Have Your Best Disney Cruise!-22 Tips for a Disney Cruise

This post was originally going to be a top ten, but the list ended up being a bit longer than intended.  Most of these tips are for cruisers with a limited experience aboard Disney Cruise Line.  Hopefully, you find at least one tip helpful.

Choose the right Itinerary.  I made a mistake on our first Disney Cruise.  At the time, our family consisted of my wife, two-year-old son, and myself.  We were nervous about how we would handle a cruise.  We were uncertain about how we would react to the ship’s movement and entertainment while onboard.  We cruised aboard the Disney Dream for a four-night itinerary.  After multiple Disney cruises and an additional family member, I have been able to determine the perfect duration for our family–365 nights!  Seriously though, I would not hesitate from taking my family on an extended cruise.  We have two young children and I still would not hesitate to take a long cruise.  However, my wife and I recently went on a three-night cruise aboard the Disney Magic.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we both missed our children.  We agreed that we would be willing to take another short cruise without our kids, but we could not be away from them any longer than that.

Choose the correct stateroom and location of your stateroom.  There are countless websites, blog posts, and videos that can give you an endless amount of detail about staterooms aboard a Disney ship, and I cannot do the topic justice in a brief paragraph.  So, please do your homework or work with a good agent that will ask about the people you are travelling with to get a good fit for your stateroom.  After selecting a stateroom category, location of your stateroom can be specified.  Is quick/easy access to certain venues important?  How close would you like to be to elevators and stairs?  Are multiple staterooms necessary?  Etc.

Princess meets are fantastic.  Our family was able to meet Belle, Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, Anna, and Elsa in under an hour!  Here is the tip you need to know:  You have to get tickets for two separate events at the Port Adventures desk.  I went to the desk immediately after we boarded the ship.  I obtained tickets for the Princess Meet and Greet and the Anna & Elsa Meet for ideal times for our family.  It worked out very well.

*Please Note:  Disney just announced scheduling for cruises of 7 nights or longer.  Be sure to discuss this with your agent as I am unaware of the details at this time.

Kids’ Clubs offer kids/tweens/teens a wide variety of supervised entertainment.  There are multiple kids’ clubs that are divided into age ranges.  Beginning at age 3, the service is included in your voyage fare.  We took advantage of the services during one of our Palo reservations.  Drop-off and pick-up are easy and secure.  There can be a line so keep that in mind if you have reservations.  Also, be sure to pre-register your children to save time on your vacation.

Pirate Night is bigger than what I expected.  On our first cruise, we took Pirate Night for granted.  We did not dress up and did not expect the overall theming throughout the ship.  Although dressing up is not necessary, it makes the evening a lot more fun.  We dress our children up in pirate garb more than ourselves, but my wife and I wear subtle nautical themed clothing.  Make sure you arrive to the deck party early to obtain a good viewing area.  Fireworks can be viewed from a lot of different areas of the ship.

Know when to book your cruise (or move your placeholder).  Generally speaking, cruisers need to book early for popular itineraries and the busy season.  By early, I mean immediately when itineraries are announced.  This is usually well over a year in advance.  This will likely be the best pricing you will be able to get.  There are times of the year and less popular itineraries that do not require booking this far in advance, but I still recommend making a reservation as soon as you know your party will be able to take a cruise.

The first Navigator is obtained upon boarding the ship.  Each evening, a new Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom for the following day.  The Navigator provides detailed information about all areas of the ships and the day’s activities onboard.  The Disney Cruise Line smartphone app is even better.  It has the information provided on the Navigator, detailed information about the evening’s dining, chat/text feature, etc…  And, the app can be downloaded in advance to provide a cool countdown.

Book your next Disney cruise while onboard.  The easiest way to get a discount on your next Disney cruise is to book during your cruise.  This is something I try to take care of by the end of the second night.  On our last cruise, I ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes to book our placeholder because I waited until our last night.  The benefits at the time of this post are a 10% off prevailing cruise fare, onboard credit from Disney, and a reduced deposit.  You DO NOT have to select a specific cruise in order to do this.  For example, I always book a placeholder.  The placeholder needs to be used within 24 months from the first night of the current cruise.Castaway Cay Family Beach

Carry-on luggage is very important.  Staterooms are not available until early afternoon.  On our last cruise, we were able to get into our rooms at 1:30.  We boarded the ship around 11:30.  So, it is helpful to pack anything you may need during that time in your carry-on. Also, any alcohol is supposed to be brought on the ship via carry-on.

Bring a cup, mug, or tervis.  Complimentary beverages are available.  However, the cups are relatively small.  If you bring your own cup(s), this may save you several trips to the top of the ship!

Skip this if you don’t drink coffee.  I enjoy strong coffee mixed with a specific flavored creamer.  This creamer is unavailable on the ship.  And, the coffee at the drink station is not the best.  Bringing my creamer helps me start off the day I normally do and probably most personal tip here.  The creamer I drink does come in single-serving sizes, so it was easy to bring aboard.  There are very good coffees available at Cove Café.

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Coffee at Cove Cafe

Bars aboard a Disney ship are underrated.  They are very well themed and the servers are amazing.  If you are up late, please do yourself a favor and hangout at one of these places.  I am NOT advocating drinking alcohol.  Other beverages are available and are actually very good.IMG_6375

If feasible, bring a case of water with you.  We drove to Port Canaveral for a couple of our cruises.  I placed one of our luggage stickers on a case of water.  The staff delivered the case of water to our room just as the other pieces of luggage were.  I have heard rumors that this is not allowed anymore, but I will continue to do it even after it doesn’t work the first time!  Having the water available in the room is very convenient.  **Summer 2018 Update** We stayed at Walt Disney World prior to our cruise.  We used Amazon Prime Now to get a case of water delivered to our resort.  We were able to use DCL transfers, and DCL transferred our case of water with our luggage.  The case of water was delivered to our stateroom.

Adults-only restaurants, including Palo and Remy, offer a wonderful dining experience.  Make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoy dining in Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and other dining rooms.  And, I love grabbing food at some of the “quick-service” spots.  But, dinner at Palo and Remy or Palo Brunch are special opportunities.  And, for the surcharges, I feel they offer an incredible value.

Disney Cruise Line is great at offering activities for every age.  If you enjoy an alcoholic drink, I highly recommend trying an alcohol tasting.  The event is a great opportunity to try something you have probably not experienced.  More importantly, this may be a great opportunity to meet some new people as well.  For that reason, I suggest making your reservation for this activity early in your itinerary.

On our first Disney cruise, my wife and I wasted valuable packing space on beach towels and a lifejacket for our son.  Lifejackets and towels are provided at the pools and on Castaway Cay.  Save your luggage space for the speedo.

If you have the opportunity, reserve a cabana on Castaway Cay.  Getting a cabana is nearly impossible for most cruisers as they go quickly.  However, they may become available if some cruisers change their mind.  So, check occasionally to see if one becomes available.

Getting up early or staying up late will provide you an opportunity to see a sunrise or sunset you will remember forever.  This is one of my favorite things to do on any cruise.  I am an early riser, so this is an activity I do easily, and I am very happy that I take advantage of this.  My favorite place to do this is on the highest deck.  I was able to go to the very front of the ship one morning.  It is amazing.  On our first cruise, my wife and I, by strictly luck, enjoyed a sunset in Palo.  Wow!

Fish Extender groups are so much fun!  FE groups deserve their own post, so I will try to be as brief as possible for the purpose here.  These are groups that exchange gifts with one another via hanging pouch(es) next to their cabin door.  There is a sea creature that can hold the pouch(es).  People place gifts in the pouches throughout the cruise.  This is a HUGE hit with our kids.  They are excited to check the FE every time we come back to our stateroom.

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Our FE

Doing laundry is never fun but can be necessary aboard Disney Cruise Line.  We book-ended out Disney Cruise with stays at Walt Disney World.  We did several loads of laundry aboard the Disney Dream.  We were lucky with the location of our stateroom.  We had laundry located just steps away from our door.  You use your stateroom key to charge the fees for using the washer and dryer.  We brought detergent packets and dryer sheets, so we didn’t have to purchase them on the ship.  Here is something I found interesting-it was cheaper to do laundry aboard the Dream than doing it at The Polynesian.

Watch the live shows in the Walt Disney Theatre.  These stage productions are spectacular.  If you want prime seating arrive early.  However, most seating offers great views of the stage.

Book your Disney Cruise Line reservation with a travel agent.  Travel agents offer obvious services like booking with Disney.  In addition, agents will send reminders about making payments and when final payment is due.  They also offer insight on current company policies such as documentation requirements or bringing alcohol onboard.  Agents can also link multiple reservations if families are travelling together, or agents can link Walt Disney World packages with Disney Cruise Line reservations to provide a seamless experience.  Most agents or agencies offer perks as well.  Some give gifts and others credit your stateroom account with credit to spend however you like.  The best part is most agents charge you NOTHING for their services!cinch sac

Cruising with Disney is a terrific experience.  Disney takes service to another level, and we all know and love their entertainment.  Please comment or email me your Disney Cruise Line tips.

Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC

justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com

Twitter @JAEggenberger

Disney’s Castaway Cay-A Great Place for Adults!

Castaway Cay has an adults-only area!  My wife and I have been to Castaway Cay four times over three Disney Cruise Line voyages.  (and we have another “double-dip” booked for Summer of 2017.)  We have only had an opportunity to visit Serenity Bay one time.  We think all adults need to visit this adult-only beach!

First, Castaway Cay is everything that you have heard/read (and possibly a lot more).  Castaway Cay is one of our family’s favorite vacation spots.  There are a vast amount of amenities only steps away at all times.  Furthermore, the Port Adventures available at Castaway Cay offer incredible enhancements and a tremendous value.  Castaway Cay itself is, in my opinion, an incredible value for families.  Just imagine if Disney could build a resort here…

Map of Castaway Cay

Getting to Serenity Bay is a little more challenging to get to than the other areas of Castaway Cay, but it is not difficult by any means.  The tram picks passengers up near the ship.  This tram stop is just past Marge’s Barges.  On the map, the tram stop is called Kargo Handling.  There are two family beach tram stops.  The first is at Scuttle’s Cove.  Scuttle’s Cove is basically the Oceaneers Club/Lab of Castaway Cay.  Parents may drop off children there similar to dropping them off at the clubs on the ship.  The second is Pelican Point.  Pelican Point is a stop right in the middle of two very vast family beaches.  The two beaches are divided by a protruding land mass that would otherwise be a very large lagoon.  However, on this peninsula, is the Heads Up bar.  It is a great place to have a beverage and take some great photos.  We got off of the tram at Pelican Point to wait for another tram to take us to Serenity Bay.  I believe the second tram would go between Pelican Point and Serenity Bay for a majority of the day.  The second tram picked us up within five minutes, and the ride to Serenity Bay was brief.

Serenity Bay is a wonderful place where adults may relax without the hustle and bustle of family life.  The biggest difference I remember is how tranquil the environment is.  It felt slow, spacious, and quiet.  This is much different than the family beaches which are very busy.  Great seating is abundant.  It was a short walk for my wife and me to find multiple lounge chairs with an umbrella.  Shortly after finding “our spot,” a server came by to check on our needs.  The service on Serenity Bay is terrific!  Our beverages were delivered quickly and our server checked on us often but not too much.

 

The beach at Serenity Bay looks like what you see on an advertisement for tropical resorts.  I am not referring to just the white sand and crystal blue water.  Those two features can be found at hundreds of locations.  The really cool thing about the ocean at Serenity Bay is how far out one can walk.  It tapers similar to most beaches.  However, there is a sandbar out a little way which is neat to hang out at.  The beach also has two key features that allow adults to stay secluded if they wish.  1.  A bar.  2.  Serenity Bay BBQ.  I really, REALLY like Cookies and Cookies Too, but my experience at the Serenity Bay BBQ was amazing.  I do not know if it was timing or luck, but my food was prepared to order which is much different than both Cookies locations.  I need to stress that the food is good no matter which location you are eating at on the island.  Another advantage that I noticed was there was a little less wildlife around the seating area.  If you have eaten at Castaway Cay, you have noticed the birds around the seating areas.  There seemed to be significantly less birds there.  Float and tube rentals are also available for pickup at The Windsock Hut, located at Serenity Bay.

Serenity Bay is a remarkable, relaxing place for adults to enjoy the tropical ecstasy, Castaway Cay.  My wife and I recently went on a Disney cruise without our kids.  Being in our low 30’s, numerous friends and family questioned why we would go on Disney Cruise Line if we are not travelling with our children.  We have several reasons why Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful experience for an adults-only experience.  Serenity Bay is a dazzling highlight of the experience.  Please comment below if you agree or disagree.

Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC

justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com        Twitter @JAEggenberger

Running in the Castaway Cay 5k

Disney Cruise Line has leased their own island from the Bahamian government.  Various aspects of Castaway Cay definitely deserve their own posts, but I will only mention that the island is my wife’s favorite vacation spot now that we have children.  The focus of this post is the Castaway Cay 5k.  My wife and I traveled without our children aboard the Disney Magic in early March 2016.  This opportunity allowed us to experience a LOT of things we were unable to on our previous two cruises.

Before jumping into my discussion about the Castaway Cay 5k, I would like to share a bit more about my relationship with running.  The Castaway Cay 5k is truly for ANYONE.  It doesn’t matter if you walk, jog, or run the race.  I witnessed people running a very impressive pace and some folks casually walking and taking in the beautiful Bahamian scenery.  I run, but I do not consider myself a runner.  This doesn’t make sense, but bear with me.  I run six days a week; usually four to six miles at a time.  I do this more for alone time/therapy rather than the fitness.  I do not consider myself a runner because, up until our recent Disney Cruise, I have never participated in an organized run.  Honestly, I would not have done it without the persistence of my lovely wife.  Now, she thinks she has a shot at turning me into a runner.

Registering for the Castaway Cay 5k was extremely simple.  We needed to go to Guest Services for a couple of issues, and were not sure where registration for the race was.  We had thought registration was either at Guest Services or Port Adventures.  The cast member was able to register us for the race within seconds.  When you register, the cast member will give entrants a ticket for participation.  Here is the first thing to keep in mind if you are interested in participating in the race:  Register before the day of the race.  There were people turned away the morning of the 5k for not pre-registering.  123 people were registered for the race.  Another thing to remember is participation in the Castaway Cay 5k is included in your cruise fare!  You read that correctly.  This is a runDisney event that is free!  If you have looked into pricing for runDisney races and challenges, you know how expensive partaking in those events are.  I consider the Castaway Cay 5k an opportunity to maximize the tremendous value of a Disney Cruise Line vacation.  Participants (and some of their family members) met in Fathoms before the race.  There is a brief presentation about the island and course for the 5k.  A map of the race is provided to each participant and projected on a large screen.  The course is discussed, but several people did not follow the course during our run.  See the map of Castaway Cay 5k below.

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Map of runDisney Castaway Cay 5k. Getting there (and back) is half the fun!

As you can see, the beginning of the race is near the middle of the island.  Prepare yourself for a nice walk, which is about a mile long.  The cast members jokingly called this a bonus mile.  I feel like it was actually a nice walk, as I have always taken the tram to the beaches.  It was nice to slowly take in some of the island.  Also, there are some terrific photo opportunities along the walk.  The race is loosely organized.  Once it seems like everyone is near the starting point, the timer is started and the race begins.  The course begins on a bike path and moves on to the runway.  During the pre-race presentation, the hosts emphasized staying on the side of the runway multiple times.  After participating in the race, I understand the need to do so.  I need to preface my next comments with I rarely have criticisms of Disney and generally trust their brand and process for distributing their entertainment.  But, Disney has some intense and sometimes distracted drivers for the trams and golf carts.  I don’t know how much it would cost to provide hands-free technology to each driver, but I’m sure it would be a minimal and necessary investment.  That being said, I personally followed directions and had no negative interactions with said vehicles.  However, I witnessed an interesting interaction.  After the runway, racers turn into a bike path loop.  The loop is kind of neat during the first trip.  A lookout tower is located near the back of the loop.  I have never been to the top of the tower, but I have read and heard that there are good views from there.  I guess that’s an excuse to return???  After one complete loop, participants turn right to head toward Serenity Bay.  At the entrance of the bike path loop, there is a drink station setup.  Cold water is available.  If I remember correctly, the station was not established on my entry of the loop but fully functioning when I came out of the loop.  Serenity Bay is at the opposite end of the island as the ship.  Racers turn around near the end of the runway and repeat the course in reverse.  I found the loop to be much more monotonous the second time around.  It is probably my fault as I was beginning to push my pace a bit and just kept thinking about how BIG that bike path loop is.  Again, the water station is setup at the entry/exit to the bike path loop, which participants pass four times.  In typical Disney fashion, there is a shop with runDisney merchandise near the end of the course.  There are Castaway Cay 5k specific items.  They are unique.  If you are a collector, you may want to check it out.

I ran with my cinch sack on.  Don’t make that mistake.  I ended up running with my right hand on the strings for the entire run!

Please email me if you are interested to know how my run went!  justin@adventureisouttheretravel.com (I thought I did well for my first organized run.)

Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC