Is a Disney cruise really all its cracked up to be?
The short answer: Yes!
To me, this beats going to Disney World. With a Disney cruise, the kids get their Disney fix with character greets, Mickey Mouse waffles and entertainment, and we get to relax! At the park, I feel like I need to see and do everything, and its a “go, go, go” mentality, trying to figure out the best times to avoid the lines, etc. On the cruise, we just enjoyed each other! There was no real itinerary or schedule, and we got to sit back, relax and watch the kids play!
What age is the best? I think any age is perfect! Our 15 month old can’t do some of the things our 4 year old could (like the water slide or kids club). But to me, the things that were available for a 15 month old were amazing! He loved the splash area on the ship, non-stop ice cream and playing on the sand in the beach. I would absolutely recommend it for his age, as well as my daughters. We plan to go again in another year!
When: May 2016
Where: Four night Disney cruise to Bahamas on Disney Dream
Weather: Perfectly sunny and warm (around 80’s and 90’s)
Ages: Our kids ages when we sailed: 4 years old and 15 months
I thought about writing a day by day journal of our Disney cruise like I normally do, but this trip each day was mostly the same – and it was awesome! Relax, eat, swim, play…repeat! Instead, I have listed out the main activities we participated in our the cruise and our experiences with them, as well as general advice!
- Pirate Night
This was a highlight of the trip! I kept our 15 month old up late to enjoy it and it was worth it! Make sure you attend this event – there is a show, dance party and an awesome firework display. Arrive at least 15-20 minutes before it begins so you can get a decent view. We got there about 30 minutes early, but we really didn’t need to.
- Dress up! Most of people dress up, and I recommend doing so as it makes it so much more fun! I brought our outfits with us, which were easily made with white t-shirts and scizzors and using the clothes in our closet we already head (think red and black and white stripes). Disney gives you a bandana in your room the night before.
- Bippity Boppity Boutique
- The Bippity Boppity Boutique is an enchanted and magical beauty salon for little girls that turns them into little princesses! I am all about make believe and dress up (it only lasts so long!), and my daughter couldn’t be more obsessed with princesses if she tried, so I knew this was something I absolutely wanted to do for her.
- Highly recommended to make a reservation as soon as possible as they book up quickly, especially in the evening.
- I wanted a later appointment as once her hair and makeup was done, I didn’t want her to go swimming and ruin it. We chose “formal night” for her appointment so she could wear her princess dress.
- The basic package “Crown Package” starts at $64, and can go all the way up to $199 with the “Castle Package”. The main difference between the two? The Castle package comes with a dress, wand and crown that you can pick out there. Both packages come with the hairstyle, face gem, makeup, nail polish, sash and princess bag.
- So, it your frugal like me, I recommended making your own little Castle Package. I reserved the Crown Package at $64. Before we left for the cruise, I ordered a brand new Rapunzel dress onsale from the Disney Store for about $30. I brought it with us, and right before we left for the appointment I surprised her with the new dressed. She loved it, and I saved $100 by bringing it with me. It was the exact same dress in the boutqiue.
- We got lucky and the day I made her reservation, was the day they had a special Cinderella celebration for all the girls who went to the boutique that day. Before dinner that night, all the girls who went to the Boutique met Cinderella in the Vista Gallery of the ship. There was an MC, and he announced the girls as the came down the staircase, gave Cinderella a hug, and then lined up in front of the crowd. The play a song at the end and the girls got to dance with a partner (Mike joined her on the dance floor). It made her feel extremely special to walk down the grand staircase, and was an added bonus I will always remember!
- Calypso Cay
- Disney’s private island, Calypso Cay, is a paradise that is worth taking the Bahamas Cruise for! We didn’t pay for any extra adventures onshore as there was so much to do onsite. We relaxed in the hammocks, dug sand castles, played in the ocean and went down the pirate slides.
- I recommend getting out there early to get a good beach view in the front row as they do fill up quickly! It is a long walk, so I recommend bringing your stroller as well!
- We bought a cooler from one of the attendants at the beginning filled with water which was nice to have throughout the day! I would absolutely purchase again – plus it makes another great souvenir!
- Evening shows
- My 15 month old would not make it through an evening show (kid can’t sit still) so we picked two nights to go to the shows, and one night I stayed back with Easton while Mike took Emmie and vice versa. This worked out perfectly! Gave us some one on one time with our daughter and the other got to relax for a little while Easton slept.
- The shows aren’t up to Broadway standards, but they are entertaining, and my daughter loved the dancing, lights and popcorn!
- Kids Club
- This place screams fun for any kid – so much to do, see and participate in! Your parental mind is at ease as well as it is extremely safe too. There are loads of counselors inside and a locked entry point where you have to sign-in/sign-out your child.
- There are times in the morning during the cruise where it is open to parents and children. We took both kids to explore during this “free play” time.
- Emmie was a little nervous to be left on her own at 4, undestandably as she didn’t know anyone. After some encouragement, she did do an hour on her own and we were thankful for that!
The It’s A Small World Nursery was an area I was excited to check out and see, and I found it very clean and spacious. Plus it looked fun for the kids!
- It is not free, like the kids club, but it has a very reasonable hourly rate.
- You can sign up for a time slot ahead of time online or once you are on the ship. When I checked online a few works before, the popular times (morning, dinner) were fully booked. I wasn’t sure Easton would willing go to the nursery, so i didn’t want to sign up and commit to a time. I wasn’t planning to use it much as I wanted to soak up my time with the kids on the cruise, but we were interested to give it a try for one afternoon!
- We did drop Easton off once (the same hour Emmie went to the kids club), and it was a smooth process. We left paci’s, diapers and a sippy for him. They gave us our phone pager in case we needed to be contacted. He was crying when my husband dropped him off, but the caregiver assured us that in about 15 minutes if he didn’t calm down, she would call us. We enjoyed our time on the adult deck, reading a book and having a drink. It went by very quickly, as we got a phone call after about 40 minutes saying he was upset. We headed back to the nursery to retrieve our little man a little refreshed!
- We had no trouble with the embarkation process for our Disney cruise – very smooth, fast and well coordinated. I have been on other cruise lines and this was the best executed process.
- We arrived about an hour before our scheduled boarding time (you pick your boarding time * weeks before your departure.)
- Embarkation times are scheduled. If you want to get on the ship early, be one of the first to log in to pick your time as they go quickly.
- Day Bag
- Your bags might not arrive until dinner time to your room, so bring a day bag filled with anything you would need or want before dinner (swimsuits, sunscreen, books, laptop, diapers, etc.). I brought our bathing suites in our carry on so we could head right to the pool deck after lunch.
- Unpack immediately!
- The room is small but functional, and having two sinks is amazing (one for my makeup area and one for toothbrushes). I unpacked right after our suitcases arrived, giving all of our items a nice little spot and setting up a diaper changing area. I slid the empty suitcases under the bed and felt better knowing where everything was, rather than having to rummage to find something.
- Room door decals
I read on a blog that the doors are magnetic, and you can make decals to stick on there. We did this about a week before the cruise to build up the excitement and anticipation. We made mickey heads out of black poster board. Emmie decorated hers with her name, stickers, and some yarn to make an ‘Elsa’ braid. Not only was this a great pre-cruise activity, but it was very functional and fun on the ship!
- All the doors look the same onboard a Disney cruise, especially to a 4 year old. Emmie would run down the hall while keeping her eyes peeled and immediately stop when she found ours!
- Photography package
- Shutters is the onboard photographer on the Disney Cruise Line. They have backdrops set up around dinner time each night, they take photos for character meet and greets. They are even around on the private island to take pictures.
- You can buy a package anytime on the cruise, or if you order ahead of time you could save 15%, which could be up to about $40. I wasn’t sure how many pictures we would get, so I didn’t pre-pay, but I wish I did. We ended up getting a lot of pictures taken by them (78 to be exact). It make sense to buy the whole package rather than having to just choose 10 for a little less money.
- Next time, I am pre-buying the package, and taking advantage of getting all the digital prints, and having them snap a photo of us whenever we see them. If you buy the digital print package, whether you take 50 pictures or 150, you get them all!
- Disney now allows each adult over 21 years of age to bring either 2 bottles of unopened wine or 6 beers on board. It needs to be in your carry on luggage (not checked bag). I highly recommend doing this if your looking to save some money, as the price of alcohol on board the Disney cruise can get expensive. We brought on 2 bottles of wine and would have a glass each night on our balcony while the kids slept.
- We thought ahead and only brought screw on caps, so we didn’t have to worry about a corkscrew!
- You honestly don’t have much down time in your room, so don’t worry about bringing toys to entertain the kids. When I needed the get ready, there was a TV packed full of Disney shows for them to watch.
- As for sand toys, on their private island they have a good selection of beach toys that are reasonably priced. I didn’t waste any of our luggage space bringing these and just bought a few onsite. It makes a great souvenir too!