Planning anything Disney is always exciting, but can be a bit overwhelming too. There’s so much to see and do. When it comes to a cruise, you have to add so much to eat as well. Planning is key. Here’s where to start.
Tips for Planning a Disney Cruise
We’re headed on our first Disney cruise. It’s a 4-day Bahamian Cruise on the Disney Dream. Although planning the cruise isn’t as time-intensive as planning a Disney World vacation, it still takes some research. Here’s what I’m finding so far, and what questions I’m asking. Hopefully this post will help others plan. If you have any questions about a Disney cruise, let me know and I’ll try to find out during my planning, or on the cruise itself. Been on a Disney cruise? Let me know your best tips.
Dining: Everyone says you HAVE to do Palo, the adults only restaurant at least one. I found a menu for the restaurant and it looks good, but I’m not sure when we can do it. I don’t want to go the first night on board, I feel like we need to get the kids set. The second night is Pirate Night and seems like a good time, so I don’t want to miss that (or miss the kids there), and the last night is Valentine’s Day and it’s already booked. I looked at Remy, the other adult restaurant and I’m not enough of a foodie to do that one (it’s $85 surcharge vs. $30 and I don’t even understand the menu (it’s a French restaurant). I’m thinking Remy is over my gastro-head.
Apparently we have a family dining rotation. Animators Palette is the fan favorite. We have the second seating, which is at 8:15. I don’t like to eat that late (especially when I know it’s going to be A LOT of food), but the early seating was booked (5:45 pm). I have read this can be a good thing though as the shows are less crowded. Since there is no time to sleep on this cruise, a later dinner might be ok.
Post Cruise Restaurant Tips: I became a little tired of the main buffet over the four days. The last morning of our cruise, my son and I went to the Enchanted Garden for breakfast. It was still a buffet, but we were taken to a table, had a waiter, and it was a LOT less crowded. You don’t have to eat at the Cabanas every day, although it seems most people do.
Activities: I have a tween (11) and two teens (16 and 18). I’m a little worried about them. The tween is old enough for both the kids club and the tween club. He plans on checking out both, but I hope he’s not too old for the kids club and too young for the tween club. Fingers crossed. Re: the teens, this is going to be a challenge as well. I know Disney has the teen club (14 – 17) but my guess is this area skews young. I did notice they had activities to engage the kids, which should be good. For my 18 year old, they have an 18*21 Club. That sounds interesting. My guess is it will depend on how many 18*21 year olds are on the ship. I wonder if they will allow my 16 year old to go here too (or if he’d want to go?). I found this post with pictures of the printed Navigator, the daily ship activities log. This helped A LOT in figuring out what was available and when each day. My youngest will LOVE the Midship Detective Hunt. It looks like the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom or the Magic Quest at Great Wolf Lodge.
Post Cruise Activity Tips: As I suspected, my youngest LOVED the Midship Detective Hunt. We sent him off and he was happy running around getting clues. We looked into the kids clubs, but none of my children spent any time there. The youngest liked being around us and the older two might have gone if my oldest was allowed in (he just turned 18 and they would not allow him to go to the teen club). My nephew however lost total track of time while in the kids club. He loved it. One of my favorite parts of the trip was Jamsey, the MC at several of the shows. He was energetic and tons of fun.
Castaway Cay: Hopefully we don’t need a cabana for two reasons, 1. they are all booked, and 2. I don’t want to spend an additional few hundred dollars just for a place to put my towel. I know there is a lot to do in the water at Castaway Cay, but there also seems to be a lot activities for an additional fee. I think I’d like to do the stingray adventure and I know my husband will want a bike, He can’t sit still in a chair on the beach and won’t hang out in the water. I wonder if the snorkeling is worth it? In my experience, snorkeling off the beach isn’t great; you really need to go out on a boat. I do want to do the Cataway Cay 5k. Apparently you need to sign up for this right away, not sure yet if I can do that before we go or not.
Post Cruise Tips on Castaway Cay: We signed up for the 5K the night before and were fine, so no worries there. As far as a cabana or other ‘activities’ on Castaway Cay, we enjoyed just lounging at the beach. In fact, we didn’t even make it off the first beach. I thought my husband and I might go to the adult area, but we didn’t, just hung out, and cheered our hermit crab to victory in the crab races. I love crab races.
Check In: As soon as you can you want to check in so you can get an embarkation time. I did this a month and a half out and our embarkation time was 11:45. I would have liked it early so we could maximize our time on the ship, but it is what it is now. 11:45 isn’t terrible. Now to get everyone up and out to make this time frame.
Post Cruise Check In Tips: Somehow my sister-in-law got on before anyone. Still not sure the tricks here, but do use your time waiting to check the kids into the kids club and get a wristband for them.
Alcohol: My husband and I are the type of folks that can’t imagine vacation without beer and wine. Disney lets you bring both on board in limited quantities in your carry on luggage. I believe 1 six pack per person and two bottles of wine. My sister-in-law wants to know if we can have the kids packing as well. You can bring wine to dinner for a corkage fee of $25, but I’m not that fancy of a wine drinker. The corkage would be more than the bottle of wine. Plus Disney has a wine and dine package. If you buy it before sailing it’s $89 for three bottles of wine (one each night at dinner). Considering a glass of wine in an Atlanta bar is usually between $9 and $15 a glass (for the house wine) this doesn’t seem too bad of a price to me. You can purchase a 22 oz. mug of beer for $16.95 and then refill it for the 18 oz. price the entire trip. 22 oz. is a perfect size to split while lounging at the pool.
Post Cruise Alcohol Tips: We did bring in a 6 pack of beer and two bottles of wine. I purchased the wine package so my sister-in-law and I could have wine with dinner each night. All seemed to work well. My husband did not purchase the beer package. In the end, he figured there wasn’t any savings. which was a good thing too because we really didn’t drink much on the cruise. I even brought back a bottle of wine.
Nassau Day Trips: These are expensive. Are they worth it? The cruise is so short, should we stay on board and just do stuff on the ship? Turning to my cousin who lives in the Bahamas to help with this one. I’m thinking I am NOT purchasing through Disney and will try to find something on my own with my cousin’s help. Blue Lagoon looks fun, I’d like the sea lion interaction, but we also like forts, so maybe the Discover Nassau Land and Sea. As I said, I want to snorkel, so maybe the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel. If you have advice, let me know.
Post Cruise Excursion Tips: Here’s where I have some great advice. We opted NOT to do the excursions through Disney and boy am I glad we did! We booked Island Time Charters for a snorkeling excursion. Instead of being on a boat with 20 – 30 other folks, we spent a few hours, just four of us on a private boat with Captain Jason and his first mate. He told us about the islands as we zoomed to our first snorkeling spot. Since it was February, the water was a bit cold, but still swimmable. Even my teens were raving about this. We saw lots of colorful fish along the reef, and even a sea turtle! Captain Jason had water on board for us and even started our trip time later because we didn’t get off the boat in time. All around first class experience.
Afterwards, we went back on board for lunch, then spent the afternoon in Nassau. We visited the Pirate Museum, which was very cool, walked up the Queen’s Staircase and stopped at Senor Frogs for a beer and some lemonade. Our Nassau afternoon we did all on foot and felt quite safe, although there was no shortage of taxi’s waiting to take us wherever we wanted to go. Bottom line, you don’t have to book an expensive excursion through Disney to have fun in port, in fact, I think we had a better time booking it ourselves.