This just in…. Beginning September 11, 2018, Disney Cruise Line will make a change to their final payment and cancellation timelines. Here is a quick summary of what you need to know:
Cruises that are 1-5 nights: Final payment for all non-suite/non-concierge staterooms on will be due 90 days prior to arrival and cancellation fees will begin at 89 days versus 74 days.
Cruises that are 6 nights or longer: Final payment for all non-suite/non-concierge staterooms will be due 120 days prior to arrival and cancellation fees will begin at 119 days versus 89 days.
Specific final payment and cancellation policies have been eliminated for holiday sailings and sailings where the Embark and Debark is a non-U.S. port
For reservations made prior to Sept. 11, 2018, the final payment and cancellation fees assessed will be based on the information listed on the original confirmation unless the sailing date or vacation package is modified. In other words, if you have booked a Disney Cruise prior to Sept. 11, 2018, and you do not modify it, you will not see a change to your final payment date (check your reservation to confirm your cruise final payment due date).
If you do any research on a Disney Cruise odds are you will find mention of Fish Extenders or FE’s. What are these mysterious things that people are talking about? Fish extenders are pockets or bags hanging from the fish, seahorse or starfish that is located next to your door.
The Fish Extender gift exchange is all about fun! If you are cruising with kids, they will LOVE it. They will run to the room to see if there is something in the FE. Even adults enjoy it. The adults may not be running to the room, but we are always excited to see what is in our pocket.
Fish extenders take many shapes and forms. A fish extender can be as simple as a bag hanging from the fish. If you would like to order a special personalized one, check into etsy.com or ebay.com. If you are able to sew you can also make one yourself. Here are a couple patterns that you can use.
Now you are probably asking why? Fish extenders are used for fish extender gift exchanges.
In order to sign up for the gift exchange on your cruise you will need to search facebook for the FE exchange group. You will search using the ship name and the dates of your cruise. You can also check out this website for links to the facebook group for a 2017 cruise: https://sites.google.com/site/fefunforall/home/2017
Once you find and join the FE exchange group for your cruise, you will need to give the coordinator the names of everyone in your party and your room numbers. If you are in more than one room, sign up every room and list the guest in each room so everyone receives their gifts in their respective rooms. There will need to be a fish extender at each room participating in the exchange.
You will need to sign up for the FE exchange in order to receive gifts. There have been instances of cruisers putting up their fish extender and distributing gifts to others. Unfortunately, they did not sign up for an exchange and did not receive any gifts.
Once sign-ups have been ended, the coordinator will give you a list of people and staterooms that are in the Fish Extender exchange. Gifts can be put together for the entire family or for each person individually. It is at your discretion. If you are signing up for the exchange, plan to give out gifts at least once during the cruise. If you cannot give gifts, do not sign up for the exchange.
Gifts can be purchased or made. If you need ideas for Fish Extender gifts, just check out Pintrest or a simple google search will bring up tons of ideas. Some people bring an item from their state or the country they live in. We have received magnets, bookmarks, small photo albums, photo frames, candy, lanyards, sand toys, stickers and other great things. Most people stick to the Disney theme, but it is not required.
You are not required to spend a certain amount or limit the amount that you spend. It is at your own discretion. Remember that whatever gifts you choose to give must be packed in your luggage and brought on the ship. There will be plenty of gifts to take home as well.
One last thing, be sure to zip tie your fish extender to your fish. It doesn’t happen often, but a fish extender does disappear from time to time.
So often when talking about cruising with friends and family, the first thing I hear when suggesting Disney Cruise Line is “I don’t want to be on a ship with all those kids!” or “isn’t that line just for families?”. I had the absolute pleasure of cruising with five of my friends last November and found out for myself just how wrong both of those statements are.
Spaces on the ship
-Mallory says “I went in thinking wed have to stick one little portion of the ship to avoid hyped up children. That wasn’t the case at all!”.
-the Cove pool and bar was one of our favorite hangouts on the ship. The Cove is an adults only area and Disney does a wonderful job of enforcing this rule. There are cast members near the “entrances” gentling reminding families that this is adults only area and not to linger as they pass through.
-The District includes several very different bars and lounges. The whole area is a great area for adults to have a drink, dance, and even sing.
-Don’t think that the “adults only” areas are the only places you’ll find magic. We also rode the aquaDuck and of course ran into some of our favorite characters!
Dining and Entertainment
-“some of the best food I’ve ever had”
-Disney utilizes rotational dining in which your party rotates to a different dining room (Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, and Animator’s Palate) with your serving team every night.
-Each dining room provides a different atmosphere and menu. Everything we tried was delicious!
-Our serving team was outstanding! They really engaged with us and learned some of our likes and dislikes. For example, we had a bowl of cherries on our table every night. They definitely brought a little extra magic to our trip.
-We went to a show every night before dinner. These truly are “Broadway style” and appealed to all ages kids to adults. Absolutely phenomenal!
-Room service is also an available option for dining. We used it for snacks and coffee in the morning. We were sure to order milk and cookies and of course Mickey Bars!
-In additional to the dining rooms and room service, Cabanas is also an option. Cabanas is casual buffet style dining with many yummy options and we were always able to find a table to seat us all.
-There were five of us and we were able to book two connecting balcony rooms.
-Plenty of space for all of us.
-Bathrooms are split which was a HUGE bonus with five adults getting ready for dinner or a day in port.
-Beds were comfortable as was the fold out on the couch
-As our rooms were connecting, the divider between our two balconies was able to be opened which let us has have one large balcony to share. The below picture is before the divider was open.
-We had two ports on our ship: Nassau and Castaway Cay
-Nassau was our first port and we scheduled excursions here. There was a large selection of excursions and we had no problem finding two that our group split up to participate in. The selection of excursion was varied and had great options for families and adults.
-Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) was our second port.
-When we first boarded the ship we went directly to guest services to register for the Castaway Cay 5K. 5K participants we among the first off the ship when we docked at Castaway Cay. Abilities vary and we were not the only participants walking.
-After the 5K some of us went to the ship to change and we headed to beach. Serenity Bay is the adult’s only section. The water is shallow and perfect for waiting. We had no problem finding enough chairs for all of us to sit together.
-Near Serenity Bay are a bar and an eatery. Lunch was wonderful. So many options; chicken, fish, ribs, and sides. Don’t forget to grab some banana bread or ice cream for desert!
This is only a taste of our trip and I think the only complaint we had was that we didn’t have enough time to explore the ship. We embarked on Friday and left on Monday. So to answer the question of “isn’t Disney Cruise Line just for families with kids?” the answer is NO! There is so much to do for adults too!
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.
Anna and Elsa
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.
Andy’s Room theme
Main hub of Oceaneer Club
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chocolate souffle at Palo
Tracy and I at Palo
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.
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!
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
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…
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.
View near Kargo Handling
On Castaway Cay with the family.
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.
Having fun with the family
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
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.
This was right after receiving our instructions for the Castaway Cay 5k.
This is how I really felt about getting up early on our Disney Cruise to participate in the Castaway Cay 5k
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.
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.
This was taken right before the Castaway Cay 5k.
After the run
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!
Have you ever thought about vacationing with your entire family? Last summer, my husband and I went on vacation with our two adult children and their spouses and their children. What a great way to create heart-warming memories!
We were fortunate enough to go on the Disney Dream for 5 nights and experience a
“double dip”. We went to Castaway Cay, Nassau, back to
Castaway Cay, day at sea, and back to port. While on the ship, some of the adults had spa treatments, went to a tequila tasting, ran on the running deck (Deck 4), enjoyed a tour of the galley, and just took time to relax alone.
The kids went to the kids club, swam with family, spent time
with grandparents and cousins, and saw Disney characters & Princesses. We all saw several of the shows offered on the ship. While on the island, one of the adults ran the 5K and one went snorkeling.
After our delightful and memorable cruise, we all went to Walt Disney World for 5 nights. We stayed at the Polynesian Village Resort. It was so nice to be able to hop on the Monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom and also Epcot. In addition, there were Monorail stops at the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, and the Ticket & Transportation Center.
This was convenient to reach the parks, of course, and dinners & shopping at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian. The Monorail isn’t the only transportation guests can use. We also took advantage of the water transportation and the bus system.
Thanks to great pre-trip planning, we were all able to do & see everything we wanted. Some days, Papa & Grandma went with daughter & family, while on other days we went with son & family. Most nights we all had dinner together. It was a nice way for everyone to have their own experiences and then meet to talk about them in the evening. Papa & Grandma were fortunate enough to have visited WDW several times in the past. This time, went on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. This tour took us on a behind the scenes look at WDW and gave us insight into the planning and layout of WDW. If you have the time, I recommend this tour.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Here is a photo of me while I
was waiting for the Magical Express to give us a ride to the airport for our flight home.
My family recently returned from an amazing time on our first Disney cruise. We spent 3 nights on board the Disney Magic in the Bahamas. We had a wonderful time and will definitely be going again someday.
When the cruise was over we stayed 2 nights at Pop Century with 1 day in the Magic Kingdom. Ideally that is not nearly enough time but it was all we had and we’ve been to Disney every year since our “once in a lifetime trip” in 2012 so we didn’t have to see and do everything because we know we’ll be back soon. Even though it was only 2 days, HOLY COW we spend a lot of money on food!!! The Disney Dining Plan would’ve cost around $300 for my family of 4 and I would not be surprised if we spent that or more on meals, snacks, and drinks. We did not do any table service meals; we ate at all quick service restaurants.
A big expense was pop (we’re from Michigan, you might call it soda). I drink a lot of Coke Zero and I think they are somewhere around $3-5 for a 20 ounce bottle at the resort’s food court. If we had been on the Disney Dining Plan, we would’ve each gotten a refillable mug. We could’ve purchased one but I felt that the length of our stay was too short to justify the $17 price. In hindsight, I should’ve probably bought at least one refillable mug because I’m sure I spent more than $17 on bottles of Coke Zero.
Another reason I think we spent more on food was that my children don’t share well. The portions are plenty big enough for 2 kids to share and in a perfect world, they would. Not my boys. If one wants chicken nuggets, the other one HATES chicken nuggets today and will only eat macaroni and cheese. So, to avoid a major meltdown, we end up buying 2 different meals and throwing half of them out because it’s too much food for one kid. What a waste and all I kept seeing was dollar signs!
Speaking of waste, here’s how lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus went. It was right in the middle of the lunch rush so tables were limited, everyone was starving, and the line was 10-15 minutes just to order. I took my youngest son to find a table while my husband and oldest son got in line. After ordering food and drinks for everyone, in excess of $40, my husband finally found us at the table.
Naturally, he slept through the entire lunch. We tried to eat as much as we could but ended up throwing most of his lunch out because it couldn’t be saved. It goes without saying that when he finally woke up, he was starving. Shocking, I know.
Maybe it’s because our kids are a year older this time, or maybe it was because we just came off the cruise ship where everything was included but we were just overly conscious about the cost of the food and it just “felt” like we spent a ton of money to eat and drink. We’re not “foodies” by any means (I eat like a toddler); however we were all sick of chicken nuggets by the end of the trip. I think the value of the Disney Dining Plan is different for each family. It truly depends on your traveling style and how you plan on eating meals. If you would be happy eating at quick service locations for the length of your trip, the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you. For us, we look forward to a table service meal each day.
After our first trip to Walt Disney World without the Disney Dining Plan, I don’t think we would go again without it, especially on a longer trip. With only 2 days, it would have taken too much time do table service meals but on longer trips, we enjoy them because they are a good way to take a break from the parks and see different resorts, all while still keeping that “Disney magic”.
Our family typically drives from North Central Illinois to Orlando or Port Canaveral. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, I am terribly anxious about flying and I do not want to couple that with trying to get two young children on a plane. Second, I actually like driving. The journey is part of the vacation for me. I try to make it enjoyable for all of my family members. Sometimes the love of my life reminds me about the challenges of the longer journey of driving.
My wife and I decided to take a short, three-day cruise out of Port Canaveral. A few weeks beforehand we received our Disney Cruise Line travel documents. This elegant booklet is always exciting to receive! It contains a fair amount of pertinent information that all cruisers should read. Our booklet included our luggage tags. These magical little stickers can make your life a whole lot simpler! Here is how it works: 1. Pack your luggage. 2. Affix the sticker to a handle on your luggage. 3. Drop off your luggage at your airline check-in. That is it. Yes. It is that simple.
We flew from Midway Airport to Orlando International Airport. At Midway, my wife and I did curbside check-in. Each of us had a checked bag and a carry on. Relieving ourselves of the checked bag was surprisingly efficient, and the attendant seemed very chipper for 4:15 AM. We had a little snag while obtaining boarding passes and checking in at security, but it was very promptly remedied. I am sure I will find some sympathizers here. Why does it seem like whenever I fly, I get my bags searched? Not just scanned-searched and dug around in. The security person who rifled through my bag seemed like a cool guy though. We chit-chatted while he admired my Ripcurl trunks and asked me why I needed two extra razors. He also made a nice comment about my headphones. After that, we were on our way! The flight was uneventful. When we landed, we took the monorail and no park admission was necessary. A side note and possible tip: there is a Hyatt within Orlando International Airport. If you are one of those people who likes to arrive a day early to avoid delays, this may be an option to look into. Most people who arrived with us went to baggage claim in Terminal A. My wife and I headed straight to Terminal B where the Magical Express check-in is located. (There are several rental car counters located there as well.) Disney was experiencing technology failure with one of two computers at the Disney Cruise Line Magical Express counter. We ended up having one of our longest waits of the entire trip there, and we were third in line. After checking in, we were directed to board the bus. The Magical Express bus was very comfortable. Or, the transition from the airplane to the Magical Express just made it seem like the Taj. Similar to the plane, one could control the light and air flow directly above. Unlike the plane, there were several televisions. On the ride to Port Canaveral, informational videos and Disney shorts were played. The 45-minute ride went by very quickly! Magical Express drops passengers off very close to the terminal at Port Canaveral, and there are several porters waiting to assist any families that may need it. My wife and I only had our carry-on luggage, so we quickly went to the terminal and through security before most of the bus was unloaded. Here is the coolest part of Magical Express. After partaking in various onboard activities, we went back to our stateroom. In the early afternoon, our luggage magically appeared by our stateroom door. We dropped our luggage curbside in Chicago and didn’t have to touch it until we were in our stateroom!
If you have ever taken a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line, you know how disheartening it is to leave the ship. There are multiple options for handling your luggage when disembarking. We were unable to take full advantage of Disney handling our luggage, as we had an early flight. Disney Cruise Line encourages people in these situations to walk off the ship with their luggage. After swiftly going through customs, we boarded Disney’s Magical Express. Again, the buses are located very close to the terminal, so there is minimal walking distance. The drivers of the buses are amazing. They are quick to offer a hand with luggage and are very courteous. The ride back to the airport continues the Disney withdrawal. And, the sales pitches playing on the televisions do not make the emotions any better.
Unlike utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to Walt Disney World, there is a fee for transfers to and from Port Canaveral. The fee can change, so if you are considering using this transportation, ask your agent how much the fee is or check online. Magical Express is a great way to get to and from Port Canaveral or Walt Disney World. It offers riders a simple and comfortable transfer and provides some entertainment. If you are looking for a convenient and relaxing ride, I would encourage you to use this transportation option.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC