do our excursions in the afternoon when the pools were busier, have dinner as a family, then the kids would head to the club and we would go to the shows or the adult lounges. We would then meet up for the late shows, fireworks, dancing etc. I had no idea how this schedule would work for my kiddos who were used to a 7pm bedtime, but they adjusted without a hitch and we were able to do all the activities they wanted.
NUMBER FOUR: Download the Disney Cruise app to your phone and try not to get overwhelmed with all the options. I remember once we made it onto the ship we went right up to the swim deck (see NUMBER FIVE) and I tried to settle in after days of packing, schlepping, flying etc. Hubby and the kids were immediately at ease while I, like a complete nut, tried to make sense of the packet of papers that were given to us as we boarded. There were schedules of events, notes on food options, character appearances etc. and I was trying to get it all organized in my brain. The app is what helped with this immensely. We had real FOMO with this trip as there were no less than 5 things available to do every.15.minutes. Once I learned the app and saw that you could favorite things and make them into a list for the day, I felt better knowing we would be alerted when Pluto was available for a meet and greet with my youngest, or what time the show was that my oldest wanted to see. It was really fun planning things out as a family because there really is something for everyone!
NUMBER FIVE: Boarding was a smooth process for us- Disney was so organized and everyone was very pleasant. They were clear in the literature that you may not have your bags until that evening (we boarded at 11:30) but somehow I missed that until I read it in a blog. We flew in the night before and I was able to pack backpacks for each of the kids that we kept with us after depositing our luggage at the ship. We all wore our bathing suits under our clothes and had flip-flops, sunscreen etc packed as well. When we got on the ship we were able to go right to the pool and enjoy lunch and an afternoon of swimming before meeting up with our luggage before dinner.
NUMBER SIX: The adult only areas are a terrific option, though we only made it there a few times. We sampled the English Pub to watch the Super Bowl, had some wine at the wine bar, and had a parent’s night out dinner at Remy. There are two restaurants (apart from clubs and lounges) for adults only on the ship and we chose Remy due to the menu, availability of reservations, and price. We got dressed up and had an amazing meal. We enjoyed a few hours together as there was no rush through the meal and dessert, and the kids had a blissful time at kids camp (FYI, kids can eat at kids camp while parents are dining elsewhere). I highly recommend trying Remy (and I heard Palo was delish too) though try and book your reservations ahead to get the time/dates you want.
NUMBER SEVEN: Research the excursions as much as possible. Read other blogs, ask others who have gone, discuss it with your agent etc. I found that for the ports we stopped at, there were not a lot of activity choices available for kids under 7. So, in Cozumel we went to a water park that included food and drink and while we had a section of the beach to ourselves, my kids love the pool and there were no chairs or umbrellas near the water park area, nor were there lifeguards. So hubs and I walked around with our backpacks, schlepping towels etc. so we could watch over our kids. The food was great and it was very clean, but we wouldn’t sign up for it again. Conversely in Cast Away Cay, because it is Disney’s Island, it is set up for families, is super clean, and has amazing food. Definitely a great place to get off the boat and unwind.
NUMBER EIGHT: The shopping is terrific- so I heard! Unfortunately I cannot speak to this myself as we did family excursions in Mexico, Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay, so I did not have time to sneak away to check out the shops. However I was privy to the plethora of items available on the ship and of course we could not go home without Minnie. Needless to say the ship had terrific shopping unto itself that transcends just Disney Merch.
NUMBER NINE: The cleanliness of the ship is five star! I have to admit I was a bit concerned about being on a ship with two young kids…not to mention all the other families and kids, but Disney did an amazing job keeping everything clean and tidy. We were greeted with hand wipes whenever we entered a food area or restaurant every.single.time. They washed the walls in the halls, not just the handrails, and our state room was cleaned TWICE a day. Towels were plentiful and laundered and replaced often, and all food areas had attendants helping and wiping things down. AND, there were attendants in the bathrooms! Five stars from this Mom!
NUMBER TEN: Every day we saw people standing in line at a desk and by the third day I just had to walk by and inquire. Sure enough it was the lineup to book your next cruise! So of course I planted myself in line while hubby took the kids on an adventure and signed us up again. It really was a great deal in that you put down a $200 refundable deposit and then you receive 10% off your next cruise booked within the next two years. Then you get that deposit money back as a stateroom credit. But this deal had to be booked before you got off the boat and the pixie dust wore off. Well played Disney, well played.
Hope you have a magical trip!