Six Reasons to Cruise the Caribbean With Disney - MetroFamily Magazine
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Six Reasons to Cruise the Caribbean With Disney

by Sarah Taylor

Reading Time: 7 minutes 

I’ve always enjoyed traveling with my family, but a Disney Cruise was never on my radar for two reasons: past history made me doubt I would feel well on a cruise and I’ve never been a Disney fanatic. Sure I had the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse T-shirt in high school, but I’ve never been to Disney World—and my three children are now adults.

However, now that we’ve been on a Disney Cruise out of the nearby port of Galveston, Texas, my husband and I are converts both to the Disney brand of over-the-top hospitality and to cruises as the best kind of vacation to take as a family. Here are my top reasons why a Disney cruise may be the best vacation for your family:

Location, Location, Location

Galveston is easily reached by car or air. If you drive, it’s 495 miles, just over seven hours without traffic troubles. If you fly, Disney representatives meet you at the baggage claim area and get you settled on a shuttle bus to the ship (about an hour-long drive).

Be Our Guest

Disney employees excel at hospitality. From the moment you walk on to the ship to the very last breakfast experience, the staff works overtime to take great care of your family.

Convenience

On a cruise, you unpack once rather than having the constant stress of packing/unpacking/losing/replacing, etc. It’s also so easy to get around the ship, transitioning between activities. Need to re-group in your room? No problem! Even the laundry areas are easy to find and utilize, if needed.

Dinner—and a Show

Meals are not only delicious, but also part of the entertainment. Every meal includes numerous choices (including a special menu for children) and at least at the evening meal, they are served with flourish by table and drink servers who help you throughout your stay and quickly get to know your family’s preferences. Dinners often also include special entertainment such as the “artists’ palette” dinner in Lumiere’s restaurant, where you can watch the entire room transform from black and white drawings to colorful animation while you dine.

Fun By Sea …

You’ll want to study the all-important Navigator (a comprehensive list of the day’s events that shows up on your bed) and carefully plan the activities to schedule the next day. Onboard, there is always something for everyone to do—either together as a family or individually.

A nursery for babies (3 months to 2 years) and Youth Clubs for preschoolers through teens offer fun and activities that will entertain children and probably teach them something new. Kids on our ship were actually begging to go to their club activities, where they enjoyed new friendships and activities led by well-trained counselors. While the kids are busy, adults can enjoy quiet, adult-only places on the ship, spa treatments (for extra fees) or, in the evenings, activities such as trivia games, karaoke and dancing in the adult-only bars.

Swimming, Broadway-style shows (offered up to three times a day), movies, group games and crafts plus sports such as basketball, ping pong or shuffle board are just a few of the choices available.

… and Fun by Land

The excursions are fantastic shore activity options that add to the overall experience. There are a wide array of excursion choices, all of which begin at about $25 per person. Select from activities like swimming with sting rays, dolphin encounters, horseback riding, historic tours, jeep rides in the jungle, peaceful picnics on a white-sand beach overlooking beautiful clear-blue water… the excursions are vetted by Disney and worth the extra expense.

We will never forget the fun times on our Disney Cruise and I guarantee your family won’t either. Bon Voyage!


Planning Ahead

We asked Marcy Galloway, a member of the Disney Parks Mom Panel, about making the most of a Disney cruise. She recommends starting your research at the official Disney Cruise website. “Investigate the different Port Adventures, read about the Youth Clubs, learn more about the Adult Exclusive Dining at Palo and Remy,” she advises. Do the research about the excursions and other activities that need reservations and other pre-planning, and be ready to do this as soon as you can, 75 days before your departure date.

When on the cruise, take advantage of the experiences of your cruise “Cast Members” on the staff team. They can help you make even more special memories so do not hesitate to tell them your preferences and see how they can help you.

As you research and think through your unique family needs, you may get stumped. If so, be sure to ask the Moms Panel experts for advice. Galloway and the other experts can help with such questions as how to rent strollers, when the nursery might be full and other specific questions.


Money-Saving Tips

To find out how to save money on a Disney cruise, we asked Jessica Ma’ilo of Norman, owner of Fairy Godmother Travel and an Authorized Disney Travel Planner.

Jessica suggests booking as early as possible because lower-priced rooms tend to sell out first. You can follow Disney on Facebook or follow the Disney blog to find out the specials as they are announced. She also advises if you plan to drink adult beverages on the trip that you pack your own, as they are not included in your trip price.

Marcy Galloway, a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel who specializes in Disney cruises, adds that looking for discounts on your cruise even after you book is a great idea because Disney will allow you to take advantage even after the fact.

Consider booking through a travel agent that offers on-board credit in addition to any deals that come from Disney. She says to look for deals that typically come in the winter months and on the two smaller ships, the Magic and Wonder. “If families are flexible with missing school, that is a great time to sail and take advantage of lower prices,” Galloway adds.

Finally, she recommends looking into insurance when you book because you never know when the flu bug or other problems might hit your family and with insurance, you know you can reschedule without any trouble.


Sarah Answers Your Questions:

  • Ages of children: The families we saw having the most fun on the cruise had children at least preschool age, old enough to enjoy the character events, the fun parties, the excursions and the Kids Club areas. If you have very young babies, it would be easier if you had other relatives to help. One couple told us they were having fun even with  their three children under age three because they also had the children’s grandparents with them, giving them time to relax when they needed a break.
  • Safety: I don’t purport to be an expert on cruise safety. I do know that Disney does everything to protect their brand and even the experts on the web agree that Disney has an excellent safety record. The crew is very well trained, all cruisers must attend the safety instruction meeting before embarking and everywhere you go but particularly before you eat, the cast members hand you an anti-bacterial wipe to clean your hands. Are there any guarantees? No but if I was a betting person, I’d bet that it all works out with a Disney cruise. Oh, and rest assured that if you or your little one needs to see a doctor, there is one on the cruise ready to help.
  • What to pack: Most people dressed casually, even at the “formal dining” meal that showed up on our agenda. Certainly no one dressed in a tux and the most common outfits were khakis and a casual shirt. On the other hand, one family we observed had gone all out, with different matching outfits for every evening meal themed around something Disney or from their excursions. So do what you want and enjoy (and be sure to pack your pirate gear for the Pirates of the Caribbean dinner).
  • Should you pay extra to enjoy a meal at the exclusive adult-only restaurant called Palo? We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of five-star service and food at Palo and would highly recommend it if you can swing the expense. A typical two-person meal will cost about $40 plus tip and any bar charges which is extremely reasonable compared to other fine-dining experiences. Be sure to make reservations as early as you can which is 75 days before the cruise leaves. (See above for a similar recommendation to spend extra for the excursions.)
  • Disney Cruise vs. another cruise line? Given that this was our first cruise ever, obviously we have no real-world experience with other cruise lines. However, I asked everyone I could on our trip that same question and those who had been on others said they prefer Disney. In fact, most said they “hands down” recommend Disney over the others, with quality of hospitality and service, cleanliness and overall entertainment being the most-often comparisons made.
  • Disney Cruise vs. Disney World? If you’ve read the article above, you know my family and I have not been to Disney World or any other Disney park. However, to answer this important question, I spent time talking to the real experts, those who have been numerous times to both. Every one of those experts, including their kids, said they preferred a Disney Cruise, with most saying that the fact that everything was self-contained and although there were lots of choices, it was easier to structure your family and individual play times on a cruise. The thing you are obviously giving up are park rides but for an overall experience of family fun and togetherness, a cruise is ideal.
  • How long of a cruise should we take? Ours was a six-night cruise but there are choices for three-night cruises and longer, even 14-day cruises. According to one mom on our trip who had only been on a three-night Disney cruise previously with her family, she said they were exhausted after the trip because they felt they had to take everything in to get the most of their time. Instead of being able to postpone some activity to another day, they took advantage of every activity they could and it wore them out. Based on that information, I would recommend you look at a six-night or longer cruise.
  • What size of a room should we book? Since your room choice affects the price, this is an important question that I cannot answer. I asked an expert, Jessica Ma’ilo of Norman and Fairy Godmother Travel, this question. Here’s her answer: "For a family with younger children, I'd make the same recommendation I do for families traveling to the parks.  A balcony (or verandah in the case of cruises) can be invaluable!  It gives grown-ups a place to relax while the kids are napping. It's also a nice place to unwind, and who wouldn't love the view? Now, if it came down to a budget, the interior rooms are just as nice, and Disney has built their ships with families in mind. The rooms are typically a bit larger than other cruise lines, so there is a bit of extra room to spread out. When traveling with older kids, chances are families won't be spending much time in the room at all, so any category would be great. It would just come down to personal preference."

Other great advice can be found at the website of nationally-popular, local mom blogger, Amy Kurz Bellgardt of Edmond at http://momspark.net/disney-cruise-line-preparing-for-your-disney-cruise-disneydream/.

Sarah Taylor is the Publisher of MetroFamily Magazine.

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