Disney Cruise tips for families

Disney Cruise tips for families

rainbow to greet us

The laundry is done, luggage unpacked, and refrigerator is restocked. That is what follows a week long family vacation, back to real life. We just returned from our first Disney Cruise. We sailed on the Fantasy and went to Cozumel, Grand Cayman’s, Jamaica, and of course Disney’s own island Castaway Cay (pronounced key).  We have some pretty awesome memories, and some not so awesome memories. From our trip I think I have a few tips I would like to share with you all. I am not claiming to be a travel expert. I am just a mom and have a few tips that might make your vacation a bit smoother. I have a bit of a unique perspective, I think. I traveled with my teen daughter, two kids (4 and 6) as well as my in-laws, and hubby of course.I am not going to give you all the “save money” tips. If you search the web, you can find tons of them. I researched this trip like crazy and found some things while on the cruise I didn’t know that would have made life easier. So here is what I have for you.

  • Consider going to your port city (Port Canaveral for us) the day before. We flew down Friday morning and had half the day Friday to hang out on the beach in Cocoa Beach. It was relaxing and pretty stress free. There is A LOT of waiting while traveling- airport lines, on the plane, luggage, then at the port- TONS OF WAITING! So by traveling down the day before, you are breaking up the waiting for those “patient” kids. It’s 2 days of shorter bursts of waiting vs one long day full of waiting. Not the best way to start a vacation.
  • On that note, expect lines and have activities ready for kiddos. When you get to the check-in line at Disney, only one person from the party has to wait in line. Everyone has to be at the check-in counter, but if you have a cell phone the lucky kid free person in line can call you when they are close to the check-in counter.
  • Have an adult only dinner at Palo. The hubster and I both agree, hands down best dinner and service we have ever had. It’s $35/person extra for a full meal and you need to make reservations. We went at 6:00 and were able to watch the sun set over dinner. 
  • Download the Disney Cruiseline Navigator app before you leave for your trip. Our cell signals were crap once we boarded the ship and it took FOREVER to download for my in-laws. This app is awesome. You can see the menu for dinner, set reminders for events and even text each other. 
  • You can change your meal time. We were set for an 8:45 meal time- no go with littles. As soon as you get on, request a new time. Just an FYI, your table number will be different then marked on your Key to the World card, so be prepared.
  • The ship follows the time zone it is stopping (port). My hubby and I took a Carnival cruise several years ago, and the ship remained in the eastern time zone time no matter where we were. Disney does not. Just be prepared for that adjustment (more so with kids).
  • Decide ahead of time if you want to stay on the ship or get off at ports. I can not stress this enough!! We had decided not to book excursions and just to explore the ports thinking there would be lots to do. NOT! My teen was more than upset and so were we. Our first port, Cozumel was a complete bust. The port was dirty and there were only shops with pushy sales people. If you want to do more than shop, book an excursion, or stay on the ship. Research your ports prior to see if there is anything to do. We were able to take a shuttle in the Cayman’s to the beach, but were strongly advised not to do the same in Jamaica due to safety concerns.
  • Plan for poor weather and what you will do. The only port that had the highest chance of non excursion activities was Castaway Cay. We spent  a couple amazing hours on their beach and then the rain came. Not just the quick moving rain, HOURS of cold windy rain. 3/4 of the day was a bust. Not only that, but due to lightening, the pools on the ship were closed. We spent the afternoon pretty discouraged and stressed with unhappy kids. We ended up seeing a movie and exploring the ship (hubby took one to a movie, I took one to explore, and a teen threw a teen fit due to the trip not living up to what she thought it would be).
  • Ok, so this is an unlikely tip but here it is. There is a self serve soft ice cream stand with little cones stationed by the pools. Grab a cup from the beverage station and use that instead or as well (for messy kids). 
  • Bring fewer clothes than you think you’ll need. We over packed! Then had to get creative to fit in the costumes from the Bippity Boppity Boutique and various items purchased.We actually pretty much spent most of our time in bathing suits anyway (bring a few of those per person too- nothing like getting back into a wet suit!) There is a very confusing laundry mat on the ship, just use it. I only had 2 loads of laundry to do yesterday thanks to it.
  • Speaking about laundry- bring a hamper, the pop up kind. Makes life so much easier.
  • To avoid tins of weight gain, there are healthy options  the Cabanas eating area have shellfish and salads (among other things) for lunch and fresh fruit, eggs, yogurt and all kinds of healthy options for breakfast. Each meal also has lighter options. Dessert is always available- though I tried to only eat it at dinner. Take the stairs as often as you can (feel the burn!!!). I somehow managed to not gain anything, although I did run a few times. 
  • Triple check the disembark time. My husband and I thought we got off the ship at 11- who knows why. We spent 7 hours in a very boring airport, waiting for our 4:00 flight home.
  • Speaking of travel, if you are traveling with a large party, consider renting a private car or limo. After researching, we found that it was only $50 more for us to rent a limo to travel to and from the airport. There was no waiting and the kids thought it was totally cool.
  • Be mentally prepared for little alone time. We had it built up in our minds that the kids would go to the awesome kids area and the teen would go to the teen area and we could sit by the pool sipping a rum tropical drink. UMMMMM, NO! The youngest ones only went a few times for about 45 minutes at a time. The oldest thought the teen area was lame (she’s 16). We had the kids with us virtually the entire trip.
  • THE COFFEE! The coffee served at the beverage areas is made from coffee syrup. If you like a true, brewed cup of coffee, you have to pay extra and find a cafe’. However, they like to make lattes and aren’t real big on just an iced coffee with flavored syrup.

So, I hope this helps you a little. I may edit this as I think of new ideas. All in all, Disney puts on a great cruise. They pay attention to detail and really strive to make your trip magical. Do you have any tips or questions to share?

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