5 Things You Need To Know Before Your Disney Cruise

Disney Cruise StackPlanning a Disney Cruise is an exciting time, but it’s important you don’t overlook the finer details in that plan!  While I know that some travellers will say ‘of course’ when they read this, I can tell you that I have heard a lot of experienced cruisers who have made some of these mistakes.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Here are the 5 things you NEED to know before you sail.

1.  Proper Documentation.

You MUST have all of the documentation required to sail.  When in doubt – more is better.  I have read a few posts lately of people planning their cruise, asking their Facebook Group what identification is needed and showing up at the port without the right stuff.  Guess what?  No cruise for them… and their Facebook Group couldn’t help them.

Visit Disney’s site – read it thoroughly.  Cruise security is like Airport security – they don’t ‘overlook’ things.

I know you don’t want to consider it, but if you are sick or injured while on the cruise, you may not be permitted to fly without a passport.  While you *may* be on a cruise that does not require you to have a passport – it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Avoid the hassle – have a passport.

Passport

2.  Know what can you bring on board.

Sounds simple and common sense, no guns, no bicycles, no underwater scooters (that’s a thing?), but not all things prohibited are common knowledge.  Did you know you are not permitted to bring an extension cord on board?  Heating pads and musical instruments aren’t allowed either.  Make sure you check Disney’s page of permitted items before you pack your suitcase.  I’m not listing them all here as they can change at any time – but you can find the official list here.

Disney Cruise extension cord

3.  Make sure you have the proper currency for where you’re going.

On board all charges are in US Dollars.  However, you need to be prepared for the ports you visit and what currency they accept.   You also need to notify your credit card company before you travel if there’s a chance they might flag it for unusual activity.

4.  Departure Times.

Cruise ships wait for no one.  It’s imperative that you book your arrival time at the port with plenty of buffer for unforeseen issues.  Flight delays or traffic can cause you to miss your sailing.  When booking your port adventures, it’s the same rule – make sure you have PLENTY of time to get back to the ship after your adventure.  I think we’ve all seen the video of the couple running down the dock as their ship sails away.

Woody Pixar Apple Watch

5.  Contact information while on board.

It’s never a fun thought, but if you have people at home that may need to reach you while you’re sailing, it’s important to provide them the contact information before you sail.  When you receive your booklet from Disney Cruise Line, there are cards inside with instructions on how to reach you.

While most of these things are not the ‘fun’ side of planning your cruise, they are a necessity.   Once you’ve dealt with all of this stuff – you can enjoy your magical Disney Cruise!

If you want to see some other first time mistakes – check out this post First Time Mistakes

Have I missed anything you think is important?  Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Disney Cruise Line Sailings Cancelled

Disney Dream Hurricane IrmaDue to the anticipated path of Hurricane Irma, Disney has issued emails to guests notifying them of the cancellations of their cruise.

In an email sent to guests (see below), Disney Cruise Line has cancelled the September 8th and September 11th, 2017 sailings on the Disney Dream.

Disney is offering guests a 25% discount on a future sailing if the call to rebook between September 18th and October 18th.

While I can imagine that this decision did not come lightly, Disney has made the decision to put safety above all else – and that’s what they do best.

I was scheduled to be sailing on the Dream on September 11th and will be rebooking my cruise for another date.

DCL Cancellation Irma

 

Disney Fantasy Mechanical Issues

May 172017 I set sail on a 3 night Disney Cruise on the Fantasy. The Fantasy had just been in dry dock and I was looking forward to all of the enhancements they had made. It was the only Disney ship I hadn’t sailed on, so I was excited.

The voyage was great, all of the things you would expect from Disney Cruise Line (more on that later), but the last night we hit a bit of a snag.  Something broke on the ship.

We were sitting at the late seating for dinner on the last night when one of my tablemates said they felt a big shudder. We weren’t sure what it was, but continued to enjoy our dinner.

On the last night of the cruise, you leave your luggage outside of your stateroom before 10:30 so that the crew can take it off the ship for you. Some people hold on to their bags because they’ve got early flights to catch and want to make sure they can walk off the ship at 7am with their bags. Since we were spending another week at Walt Disney World, we weren’t in a rush and put ours out. Then we headed to O’Gills pub to meet some friends for a drink.

We were enjoying the live entertainment and some good conversation when Commodore Tom made the announcement – trouble in paradise! He let us know that there was a mechanical problem – we were going to be delayed getting in to port the next morning. He didn’t provide many details except to say that we would arrive at approximately 10am with the earliest time to disembark being 11.   Anyone who had flights before 1pm needed to change them.

While I didn’t have to worry about flights, I had friends on board that did. One spent an hour on hold with Delta trying to get her flight changed. Thankfully she managed to get it done without a fee for an 8pm departure from Orlando the next day. It was a big relief for her; she didn’t have to worry if we were delayed further.

Other people weren’t so lucky. I spoke to people who spent $800 to change their flights due to the delay. Without insurance, they are out of pocket for these costs unless they had insurance. Not something they expected to have to spend after getting their onboard ship charge bills!  

The next announcement came at 8am saying that no one would be off the ship until 12:30. We were chugging along; you could see how slow we were sailing just by looking at the water.

 

Another friend had a 2pm flight and was originally a little worried that it was cutting it close, now had to change them. She called Westjet and they had no later flights to put her on.   She had to book a night at Walt Disney World and fly out the next day.

When we finally made it close to land – there were tugboats along side of the ship. It was hard to tell from the decks, but it looked like they were pushing or pulling us at different points throughout the last stages of our arrival.

 

 

I decided to wait on the ship and let the masses leave. We had a nice lunch and took our time. I felt terrible for those who were rushing to catch flights – I can only imagine how stressful it would have been, especially those with little ones.

What Disney did right:

  • Made alternate flight arrangements for those who booked their airfare with Disney Cruise Line
  • Handed out calling cards to those who booked their flights on their own. This allowed them to call their airlines for free from their Cabanas Disney Fantasystateroom to make alternate arrangements
  • Offered an additional 50MB of data free to those who needed to get online to arrange their travel plans.
  • They added additional events and activities while we were waiting to dock. This included a showing of Beauty and the Beast in the theatre and a character dance party on Deck 11. Entertainment was a great distraction.
  • They served lunch. They opened up Cabanas, the ice cream station and the burger/sandwich windows on Deck 11. People who are hungry can be cranky – this helped alleviate that!

What Disney could have done better:

  • The communication was sparse on what the actual problem was. There was a sense of panic from some of the guests about what ‘mechanical issues’ meant and some conversations referenced the Carnival Cruise that was stuck at sea with no power. I didn’t worry that we would end up like that because we had power, it just seemed like we were short on engine power.
  • After dry dock you expect some issues. There were reported issues with Air Conditioning and toilets in the staterooms. Disney accommodated by moving people to other rooms where required, but that was an inconvenience on only a 3 night sailing.

With everything considered, I think Disney handled the situation very well. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a flight to catch that I thought it went well. After reading some of the boards and comments, I know there are plenty of people who won’t agree with me. I can’t think of what more they could have done, they made the very best of a bad situation.

For those who were boarding the Fantasy, they received emails asking them to delay their arrival to the port. Reports say they were told they would get a $25 per person stateroom credit to pay for their lunch while they waited. Their itinerary was changed and it was almost 11:30 PM before they left the dock. I can’t imagine what it felt like when they arrived full of anticipation for their cruise, only to experience delays. I’m sure Disney was going out of their way to make sure they were happy, but it’s still something that no one wants to have happen.

I think my big lesson from this is that I won’t book those early afternoon flights to go home after a cruise.  Make sure you’re flying in the day before – and you’re not trying to catch a noon flight on the day you leave.

Were you on the Fantasy or boarding? What was your experience?

 

First Disney Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

Disney Dream DeckPlanning your first Disney cruise can be exciting and stressful at the same time. There are so many options, categories, rules and regulations – what if I chose the wrong thing? Am I going to ruin my vacation?

Some mistakes are minor, while others CAN ruin your Disney cruise vacation.

 

Here are 5 big mistakes that almost every first time Disney cruiser makes

  1. They Don’t Understand The Stateroom Categories

I don’t care how much you google it, you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a tuna can unless you’ve done it. Do you know what it’s like to wake up and wonder if you’re at sea or docked? Do you love your family enough to hug them as you walk to the bathroom because there’s nowhere else to go?

I have stayed in a variety of staterooms on Disney Cruise Line from an inside cabin to a 1 bedroom suite and they range from “pretty small” to “I can fit a piano in here”. Each one had it’s own pros and cons, especially when working with a budget. How much is a split bathroom worth for an inside cabin?  What about when you have 3 women getting ready for dinner? Trust me, it’s worth every penny!

Depending on the number of people in your stateroom, your budget and your need for personal space – these ALL have to be factors in your decision making. If you’ve spent all this money on a vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy it.

 

  1. Not Considering The Stateroom Location

You might not think this is a big deal, I mean how different is it to stay at the back of the ship? There is a reason the staterooms are different prices depending on location. Did you know that you can feel the motion of the ship more in certain locations? What about the dance bar – do you want to have your room right next to it or under it? Location is definitely something to consider.

 

  1. Underestimating The Amount Of Activities On Board

I have heard people plan a cruise primarily for the itinerary – what ports of call they are going to see and considered the ship as just a means of transportation. They didn’t realize how many things they would want to experience on board and hadn’t planned time to enjoy them all. From Character meetings to movie premiers, the kids were too tired after their full days on land to partake in the festivities the cruise had to offer.

 

  1. Flying In The Morning Of Your Cruise

This is a BIG one, and any good travel agent will tell you, you MUST plan to arrive the day before! Freak storms, problems with the plane or being bumped from your flight – they are all things that will cause you to miss your ship. Make no mistake, cruises wait for no one…

 

  1. What Documentation Do I Need?

I see this question a lot on Facebook – can I just use a driver’s license? Do I need a passport? That all depends on where you’re sailing from and to. While the well-meaning people in the Facebook group will give you all sorts of advice, do you really want to trust Dan from Iowa that you just need photo ID? I mean, the worst thing that can happen is you aren’t allowed to board the ship and forfeit the price of your cruise.  Don’t trust random people on the internet to advise you on these things.

 

A Disney cruise is one of the greatest getaways for adults, families and solo travellers. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t enjoy their cruise when they planned it properly.   When you’re ready to book, find a reputable Disney travel agent that can help you with the specific needs for your family.  You can modify the questions I have listed here to help you find the right travel agent to help you.

 

 

 

 

Castaway Cay Cabana Rental

Cabana Guest Sign

When sailing with Disney Cruise Line, I like to make sure my itineraries are such that I get to visit Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. I have rented a cabana at Serenity Bay a few times, and I have to say… it’s spectacular.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider renting one:

  1. Fridge

Each cabana comes equipped with a mini fridge. Inside you will find pop, water and fruit – all included in the rental. Also inside are some cold towels that are wonderful for patting down your face to cool off in the hot sun. Bags of chips are also included, just not in the fridge.

  1. Safe

Having a safe nearby just makes everything easier. While it’s never been a problem on the beach for me, it was nice to have somewhere to lock up my cameras, stateroom key and ID while I was in the water.

  1. Cabana Host

A cabana host that is only a ‘buzz’ away is awesome! There’s a button on the wall, if you need the fridge restocked or a lift to lunch – justpush the button. If you need some alcoholic beverages from the bar, they’ll bring you those too! These guys are great and work really hard, we make sure to tip them at the end of the day.

  1. Shade & Sunscreen

There are plenty of umbrellas on the beach, but having your own little ‘hut’ with comfy chairs is a great place to get out of the sun. It’s also some welcome shelter if there is an afternoon shower. With the cabana you also get a selection of sunscreen included – make sure you put it on!

  1. Toys

Rafts and floats are included along with a hammock next to your cabana. I must admit, the hammock was more difficult to get in to than I thought!

Renting a cabana at Castaway Cay has been a luxury we have splurged on a few times. We love the convenience and all of the things I’ve listed above, but I won’t be renting one on my next cruise. There is only one reason not to rent a cabana and that’s price. At $549 on the family beach and $399 on the adult beach, it’s a little too much to splurge when it’s just my sister and I. I can think of some other goodies to buy in the shops on board where that $400 could go a long way!

If you’re looking for ways to splurge, concierge may be for you!

Check out our video below for a tour.  Would you rent one of these?

 

Disney Cruise Concierge, is it worth the expense?

DCL Concierge Sun DeckI really believe that having 40 years of personal experience visiting Walt Disney World is one of the things that it important when giving advice on Disney vacations.  When it comes to Disney Cruise Line, I have had experience sailing in various categories of staterooms, but I hadn’t sailed concierge.  How could I tell people if concierge was worth it if I hadn’t tried it?  My mind was made up, I needed to sail concierge in a 1-bedroom suite on the Disney Dream – for research purposes.

My sister, our two friends and I left Walt Disney World after 8 days in the parks and drove down to Port Canaveral. Being concierge meant that we did not have a specific boarding time and we could check in at the concierge desk (where there was no line).   After checking in, we were able to relax in the lounge area in the terminal reserved for concierge guests.  Once the ship was cleared – we were led on board and up to the lounge on deck 12.

DCL Concierge In the concierge lounge we were treated to mimosas and some nibbly treats.  We met our 3 hosts who had a custom itinerary printed out for us that included our Palo brunch and Castaway Cabana reservations that were booked by the pre-arrival team. They told us about the 2 happy hours that were hosted each night in the lounge offering drinks (alcohol and non) as well as what kind of food and snacks were available throughout the day. We were told that if there was anything we needed, we only had to ask.

We enjoyed the conversations (and the mimosas) but were so excited to go and see our stateroom!  We left the lounge and were thrilled to see our stateroom was right across the hall which turned out to be super convenient for getting tea in the morning and bottles of water throughout the day.

I had toured the 1-bedroom suites twice while on travel agent trainings, but walking in to that room knowing it was mine for 4 nights was an incredible feeling!  When we opened the door there were gasps from all of us, I believe the word “wow” was used about 67 times in the next 10 minutes while we explored.DCL 1 Bedroom Living room

The suite was larger than I remembered (probably because there were only 4 of us instead of 15 travel agents in it) and I hadn’t realized there were 3 closets in that hallway.  There was a dining room, living room area, desk, bedroom and 2 full bathrooms.   The master bathroom was like something out of a magazine with a TV in the mirror, separate shower stall and a bathtub so large I could have practiced my backstroke!

We decided it was time to check out the concierge sun deck to see where we might spend our time if we ever left our room during the cruise!  We went back through the lounge to grab some bottled water and headed upstairs – that’s when the ‘wow’ word was used another 14 times!  There were sun loungers, comfy chairs, sunscreen and a hot tub – all for concierge guests only.  I knew we would be spending some quality time in this area!

Before the sail away party started I knew I was in trouble.  We had been on the ship for only a few hours and I had already decided that cruising concierge was worth the cost.  I spent the next 4 days enjoying all of the benefits of cruising concierge.  From the fabulous table locations in the dining rooms to the parting gift they left in our room, they really treated us like royalty.

Now that I’m home (and my Visa bill has come in!), I am able to look back with a more practical view to determine if I would do it again. In my opinion, sailing concierge is definitely worth it if you put a high value on convenience, luxury and service.  The Disney Cruise Line has exceptional service for everyone, but sailing concierge felt like it had some extra pixie dust for me.

If your budget allows for it, I would highly recommend it.   There is only one thing that I have to caution you on – once you sail concierge, you may not be able to sail any other way!

Check out our video review here:

Disney Cruise Without Kids – 6 Reasons You Should Try It!

Disney Dream ShipMy sister and I travel to Walt Disney World a few times per year, we are Disney Fanatics who would go more often if we could. Our friends don’t always understand this addiction, but some have come to the parks with us to experience the magic.  There are so many adult things to do at Disney that they really enjoyed it, but cruising was another thing all together.  They had never cruised before and the thought of a ship full of kids didn’t seem to appeal to them. How could 4 adults enjoy themselves on a cruise that is meant for children?  I had to give them some of the adult highlights from my cruises!

1.  The Staterooms

These staterooms are larger than most I have seen on other cruise lines, but they also have a sense of elegance about them.   The split bathroom in most staterooms give you the ability for 2 people to get ready for dinner at the same time – something that is very valuable when you’re sharing a room!

2.  Dining

Palo Chocolate StrawberryThe dining experiences on a Disney Cruise are spectacular.  Going to a different dining room each night and having servers that stay with you for the duration of your cruise is awesome. I told them on the first night what a picky eater I am and got terrific recommendations catered to me each night that followed.  The servers did tell us that if we didn’t finish our bottle of wine at dinner that they would bring it the following night, but that was never necessary.   The specialty dining in Palo or Remy is a full indulgence not to be missed!

3.  The Adult Only Pool

DCL Dream Adult PoolThis pool is an oasis at sea!   With a hot tub and bar near by, this was by far my favorite place to be during the day.
It’s quiet, inviting and relaxing. The crew is fantastic at replenishing my drink whenever I need it.  I sit by the pool reading on my iPad – with my biggest exertion being to get up and get in to the pool when I need to cool down.

4.  The Spa

Senses is the ultimate relaxation!  From Spa treatments to salon services – there is plenty to choose from for an afternoon of pampering!  I haven’t had the opportunity yet to get the pampering – but I did try acupuncture on the ship after I pulled a muscle, they had me feeling great in no time. Next time I’m checking out the spa in more detail!

5.  The Bars and Lounges

There are so many adult only bars at night to explore that I missed the 687 pub on a ship I had sailed on 3 times!  My favorites on the Disney Dream are Skyline and Pink.  Skyline has a huge ‘window’ that changes every 15 minutes showing you the skyline of a different city, it really is spectacular. Pink is themed to look like the inside of a champagne bottle with bubbles everywhere.  Keep watch in some of the bubbles during your stay – you may just see a pink elephant appear!  There are comedy clubs, sports bars and dance clubs – something for everyone!

For some extra fun for adults, they often have mixology classes or champagne tasting in the afternoon!  These were a great value and a lot of fun.  We discovered Rosa Regale at one of these events and often have it at Walt Disney World when we visit.

6.  Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas) is home to Serenity Bay, the adult’s only part of the island.  It is the most relaxing and beautiful beach I have ever been to. The sand is soft, there are plenty of umbrellas for shade and the water is clear. Need a drink?  They have cast members walking the beach to take your order. Feel like snorkeling or bike riding? They have that too… there are plenty of activities if that’s what you enjoy!

Castaway Cay CabanaWe like to make the most of our day when visiting Castaway Cay and rent a private cabana on Serenity Bay, it’s our little piece of paradise. We have our own hammock and inner tubes, a fridge with cold water and pop, and a button to call our cabana host if we need anything.  It really is the ultimate day of bliss.

Whether you travel with children or not, Disney Cruise Line has something for everyone.  With all of the kids activities and clubs on board, parents can indulge in some of these adult activities while the children having a ball in their own clubs with the new friends they’ve met.

Once I had shared the highlights with my friends, the question was ‘when do we go?’  After a week at Walt Disney
World we will be on a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream!  Maybe this time I’ll find the 687 pub and get to have a drink in there!

If you’re looking for luxury – check out our post about Disney Cruise Concierge!  This is the ultimate adult only Disney cruise!

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