Definitely thought I would get to this post a little faster…but life. Finally, I’m sitting down on a weekend morning, drinking coffee and reminiscing about our magical Disney Cruise vacation. We’ve always been big cruisers – growing up in Miami, my family went on lots of cruises because we had easy access to a Port and when Sam and I started dating our first big trip together was a cruise. We also spent part of our honeymoon on a week-long cruise to Alaska. So I’ll preface this by saying, we’ve experienced lots of different types of cruises, cruise lines, itineraries, etc. I can honestly say, a Disney Cruise really was like no other. From the moment we stepped on board until we were escorted off, it was absolutely magical.
Having a little boy who loves all things Disney, it was an obvious choice because the entire cruise caters to families and provides tons of quality interactions with beloved characters. But I would also say that it’s a great experience for adults who want to have an awesome, relaxing vacation with great food, entertainment and fun. There are tons of adult only areas, restaurants, pools and experiences. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on our vacation experience, which was family focused.
When we decided on taking a Disney Cruise, we had a few decisions to make – timing, length and type of cruise experience. We did a lot of research and decided to go in May (right before Memorial Day and also before the start of Hurricane season), take a 5-day/4-night cruise and also splurged on Concierge.
The Disney Concierge Experience
First off, while this made our vacation extra special, this option is definitely a splurge. We decided to try Concierge out because we planned and saved for this vacation well in advance. It was a “treat yourself” decision and I’m glad we did it. The biggest benefits to Concierge included the boarding and de-boarding process, cabin size, Concierge lounge with nightly open bar, exclusive character meet n greet, landing a Cabana at Castaway Cay and the ability to have dinner from the restaurant in your cabin dining room.
Overall, the investment in Concierge delivers an ROI. From the planning and off-shore portion of your vacation to literally being escorted swiftly off the ship, it was an awesome experience. As I mentioned, cruising has always been a part of my life and while I love it, boarding the cruise can be a long process. With Concierge, we walked straight to the dedicated check-in where they took our passports, gave us our “Key to the World” cards and promptly escorted us straight to take our “Welcome Aboard” picture and then onto the ship. It was 30-minutes max! They took us straight to the Concierge Lounge where we were met with drinks and a dedicated crew member who reviewed our itinerary, handled any special requests and then took us to our cabin, which was ready by 12:30pm!
Since Concierge involves so many different aspects, I’m going to do a separate post for anyone who wants to know all the details.
This is another cruise experience that was a fun way to enhance our vacation. Our friend told us about the “Fish Extender,” which you can join via the cruise’s unofficial Disney Facebook page. You look up your particular sailing date and ask to join the group. You can then become part of the “Fish Extender,” which is essentially a gift exchange aboard the cruise. You have a group of about 8-12 other cabins and each person staying in the state room adds their info onto a spreadsheet so you know names, ages, fave Disney characters, etc. You buy each person a gift and drop them off outside their cabin door throughout the cruise. We bought Mickey sunglasses for the adults and older kids, Minnie earrings for the little girls and Disney tic, tac, toe for the one younger boy in our group. I’m not crafty, so I ordered everything, including the gift holder (looks like a fabric shoe holder) on Etsy!
This was a really fun and unique way to enhance our overall experience. Every time we went back to our room, there were new gifts to open. We got everything from monogrammed tumblers and toothbrush holders to chocolates and a Mickey baseball cap for W! Definitely recommend joining the fun if you’re on a Disney cruise.
Itinerary + Excursions
We opted for a 5-day, 4-night cruise as our first family cruise vacation – mainly because I knew I wanted it to be longer than 3-nights, but I wasn’t sure how Westley would do on a 7-night cruise. I’m glad we chose this for our first cruise, but truthfully, we could have done a 7-night. Westley loved being on the ship, never got seasick and we could have enjoyed a few more nights and more stops.
Our Disney Dream Itinerary included 3-days at sea and two stops: Nassau and Castaway Cay. There are a lot of people who choose to stay on the ship for extra pool time and less crowds during the port stops, but we’re fans of getting off the ship and exploring a bit. So we decided early on to book a trip to Blue Lagoon Island during our Nassau stop and rent a Cabana on Castaway Cay for our second excursion.
Blue Lagoon beach day was fun and relaxing. We walked off the ship and onto a ferry boat that took us about 25-minutes outside of Nassau to Blue Lagoon Island — a private island with a beautiful beach, floats, water sports and even encounters with dolphins. We opted to keep it light and simple since we were traveling with our three-year old and just booked the beach day. We spent hours in the water swimming and playing, laid out for a bit and then enjoyed a cookout lunch with hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, french fries and other fixings. It was a perfect day and still gave us plenty of time to get back to the ship, enjoy some pool time and get ready for formal night!
The Disney Cruise was pretty casual, but they did have an optional formal night, of which I took full advantage. I LOVE curating special wardrobes for all of our trips (I know…I’m weird, but I love it) and formal night is always fun. We bought W a seer sucker suit, Sam wore his navy suit and I debuted a bronze, Greek inspired cold shoulder, pleated dress for the occasion.
The other fun night is Pirate Night! Everyone receives Disney Pirate bandanas to wear, so if you’re not into costumes, you can just wear that or not dress up at all. However, I’m a huge fan of playing dress up, so we brought our Halloween costumes (which strategically were Pirates for double usage) and went all out. There was a themed “Pirates in the Caribbean” dinner menu, a live musical show out on the deck with all the characters and then a dance party and fireworks show! We stayed up until 11pm to participate and danced the night away. Westley had a blast!
The other amazing part of the cruise was all of the character appearances and interactions! We never waited more than 10 minutes to take a photo with a character and each time Westley met a character, he got quality time including hugs, high fives, individual photos and family photos. The Disney Cruise app is awesome because it lets you know where each character will be throughout the day, so you can plan your meet n greets and photo opps. The other bonus, the characters appear multiple times a day, so we were able to meet Mickey (three times), Pluto, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. There are also dance parties and other ways to hang out with the characters, so it truly is magical!
We also opted to purchase the Photo Package, which allowed us to keep hi-res, digital copies of all the photos we took throughout the cruise for a flat fee. I’m a photo freak, so this was another awesome investment IMO. I purchased it well in-advance and saved 15 percent off the on-board price. It was a huge relief to not have to constantly ask for someone to take iPhone pics of us and allowed us to truly enjoy the vacation and character engagements without worrying about capturing the special memories ourselves.
I could live on this Island! This was one of our favorite parts of the cruise. The Disney Dream docked right on the island and you walk off the ship and you’ve arrived at Castaway Cay. Almost all cruise lines own private islands in the Caribbean, but most of them do not have a port, so they dock at sea and you have to take a ferry to the island. The Disney Cruise experience was definitely superior and easier since you’re able to walk on and off the ship quickly and seamlessly.
Once at Castaway Cay, you take a tram to different parts of the island. There’s a water sports and excursion area for snorkeling, etc., an Adults Only beach, family beach and then the Cabana Area (family cabanas and adult only ones).
Part of the reason we chose Concierge is because we wanted to experience a Cabana at Castaway Cay and there are only a limited amount available. Unless you’ve cruised a lot and have Platinum Castaway Club status, pretty much the only way to land one of the 26 cabanas is to be Concierge Level. I signed up on the first day it opened and we got one!
It is an extra expense, but it was definitely worth it to have a private area for us, a private beach and somewhere to rest and nap away from the sun. While I’m Cuban and can tan, Westley and my husband have very fair skin, so having a covered area was a must if we were planning to enjoy multiple hours at the beach!
In the Cabana area there are a few Concierge team members who are available to bring drinks and help out with anything you may need. They also have a golf cart to drive you back to the ship when you’re ready to leave the island.
The Cabana included fresh fruit, snacks and drinks along with sunscreen (kids and adult bottles), towels, bikes, sand toys, snorkeling gear and floats.
Additionally, we enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch on island and our favorite dessert – soft serve!
Dining + Entertainment
I’m a big foodie and I definitely give the Disney Cruise dining experience top marks. The main dining rooms offer an eclectic menu of options and every meal was delicious. I also love that unlike most cruise lines, on a Disney Cruise you rotate dining rooms, so every night you dine in a different place, but your dining team travels with you. My favorite restaurant in terms of decor and ambiance was The Enchanted Garden, which pays homage to Versailles in Paris. It was absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to Concierge, we landed one of the coveted 12 booths in the front, which made the dinner even more perfect.
As we’re big fans of sampling tons of options, we ordered a couple of apps, three entrees each and two desserts to share each night. It’s a miracle I didn’t gain a ton of weight, but honestly the portions are perfect for sampling and ordering more than one item!
The kids options were also great. Westley loved the steak, mac n cheese and kiddie desserts!
I’m equally obsessed with the entertainment on-board the Disney Cruise as it was Broadway caliber musicals with incredibly talented casts. The theater and stage is phenomenal with digital screens, moving sets, special effects, flying cables, etc. Basically the same level I’ve experienced during Broadway shows, but in the high seas.
The two shows were Disney’s Believe! and the new Beauty & the Beast musical, which plays two nights in a row. Disney’s Believe! was the story of a dad and his daughter – he doesn’t believe in magic and she shows him that magic is everywhere. It includes appearances from iconic Disney movie characters along with memorable songs and dances from each movie. Think Genie from Aladdin all the way to everyone’s favorite nanny — Mary Poppins!
Beauty & the Beast was a masterpiece. It’s adapted from the live action film and captures all of the emotions, music, drama and fun of the movie. All The Feels. It’s my favorite Disney movie, so I was literally like a little kid, super excited to see the show. It did not disappoint.
We chose to watch it on the second night and opted for the early showing, which meant we had to skip our main dinner seating. However, we were able to order from the restaurant and have our dinner delivered and served in our cabin’s dining room (another Concierge perk). So once the show wrapped, we headed upstairs and enjoyed an amazing dinner in the comfort of our suite complete with the balcony doors open for fresh air and sea sounds! It was our last evening on board and it was an amazing way to end our vacation. We then got in our PJs, watched a Marvel movie (tons of awesome free movies available in your room) and ordered Mickey Ice Cream Bars from Room Service (YES…the same ones from the park that literally taste like heaven) and ate them in bed. And we lived Happily Ever After…the End 🙂
From beginning to end, this was an AWESOME vacation and overall experience. Disney Magic is a real thing and it’s definitely a vacation we will take again. Next time, it will just be longer.
Here’s a little video to give a taste of the overall adventure!