How to prepare for a Disney cruise

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Disney Fantasy

Disney FantasyAt Pit Stops for Kids, we cover all modes of family travel. However, there’s one major category of family travel we’ve neglected (until now): family cruising. On March 26th, the Pit Stops kids and I will be embarking upon the brand new ship in the Disney Cruise Line, the Disney Fantasy. We’ll be reporting on our experience here and for Expedia.com.

There’s only one problem: we don’t know what the heck we’re doing. We’re complete cruising newbies at Pit Stops for Kids: while we love the open road, cities, and National Parks and wilderness, we’ve yet to tackle the high seas. How do we prepare for something we’ve never experienced?

Learn what to expect.

Preparation is key to any family vacation, so from now until departure day, I’ll be following my own advice and researching our destination(s) extensively. To prepare for our trip, I turned to the same resources I hope you’re all using to plan vacations: family travel bloggers. The Disney Fantasy has yet to embark upon its first public sailing, so I read up on coverage of its sister ship, the Disney Dream. Hip Travel Mama offers a great overview of what to expect on-board from a parent’s perspective, and Ciao Bambino lists their top ten surprises on the ship. Also incredibly helpful are these tips on getting the most out of a Disney cruise. This video of the AquaDuck water roller coaster from The Vacation Gals was enough to get my kids jumping up and down, and for specific questions, I’ve always found the Disney Moms Panel to be a useful resource.

Identify concerns, then be proactive.

We have the following concerns (all of which we’ll be addressing post-cruise, in case you do, too):

1. Will the ship feel too crowded for our tastes?
2. Will Calvin, notorious for losing his lunch in both cars and on planes, suffer from seasickness?
3. Will our outdoor-adventure loving style of travel be stifled on board a ship?
4. Will a large-ship cruise be ‘green’ enough to appease our eco-conscience?

To ensure a good vacation experience, I’ve purchased Sea Bands, researched the Disney Cruise Line green initiatives (more on that to come), and learned as much as I can about any itinerary stops ahead of time (internet connection is notoriously unreliable onboard, so last-minute research may be frustrating). This way, we can get off the ship and explore the way we prefer to.

Lastly, I want help from you!

If you’ve taken a family cruise, please share a tip in the comment section below, on the Pit Stops for Kids Facebook page, or on Twitter @pitstospforkids! I’ll be retweeting one suggestion per day up until the day we embark, and after our trip, I’ll be featuring the top ten reader suggestions in a video on Expedia.com!

Photos courtesy of Disney Cruise Line.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

Series NavigationThree days aboard the Disney Fantasy in Photos >>

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Linda says:

    We haven’t cruised with our kids, but I wrote this post after my husband and I took our first cruise. http://minnemom.com/2009/02/09/tips-from-an-expert-first-time-cruiser/ I reviewed it before our second cruise and it was still useful then. :-)

  2. I didn’t do this on my first Disney cruise and regretted it: In your carry-on bag (a tote you bring on to the ship when you board) PACK YOUR KIDS’ SWIMSUITS! It can take hours to have your “big bags” delivered to your stateroom (mine came just before we were supposed to be at dinner), and though my kids were happy exploring the ship in the afternoon, it would have been nice for them to burn off some energy in the pool, too.

    To go through security before you board the ship you’re really not supposed to have big bags (you hand those over before you board the ship – your rollerboards and suitcases), but I think maybe each kid can carry a small backpack, and at the least, should have their swim trunks in them! (Mom, too.)

  3. Shore Excursions – To save time and money, book with an independent operator instead of going with the cruise lines. The cruise line tours are usually more expensive and crowded. We only book with a cruise line if we’re tendering to a port (the tour groups usually get off the ship first) or traveling somewhere far and not risk getting left behind.

    The Disney cruise is by far the best we’ve been on. Have a great trip!

  4. Melissa Harley-Gonzalez says:

    I have traveled on a few cruises, including Disney and here are my tips for you! You will have a wonderful time.

    1) Get to the ship early. Sure, the ship probably leaves late afternoon but boarding on some ships can take place early. Arriving around noon will make sure that you can get on board, eat and rest or do a little investigating before you need to do ‘the drill’. Checking in with Disney is even fun at the departure port so take your time, arrive early and enjoy.

    2) Be prepared for the ‘muster drill’. Every voyage will require that you do a drill, remember fire drills in elementary school? It is like that but involves a life jacket, this is mandatory and it can interrupt your afternoon if you don’t remember it will be taking place. It is usually shortly before leaving your departure port. And remember to join the Sail Away Party afterwards!

    3) Take a good hard look at the deck plans. Take note of where you’ll enter the ship and where you may want to go once on board. On my Disney cruise, we headed right to the table where one could reserve brunch at Palo. I baffled my husband when he realized that I knew exactly which corridor to take on which floor, this saved us time and lines later on. We did this before even going into our stateroom and we got the reservation we wanted although it hadn’t been available online in advance.

    4) Go online in advance and reserve everything you can. Recent statistics put use of this service only at 30%. This means that 70% of the other passengers are going to be scrambling on board to make the same plans as you if you leave it ’til then.

    5) Get your room organized! Ship staterooms can be small. This is one of those times that it is actually a good idea to take a moment and unpack your suitcases once you get them into the room. Store clothes in drawers, closets and provided space. Then leaving a open hole at one end of your suitcase using the zippers. Leave only one out at a time and store the others under the bed. Use this as a laundry hamper for the family. No need to put dirty clothes ‘away’… stuff them all in the ‘hamper’ and worry about the ‘mess’ after your vacation. When the suitcase fills, store it under the bed and set up another empty one for filling. Leave one or two smaller suitcases for souvenirs and toiletries.

    Another good storage option is bringing along an ‘over the door shoe hanger’. Hang this over the bathroom door and use it to store room key cards, excursion tickets, sunscreen, sunglasses, luggage keys, and anything else that you want handy, that shouldn’t be just sitting around. This could make for a very messy room otherwise.

    6) Take advantage of the information provided on board each day in the form of the ‘newsletter’ and plan your day accordingly. Bring a highlighter. If you have multiple family members with different interests, bring various highlighter colours. Highlight on the schedule in advance the classes, games, clubs, or activities that you don’t want to miss. Each family member can have their own colour and each persons’ need can be quickly identified at a glance the next day. You don’t want to miss a thing!

    7) Get into the Disney spirit. Find out what ‘parties’ are going to be on board. If there is going to be a pirate party, pick up an eye patch and at your local party shop. Wear it. You’ll be glad you did! These little extras added so much to our trip and they make for great family photos.

    8) Research your ports! You can save lots of time and money by deciding what you want to do at the port in advance, if anything at all. Some ports have lots to do immediately once you are off the ship and you may want to just wander. Others may be boring without a planned excursion. The ports are where you’ll find the most adventure. If you have already visited a destination, you may want to just enjoy a quiet day on board even while the boat is docked. Check out cruisecritic.com, and their ‘ports’ section for information on your port. Then, peruse message boards and blogs to see how others have had great excursions by planning something on their own. In some cases, if there is going to be a busy port itinerary or something specific you’d like to do, you may want to pay extra and book right through Disney Cruise Line (in advance on their website), the extra cost could save a lot of headaches. It is especially important to make sure you’ll be back to the ship in plenty of time before it leaves!

    9) Budget for excursions and tips. These costs are always necessary and not included, so just be aware in advance that these will be part of your expenses. Your cabin crew will also be so amazing that you will want to tip extra.

    10) Send yourself a postcard! If you get a chance to visit Disney’s private island – Castaway Cay, bring some cash and send yourself a postcard from this exclusive destination. Do this at the post office upon arriving to the island, as when you leave, the lines are likely to be longer.

  5. Jinny says:

    WeJustGotBack.com has a lot of cruising with kids content, plus a review of a Disney cruise. WJGB’s editor, Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, has cruised with Disney a couple of times and has plenty of info and tips. Have fun!

  6. Steve says:

    I’ve written a ton of stuff about our cruise, but let me boil it down to four important tips:
    #1) The room directly under the pool can be quite loud in the morning. If you’re not an early riser, you might want to avoid that room if possible.
    #2) If you give your kids one of the wave phones that are in each cabin, make sure they know which number phone they have or you’ll spend all day answering calls from their new friends who are wondering if they’re coming to the dance that night.
    #3) They’re not on the menu, but the Mickey Mouse ice cream bars are available from room service 24 hours a day.
    #4) When playing dodgeball, remember that the boat is moving and you have to throw towards the front of the ship so that your targets will be moved into your throw.

  7. Heather says:

    My family went on our first Disney Cruise last year. If you’d like a first hand experience, you can read about it here http://thefamilysuitcase.com/2012/02/27/family-magic-and-wonder-on-disney-cruise-line/

    We also love road trips and National Parks but were pleasantly surprised how much we LOVED our Disney Cruise experience. Have fun and good luck planning.

  8. Hi Amy –

    Those who’ve met me in-person (like you!) probably had to listen to me blather on and on about how much I love a Disney Cruise! I should get paid commission for how many Disney Cruises I’ve helped sell over the years simply by wearing my Disney Cruise t-shirt and answering the deluge of questions from people considering this type of vacation! Here’s a post about WHY I love me a Disney Cruise: http://​www.travelmamas.com/​wordpress/​disney-cruise-the-ideal-fam​ily-vacation/

    And here’s one about what makes Disney’s Dream awesome for babies and children: http://​www.travelmamas.com/​wordpress/​disneys-new-ship-dream-for-​babies-toddlers-children/

    This is about the adult amenities on Disney Dream: http://​www.travelmamas.com/​wordpress/​disney-ship-dream-for-grown​-ups/

    This is a round-up post about Disney’s Mediterranean cruises: http://​www.travelmamas.com/​wordpress/​disney-mediterranean-cruise​-round-up/

    General budget cruise tips: ! http://​www.travelmamas.com/​wordpress/​family-cruise-budget-tips/

    Can’t wait to see you on Disney Fantasy!!!

Leave a Comment

*

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline