Earlier this year, my family and I embarked on a Disney Cruise. Before we even left, I had a lot of friends asking me to let them know how it was. And since returning – I have had even more ask us about what we thought. Would we do it again? Was it worth the money? Any tips or tricks? In short: Yes. Yes. And yes.
We LOVED it. We created so many priceless, lifelong memories and lived carefree and in the moment all week long. In fact – we loved it so much so, that we already put down a deposit for another Disney Cruise in the next 2 years. Since I don’t know where to start – I’m going to begin by recommending that if you choose to do a Disney Cruise, call or email Mouse Magic Travel. They booked the trip for us (for my extended family – all 14 of us); got us the best price (it was quite a bit lower than what I had found online); are free to use (they get compensated by Disney); answered every single question along the way; and took care of every last detail so that we could focus on simply enjoying our vacation! You can reach Kristi: [email protected] or 608.848.5288; or Amy (our agent): [email protected]
My family chose to head to Orlando a couple days early (we arrived on Saturday for a cruise leaving Monday afternoon). This gave us a chance to stay on Disney property and to explore a park before leaving. Plus, I am always nervous about arriving in time… since a cruise has a set departure time and you don’t want to have a delayed flight mess up your plans! We chose to stay at and go to the Animal Kingdom and it was a very enjoyable experience. Mouse Magic Travel did help us with those plans, too. But another option – something I have never done – but have heard about, is to book a room at the Orlando Airport. They have ‘hotel-type’ rooms for people who are flying in for a cruise. So there are certainly options!
All in all – a Disney Cruise is truly magical. While it is an investment – it was well worth the money spent. They pull out all the punches and frills to make it truly an unforgettable experience. There were 14 in our party (my parents; sisters and their families and my family of 5), every single one of us left with a full heart and memories for a lifetime.
Here are some tips for those who are thinking of heading out on a cruise… or for those who already have one booked!
1: DCL Navigator App
Download this prior to boarding so that you can communicate/message with your family while on the ship. Unless you are paying for unlimited Wi-fi (which does cost a pretty penny), you will lose text messaging capabilities. By downloading the app – you can use their messaging system to communicate with your party while on board. Super handy! Plus – it gives you a daily rundown of activities on board (ie: times for shows; character sitings; map of the ship and so on).
2: Transportation to the Port
Disney has a Magical Express which will depart the Orlando Airport or any of the Disney properties. The cost is $35/per person each way. Because we had 14 in our group – we chose to do a private shuttle. Mouse Magic Travel also arranged this for us and it was very convenient. The shuttle picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off at the port. They then picked us up from the port and took us to the airport. We saved money by going this route and it was slightly more convenient!
3: When to Arrive
As I mentioned above – be sure to allow plenty of time before your cruise leaves. No one wants a delayed flight to make them miss their cruise! Our cruise left at 3pm; so we arrived at the port that morning. We were able to board the ship around noon and hang out on board while we waiting for it to leave the port. I recommend planning to fly in at least 1 day before your cruise leaves.
4: Magic Bands/Oceaneers Club
Upon boarding the ship; your kids will each receive a Magic Band. This band will grant them access to the Oceaneers Club (Disney’s ‘free’ kids club on board). Upon boarding the ship, I recommend that you head straight to the Oceaneers Club to get the magic band affixed to their wrist for the week and to get them registered. The magic band also offers an add’l safety measure. If at any point in time during your stay, your child goes missing – they are automatically taken to the Oceaneers Club and by having the magic band they are immediately identified.
Furthermore, the Oceaneers Club has some fun activities all week long. Kids enjoy it and it can give adults an opportunity to explore or relax for a bit. We didn’t use it much, but there were a few shows we wanted to see and when we did drop the kids off – they had a blast!
5: Photo Packages
All week long there were photographers taking pictures. During the excursions; with the characters; at dinner; on board; family photo ops; and so on. The photo package is not cheap – BUT we did end up purchasing it. My only regret is that we didn’t take advantage of it more… had I realized we would purchase it (I didn’t think we would…) we would have done all of the family photo ops throughout the week.
6: Connecting Verandah if Traveling with Family
Since we had 14 of us (and 4 families from my family) – we had 4 rooms and Mouse Magic Travel was able to book us all in a row. And even better they requested an adjoining verandah. It was SO nice… we had privacy – but could easily access each other and relax together on the verandah overlooking the sea!
7: Character Sightings
There are lots and lots of characters. As we boarded – Princess Belle spotted my younger daughter (who was of course dressed like Cinderella). She came over and played a game with her… and from that moment on – I knew this would be an unforgettable week. All the character meet and greets and are listed on the app and shared with you throughout the week.
8: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
If you have little princesses – this is SO much fun! But. You will want to book this right away as it does fill up quickly! Insider tip: take your own princess dress with you to save some money. We did buy a new one before the trip to make it extra special… but spent $25 instead of $80.
There are a TON of excursions you can take at each port that the cruise stops at. We opted to do a few – but if I were to do it over again, I’m not sure that I would?! Because honestly – the cruise ship itself already offers SO much to do and there are things to do at each port without needing to book an excursion. That said – if you do plan to book; be sure to do it right away booking opens up (typically 90 days before departure) because many of them do fill quickly.
10: Bottled Water & Alcohol on Board
We bought some bottled water and took it on board with us. Put a luggage label on it (luggage labels are mailed to you prior to your trip) and it will be delivered to your room upon boarding. This way you don’t have to purchase any while on the ship – saves some money!
Each passenger over the age of 21 is allowed to bring on either one 6 pack of beer or 2 bottles of wine. We did this and were able to avoid purchasing alcohol on the ship (another money saver if you plan to consume any wine or beer on your trip!).
While this post is NOT sponsored – not by Disney and not by the agent who helped us (it is my 100% wholehearted/genuine feeling); I will absolutely say that a Disney Cruise is worth the investment if you have intentions of taking a family vacation anytime soon. The cost includes all your food (and there is no shortage of food on board…) and endless entertainment. We took in some shows which were worthy of Broadway – absolutely top notch. Our server at dinner engaged with the kids and got to know our family by the end of the week. The housekeeper made designs with the towels and linens; the passengers on board were pleasant; there was live music; a movie theater which played current shows; another big movie screen by the pool; a water slide which wrapped around the ship (so cool!); a state of the art spa and fitness facility (my sister and mom and I hit up the spa one night!); and happiness galore. They say Disney is the happiest place on earth… but I personally think a Disney Cruise ship is even happier! We can’t wait to go on another one.