[Travel Advice] Disney Cruise

Random Observation/Comment #792: If I spent any more days on the cruise, they’d have to roll me back home.

We did the 5-night Disney Cruise with Marvel Day at Sea leaving from Miami and it was incredibly fun. Here’s the things we loved and would do differently.

Things Disney Cruise Does Well

  • Large friendly staff – I’ve heard it’s close to 1 staff member to 2 passengers on the ship. Everyone on board was extremely kind
  • Drop off kids club with activities – They sell tickets so that all of the kids (1 to 10 years old) on board the cruise can fit into the 5th floor clubs and tweens/teens (10-18) can fit into the teen areas. Even if there’s extra space for adults, they won’t book extra rooms. The kids club goes from 8am to midnight with full time staff helping with interactive entertainment and dancing.
  • Kid safety precautions – There’s antennas throughout the ship to locate any kid with the locked wristband. Since kids can’t leave the ship without parents, I felt pretty confident we’ll eventually find someone lost (minus some emotional scarring)
  • Cruise app has pretty good features – Even though there were some bugs with the messaging app, we were able to stay in touch and easily browse/book the jam packed events across the ship.
  • Walt Disney theater shows were incredible – The Golden Mickey and Beauty and the Beast Shows were my favorite, but all of the nightly productions were very high quality
  • Fun themes – The Marvel day had encounters with all the Marvel super heroes with a big 10:30PM show on the top deck with fireworks. The Pirate theme was great for the beach outings. In general we saw lots of eager kids doing the encounters and autographs with super heroes and princesses.
  • Encounters – Instead of waiting hours in Disney World/Land, you can jump on a 10-15 family line and get a 1 minute conversation with autograph and professional photos with your encounter of choice. The 15-minute encounter sessions gives you a group of 4 characters.
  • Bippidi Boppidy Boutique – By far one of my favorite parts of the whole cruise was seeing my daughter turn around in the chair and see herself with an Elsa pony tail hair extensions, eye shadow makeup, nails, new dress, and pretty sprinkles/glitter in her hair. What a great moment.
  • Overall delicious food – I thought it’d be burgers/chicken nuggets/pizza/fries/hot dogs for everyone, but there was shrimp cocktail and crab legs at buffet and tons of dinner sit down options with different menus per night.
  • Super attentive dedicated staff for dinners – Special call out to having the same servers for all 5 nights and rotations to different restaurants. They even cut the food for your kids.
  • International crew covering lots of languages – I think the staff is also trained on how to interact with kids and possible meltdowns.
  • No parent judgement zone – We’re all on the same boat (literally). It’s just a matter of “when” your child will go through a meltdown.
  • Fancy Remy dinner – We ordered a 5-course Michelin-grade pre-fixe French menu for $125 and easily got 8 courses with great recommendations on wine. It was a beautiful 3-hour dining experience.

Things Disney Cruise can Improve

  • Options for younger kids that don’t stay up past 9pm – I don’t think there’s a viable solution for this unless you’re able to install some baby camera or you trust your kid will just sleep in the room. We wound up rotating parenting duty or just keeping Evie up until as late as she could go. Luckily we had the 2-hour jetlag in our favor so she could usually get to 11pm.
  • Dinner with shows would be cool – If Alamo Drafthouse could do it, maybe there could be theaters from 6-8PM that includes dining options. We chose the 8:15PM dining options.
  • Feedback/Comment card was pretty long – I did fill it out with high marks all around, but it took a long time.
  • Disembarking nerves – I don’t think this is the cruise’s fault, but it did feel like a bit of a mess and a lot of waiting getting off the ship. It was nice that they were able to take the big luggage off from the night before. There’s also an express check-out if people just want to leave without sit-down breakfast.

General Advice

  • Book through a travel agent – Luckily we had a connection with someone that helped with a lot of the logistics and coordination for the actual booking
  • Set up the cruise app for your group – The cruise app messaging has a privacy setting where you can’t search by names. Instead, you have to ask for people’s chat ID number and message them to be added to your address book. Once you do this, then you can add multiple people to the same group and get a chatroom going.
  • You can bring up to 2 bottles of wine per person – Everyone brought wine and wound up drinking a lot of it on the last night. The drinks are reasonably priced and it was nice to get something at a bar rather than sneak a drink in the room
  • Remember to bring a bottle opener – Screw top roses were good (as they had a minifridge that fits at least 3 bottles)
  • Beach time was awesome for kids – We usually go crazy thinking about what excursion package we want to follow, but just showing up on the Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay beaches was perfect. Just bring some collapsible buckets and goggles. It also makes things less stressful for disembarking leisurely closer to 9:30AM than making it for a group trip.
  • Since everything is metal, you can use magnets throughout the cabin – We packed some little magnet hooks for extra hanging space. I love the door decorations.
  • Pack a multi extension cord for more outlets – There’s probably enough outlets, but maybe you have a lot of devices to charge.
  • Bring lanyards for holding room keys around your neck – They don’t look great in pictures, so remember to take them off during encounters and professional photos.
  • Dramamine nausea pills – Pack them in case you get sea sick. The ship travels around 20MPH, so it’s not bad at all
  • Pack $200 in cash for tips, transportation shuttles, and food at the excursion spots – As a person that doesn’t carry cash ever, we were able to work around this by getting a deal with paying credit card for $20 or adjusting tips at guest services for end of trip tips to waiters.
  • Pack some laundry detergent as you can do a small load of laundry on each floor – The laundry machines are for a small load. It was cool that the app gives you a notification when the machines are done washing and drying.
  • Bring bathroom spray – Cabin bathrooms are small without fans.
  • Plan dinner reservations early – We did 8:15pm reservations so we could make those 6-7pm events, but it was a bit late for Evie. I still think it was the right choice because we wound up having late lunches and lots of snacks.
  • Consider scheduling Bippidi Boppidi Boutique closer to the evening of the day at seas – It won’t interfere with the time on the islands and you can enjoy all the makeup and dress-up with dinner
  • Buy the popcorn bucket on the first show – The refills are only $1.50 and there are plenty of shows
  • Book to get on the ship early – The ship boarding process takes time, but if you get in early you can grab lunch at the buffet while they get your room ready.
Yay, selfies!

Itinerary

Miami

We got in 2 days early so we could see a friend in Miami. The Marriot hotels are usually really good. We stayed at the AC Wynward Marriot. Close by there was a sushi spot called Kraken Crudo with some interesting sushi rolls.

Disney Cruise

Day 1 – Boarding

Lunch at buffet – It’s hard to get seats for 6 families, but we managed. My favorite combo was peeling the crab meat and putting it in the soup.

Review 5th floor kids drop off youth activity programming – It takes a few minutes, but you need to register your kiddo into the 5th floor club and give a “secret phrase” for people to say when checking them out. We added the whole crew so anyone can do kiddo pickup or drop off.

Random Goofy encounter! – Random character greetings are great. Lines are usually short and they autograph a book for you so be sure to keep that around.

Sail away party – All the Disney characters came out to sing and dance

Golden Mickeys show – Great 6-7PM showing with lots of little scenes. Definitely get the popcorn and super kid friendly.

Too tired for dinner, so got room service – Evie was too tired for dinner, so we ordered room service chicken tenders, soup, pizza, buffalo wings, and drinks. The great thing about the TVs is they have all the Disney movies you could ask for On Demand. I’m sure Evie would have been happy staying in the room all day watching TV.

Day 2 – Marvel Day at Sea

Breakfast and Special coffee spot – If you’re into paying for espresso coffee then you can get one by the 18-and-older area on the 11th floor. There’s a cafe that’s usually empty.

Bippidi boppodi boop dress up – So precious. Definitely worth it. Takes around 30 minutes and the “fairy godmothers” helping out are really kind.

Chill by the pool with lunch and hanging around – We bumped into some more super heroes to take pictures with while walking past the main atrium area on the 3rd floor.

Strange Academy – Short 30 min Walt Disney Theater show with lots of action.

Drop off kids so we could have 8:15PM dinner – I could honestly eat that porcini mushroom soup all day. The fish from the first night’s dinner was surprisingly good.

Awesome fireworks show at night with the avengers and multi-verse warp – They sure do know how to put on a good show. I liked how the fireworks were from Ironman and Captain Marvel attacking enemies in the sky. For those who could stay up later, they do some greetings at the kids area right after the show.

Day 3 – Grand Cayman and pirate day

Princess encounters – This was a free encounter we just randomly booked because we woke up late for disembarking to the beach early. Highly recommend dedicated encounters. Shorter lines because they require planned sign-up.

Grand Cayman commute to the public beach – Note the 15 minute mini bus ride to the public beach costs $6 per person and the bus will not leave until it’s 100% full. If you’re the first on the bus then you might have to wait up to 30 minutes. The beach itself was super beautiful. Turquoise blue with very little waves.

Back to the ship missing lunch – Since there was only jerk chicken on the beach, we tried to make it back to the ship for buffet lunch. Unfortunately, we missed it by 5 minutes (lunch is 11:30-2:30PM service) and had to eat pizza slices.

Pirate theme day – After the beach we just chilled out for a few hours by the pool and then changed into some pirate costumes.

Magic show with John Cassidy – It was more crowd work comedy with balloons and sprinkling of magic. Lots of jokes for the parents watching.

80s music trivia highly recommended! – There was a really funny comedian hosting the 80s music trivia and we were all really drunk.

(Pirate Night fireworks) – The night got away from us and we barely made it through dinner. The fireworks were apparently really good.

Day 4 – At Sea

Palo brunch – The adults scheduled a fancy brunch together and then two separate dinners at Palo and Remy for girls and boys nights out. This group brunch was so yummy. Main courses were not as good as the appetizers (or I was just too full because we ordered everything on the menu). Obligatory cigars and cognac to celebrate.

Bingo – 3:45PM buying tickets and then 4PM group fun. We won $450 for the first round! I didn’t even know winning cruise ship bingo was on my bucket list, but it definitely was fun.

Beauty and Beast – This was THE BEST. I’d watch it multiple showings. There were full songs and beautiful sets.

Silent disco is so much fun – I’m pretty sure we’re going to order some silent disco headphones for parties in the North End. One of the most fun things for the kids and adults.

Dinner at animators palate – The whole dining place has screens and there’s usually some interactive talking with the sea creatures. I guess they see us on camera because it was clear they weren’t just doing canned responses.

Day 5 – Castaway Cay

Prompt disembarking at 830 – The public beach area gets pretty busy quickly, so we wanted to reserve some seats. The whole island is big enough to need a tram. Trams are much faster than walking the 3 miles. There’s also a 5k track if you’re into that kind of thing.

Beach pelican point – This was for the kiddos. The water in the cove area is less than 3 ft for a fairly long part of the beach. We stayed here for about 3 hours.

Lunch BBQ on the island – There’s 3 restaurants across the island and they’re all incredibly well staffed. It’s a pure art to be able to scale this well.

Glass bottom boat – 30 minute excursion with some fish feeding. I don’t think it’s worth the money for Castaway Cay, but the reefs in Grand Cayman were nicer and included 2 ship wrecks.

Remy dinner – Literally the best and service food of the trip. We stayed for 3 hours and drank 4 bottles of $100+ wine. This was so decadent and an absolute treat.

Farewell event – We were too tired to see this in full, but there are fireworks and lots of warm hugs. You also need to pack your big luggage and have them outside by 10:30PM. Props to the wife for doing this on my behalf.

Day 6 – Disembark and South Beach Miami

Breakfast – Even though you’re carrying a few of your bags, I recommend taking your time. There’s going to be a lot of waiting, but everyone will be off the boat. We got out around 10:30AM.

Dayuse.com in South beach Miami was perfect – It was totally worth the $150 from 11AM-5PM just to put the bags down and take a shower.

Lunch at Call Me Cuban with a “large” drink – Absolutely delicious Cuban food here. I highly recommend the ceviche and the soups. A large mojito was very large.

Flight home and pass out – Why is Colorado so cold? It’s good to be home.

~See Lemons Love Disney Cruises