Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5 Tips from a Disney Cruise Line Fanatic


Welcome Aboard Disney Cruise Line!
I’m pretty sure I qualify as being “obsessed” with Disney Cruises. How do I know this?  Well, let’s see… I have been on 12 of them.  Every time I return from a Disney Cruise, I immediately start planning my next one.  I met my husband on a Disney Cruise.  We got married on one 2 years later.  I do “cruise math”, where I judge whether or not something is worth spending money on based on what percentage of a cruise it would pay for.  I recreate DCL menu items at home.  I created an entire playlist of music that reminds me of being on a Disney Cruise.  I even try to buy air fresheners that “smell like the ship”.  See?  Obsessed!!

But then again, you probably are too!  If not, you haven’t been on a Disney Cruise yet.  So for you newbies, or you fellow fanatics wanting to get someone else’s perspective, here are my Top 5 Tips that I have learned from my 12 cruises.  Enjoy!

Try to reason with hurricane season.

Don’t let hurricane season scare you away.  In my opinion, the fall is one of the very best times to take a Disney Cruise.  Pricing is reasonable, crowds are smaller, and believe it or not, the weather is usually gorgeous!  Disney has amazing weather technology onboard the ships and can avoid most inclement weather systems.  Just don’t go in the fall if you are super attached to the idea of visiting a certain port, since ports can sometimes be skipped, or replaced with alternate ports if weather is bad.

Save a little here, spend a little there.

Enjoy a relaxing day at the spa
Your family works hard for their money, so you want to make it go as far as you can, right?  Well, when booking your cruise, I recommend deciding up front what you want to save money on, and what you want to splurge on.  If you like exploring on your own, you may want to only pick out one or two excursions to book through Disney, and do the rest of your shore exploration on your own.  (Just be careful about staying in safe areas, and getting back to the ship on time.)  If you don’t drink alcohol, instead of factoring in money for a bar tab, you can treat yourself to an extra spa appointment, or play a few rounds of BINGO.  If you’re like my family, and you don’t plan on spending much time in your stateroom, maybe consider going with a lower priced cabin, and spending your savings on gift shop purchases, a massage, port adventures, etc.  With the amazing new technology of the Magic Portholes (currently only on the Dream and Fantasy), inside staterooms can be just as interesting and enjoyable as outside ones.  The point is, decide what is most important to your family, and what you want to get out of the trip, and then make choices accordingly.

Go big, or go home.

Well… ok, don’t go HOME.  Let’s be real.  Even one day on a Disney Cruise is better than staying home.  But my point is this… the longer the cruise you can swing, the better.  Aside from the obvious reasons why a 7 night is better than a 3 night, and a 12 is better than a 7, there are some lesser known ones too.  For example, many of the fun extras that DCL offers are only available on the longer cruises, like certain shows, Palo brunch (on 4 Night cruises or longer), and Princess Tea.  Looking for the best value?  Many times, if you break down the “per diem” (per day) cost of your cruise, the longer ones end up giving you more bang for your buck.  Personally, I love when longer cruises include extra days at sea, too!  Some guests like to do cruises that are packed with back to back port visits.  Not me.  I’d take a whole cruise at sea!  Sea days are full of awesome activities like trivia, movies, dance class, character appearances, scavenger hunts, and ice carving demonstrations.  Or, you can do nothing at all.  Grab a lounge chair, a good book, and just relax.  Nowhere to be.  No port that you are missing out on.  Just you and the open sea.  Ahhh….
Disney Dream Atrium
Last September, my family and I were lucky enough to do the 14 Night Panama Canal Crossing and it totally spoiled us!  The special, longer cruises frequently get less children, (particularly the ones that happen to be in the fall), and as a result, the kids that DO travel, get a more magical experience.  Since the Wonder had about ¼ of the number of children onboard for our Panama Canal Crossing than it has on average, the Oceaneer’s Club was far less crowded, which meant more one on one attention for my 4 year old daughter, and the ability to do what she wanted, when she wanted.  Also, we found the kids’ pool to be pretty close to empty most days.  And let’s not forget the character experiences!!  By three days in to the trip, ALL of the Princesses knew my daughter’s name!  There were such small waits for the character meet and greets that every character we saw spent a ton of time with her.  Can you imagine walking down the hall to dinner and Ariel calling out, “Oh, Drea!  There you are!  Flounder and I have been looking for you all day!”  She.  Was.  In.  Heaven.  (Granted, she is now beside herself when we go to Disney World and she gets less than five minutes with a character.)  I would do a 14-Nighter again for the character experience ALONE!

Have some of Column A, try all of Column B.
Dining is truly an experience on the ships.  The food is of excellent quality and it is certainly plentiful but do you realize just what lengths DCL will go to in order to assure that you love every meal?  You don’t like the sauce that comes on tonight’s steak?  Your server will get it for you without.  You think the mashed sweet potatoes from the chicken dish sound better than the rice that comes with your fish?  It’s no problem to switch them.  Two different entrees sound good tonight?  Or even three or four?  Your server will gladly bring you a taste of each.  Like no other restaurants I have seen, DCL dining rooms will customize your meal to your liking.  And even more care is taken in dealing with your food allergies.  All you have to do is make your server aware of your allergy, and at every single meal, they will assure that your food is safe for you to eat.  A chef will even walk you through buffet lines and tell you what you can and cannot eat.  Our serving team was phenomenal in dealing with our one year old’s egg allergy.  (I do recommend that if someone in your party has an allergy, have it notated on your reservation before departing for your cruise, in order to make sure extra precaution is taken in the kitchen.) 

EXPERIENCE the magic! (Or the Wonder, or the Dream, or the Fantasy)

Even if you have cruised before, with Disney, or on another line, you have never had an experience like the one you’ll have on your next cruise.  Disney cruises are filled with magical moments, for every age range, and all you need to do is be present for them!  There are certain things that you just don’t want to miss in order to truly have experienced a “Disney” cruise.  Take the Sail Away Party, for example.  Ask anyone who has ever been, and they will tell you that there is nothing like counting down to sail away, and hearing that magical DCL horn ring out, as you leave all of your cares behind.
Enjoy a show in the Walt Disney Theater
 And the shows!  You can’t miss Disney Dreams on the Wonder and Magic, or Believe on the Fantasy and Dream.  (If you have a pulse, they’ll bring a tear to your eye.)  Don’t miss out on the Pirate Night festivities!  Even if you don’t want to dress up and get “piratical” yourself, it’s so much fun watching the crowd get into the evening!  Even the fireworks are pretty impressive.  You’ll most likely find yourself saying, “Arrrrrgggghhhh!!”, by the end of the night.  If you can make dining in an adult-only setting happen, have a meal at Palo, (or Remy).  You’ll be dreaming about the chocolate soufflĂ© for months.  Enjoy the ship itself, and all it has to offer.  Each ship in Disney’s fleet boasts special and unique things, like Enchanted Art on the Dream and Fantasy, a two-story, glassed-in coffee cafĂ© on the Wonder, or the amazing Aqua Dunk on the Magic.  All four ships are intricately decorated and have so much gorgeous detail to take in, that you could explore for days.  Lastly, but possibly most importantly, enjoy the crew.  The folks that work on Disney’s ships are special.  They are from countries all over the world, and they are hand-picked to deliver the best possible guest experiences.  Crew members everywhere you go will want to know your names, your likes and dislikes, and where you are from.  They want to engage you in conversation because they truly care and genuinely love talking to their guests.  My family loves hearing about where our server is from, what types of foods they eat back home, whether or not they have kids, etc.  One time, our server was so excited about us taking an interest in his Indonesian
Enjoy an adult only meal at Palo
background, that he had the chef prepare a special Indonesian dinner, just for us.  (It was one of the BEST meals we have ever had on a Disney ship!)  We always disembark feeling like we have made a bunch of new friends, and not being able to wait to get the chance to come back and see them again.

So, there you have it.  Just a few of the things I have learned from cruising with The Mouse.  Now… aren’t you just Dream-ing about getting out there on the open seas and experiencing the Magic, enjoying the Wonder of it all, and making your Disney Cruise Line Fantasy come true?  What are you waiting for?  Go pack!  I’ll see ya real soon!!!

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