My first Disney cruise was in 1998, the inaugural season of the Disney Magic. My husband and I chose to cruise Disney because we love the parks and the movies. We are now Platinum Castaway Club members and will be sailing on our eleventh and twelfth Disney cruises this year. We have no children and the first question most people ask us is whether we were bothered by a large amount of kids on the boat. From our first voyage we learned that this was not a problem. On the Disney ships, the children have their own spaces, filled with fun stuff, and cast members akin to camp counselors who lead them in activities from watching movies to games, to arts and crafts. We signed up for the later dinner seating and most of the younger kids are in bed by then. It is a heart-warming experience to see the children interacting with the characters, the cast and their parents and grandparents. Their smiles will warm your heart whether or not you are travelling with children.
Getting on board is fun. When you embark on the ship, a cast member announces your name, for example “Disney Fantasy, please welcome the Walker family!” You are greeted by applause as you step into the beautiful lobby and get instructions on where to head for lunch until your room is ready, usually around 1:30. Our favorite place is on the top deck at the buffet, Topsiders or Cabanas depending on the ship. It’s relaxing to sit with a view of the port and realize you are finally going on the vacation that you have waited so long for.
Once in your cabin, you can check out all the amenities and get ready for the mandatory safety drill. The drill used to require you to don your lifejacket but thankfully that is no longer the case. You just have to go to your assigned station and check in, this does mean you have to stand in formation with your fellow passengers to simulate how you would need to be standing to get on to a lifeboat if it was needed. It’s hot, cramped and uncomfortable but it’s also very important, so try to make the best of it. Maybe save a good story to tell your family or think of a word game to keep you occupied until it is time to listen to the announcements. You could also introduce yourself to your neighbors, find out where people are from and how many cruises they have been on. Once the announcements are over, the drill is done and you can go back to your cabin or up to the deck for the sail-way party. I have do my “Disney dance” which consists of me jumping up and down and spinning in a circle and flopping onto the bed. It’s a great way to let my happy, excited energy come out.
I love the sail-away party. I’m not a big fan of more modern music but of course the kids love it and everyone is excited about casting off for their vacation. Streamers are handed out and the deck is crowded with people who are dancing and having a good time as a family. The cast members of the entertainment team lead the crowd in dances and sing-a-longs and then the famous Disney characters take the stage . At the conclusion, confetti canons are shot, and you hear the most wonderful sound, the horn on the ship playing the first seven notes of “When You Wish Upon a Star“. Soon after, the ship is moving, on its way through the ocean and to exotic ports of call. One of my favorite memories of the sail-away party was when they played the song “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. My ten-year-old nephew started dancing his little heart out and my sister and I joined in, dancing and singing and loving the moment of pure joy.
Keep an eye out for your “Personal Navigator” which lists all the activities categorized by groups like Families, Adults, and children of various age ranges. This information is also available on the Disney Cruise Line app. This is available through your phone or ipad using the special on-board connection. Make sure that you turn off your phone’s regular wireless settings. One cruise, I got hit with a hefty bill because I did not do this. Turn off cellular roaming and put your phone in airplane mode. Follow the instructions Disney gives you to connect to the app. There are also two “wave phones” in your cabin so you can stay in touch with family members on the ship without using your own phones. Another idea is to use walkie-talkies.
Now you are set. The ship has set sail, you had your lunch, your luggage will soon be delivered to your room. Take some time to explore the ship or decide what activity you want to participate in. Next blog I will go through some fun activity options including fish extenders, making your own magnets, and shipboard tours. Writing this has me anxious for our upcoming cruise which is about 4 months away! I hope you enjoyed this first glimpse into cruising – Disney style!