Saturday, July 6, 2013

Disney Cruise Line Hints and Tips

Disney Cruise Line
Tips and Hints by Michelle
 email with more questions @
dillontravels@gmail.com


Booking
·        Booking as far in advance as possible will get you the cheapest rates
·        Inside staterooms are the most affordable option and on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream there are porthole screens that show a live feed from the ship at all times. This keeps you from feeling claustrophobic. Another bonus is the ability to turn them off with a switch at any time making your room completely dark to nap or sleep in.



·        If you have a Disney Visa card they often have promotions for an onboard credit to pay for the entire vacation with the credit card. This also gives you 6 months interest free to pay your balance. Sometimes they also offer a $50 credit for booking with the Disney Visa.
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·        If you are a family of five or more, consider two inexpensive inside staterooms instead of one larger oceanview room.  Often the price difference is not very much but you would gain an additional queen bed and an additional bathroom. As well as some peace and quiet if you are able to place your children in one room and you in another! There are adjoining rooms if you book early enough but even if you are very close by with older kids you would be fine.

·        There are no fees for using a travel agent when booking any Disney destination. Disney ‘price controls’ so the price will be the same regardless of whether you book it on your own or with any agent.
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·        Fall break is a great time to go on a Disney Cruise if you need to follow a school year calendar, spring break, Christmas break and summer vacation are often more expensive. If you do choose to go in one of these more expensive times I suggest booking as far in advance as possible.

Planning in the months prior to Embarkation
·        There is a pirate night at sea, if you have planned far enough in advance you could try to get pirate outfits on clearance after Halloween.  Dressing up is not required and I would guess it’s about ½ and ½ as far as how many arrive that evening dressed as pirates.  It is fun to see all the families dressed up but you are not pressure to do so yourself.




·        Buy magnets for your room.  These can be placed on your door to identify your room. This serves two purposes.                                  
o   All doors look identical, you will get confused on where your room is and if you have tweens or teens that are going about the ship freely they may not find the room J Magnets will help them identify the room. You can buy magnets or buy only the generic black magnet and make whatever design or print photos and then laminate them and attach them to a magnet to make your door even more individualized. There are lots of ideas online
o   It is fun. Plain and simple, you are the cool kid if your door is more impressively decorated than others! The kids will love the notoriety.
o   Bring magnetic dry erase boards, the small ones are less than $5 at Target or Dollar stores. This will allow you to communicate with other families on board or your own family if you are separated that day.  We also enjoyed leaving drawings on these and inviting others to comment, people would leave the kids messages. My 13 year old son’s newly found friends in the Edge would leave him messages as well.
·        Sand buckets are a great thing to bring if you plan to play at the Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) beach on Disney’s private island.  We like to buy summer hard plastic garden trowels to use so they don’t break, they are $.89 at Walmart but are probably only available in the summer season.  We then leave our sand buckets at the beach and have that extra space for any purchases on the way home.


Sea Sickness
·        I am asked this almost every time I book a Disney Cruise for someone!
·        My husband is VERY seasick so it took me years to get him on a Disney ship.  He finally conceded but would only go for 3 nights for fear of getting violently ill.  Many people encouraged him to get ‘the patch’ from a doctor and he did, no problems AT ALL.
·        When we returned on a 7 night we had both of my seasick parents.  My husband and parents all used the patch and were never sick. Our daughter surprised us by getting sick the first night at dinner, we returned to the room and put a patch on her and she was up and eating within an hour. The patches are a great idea even if you are just getting them for a ‘back up’. It is my understanding you can also get them from the doctor on the ship if necessary.

Passports
·        Official Word: You are not required to have a passport if you come and go from a US Port and stay on the same ship.
·        We decided to take the plunge and spend the money (and it is ridiculous!) to get passports for a few reasons.         
o   If someone in your party becomes sick while at sea there is an onboard doctor and we were shocked that you could turn the bill into insurance (after paying in full on the ship) but the price was only $120.  However, if they require hospitalization and you are on foreign soil you will not be able to fly home without a passport.
o   If you do not make it back in time for whatever reason and miss the ship, you could not fly home.
·        Having said that, it is totally up to you and your family dynamics.  We have one child with some health concerns so I just didn’t want to chance it.
·        You are REQUIRED to have birth certificates that are original NOT copies or the hospital keepsake type with footprints.
·        You will also need your driver’s license.
·        We really liked having passports because that was all we needed.
·        To get passports takes about 4-6 weeks, start the process early:
o   Adults: $135 and Children under 16 $105
o   You do have to go in person to the post office to mail in the application, each of you has to be present. Adult passports are good for 10 years and children’s are good for 5 years.

Packing (this is only a list of things that might not be obvious-bring clothes!)
·        First and foremost remember these rooms are small.  You will have to fit everything you bring into your room.  Try to be minimalistic in your packing!
·        Sand buckets and shovels
·        Magnets
-    Light jacket for cool nights on the ship
·        No need for beach towels for Castaway Cay
·        Bathing suits in carry on because you won't have access to your bags for a couple of hours once you board
·        Workout clothes if you run, jog, walk or use the fitness room
·        Pirate costume if you decide to participate
·        Glow sticks for night time on the ship if you have little ones (dollar stores also sell glow wands and glow swords).
·        Highlighters-different colors for those in your party. This will be helpful to look through each day’s ship events on the ‘Navigator’ that will be left in your stateroom and highlight what each person wants to make sure to do each day.
·        Mugs with lids to fill up with coffee, tea or soda on Deck 9.  Drinks are free but only available on Deck 9. Obviously, they use disposable small cups.  It is empty before you leave that deck!  So, bring mugs or tumblers with lids from home and have them for each person in your party.
·        Sea sickness patches
·        Regular medicines your family typically uses – buying them onboard is outrageous
·        Clothing for dinners: I really pondered this before my first cruise.  The dress varies greatly.           
o   I shopped clearance racks after Easter for my daughter and got her several ‘fancy’ Easter type dresses because she loved being dressed up. I tried to pick them to have the same matching pair of shoes.
o   My older son was irritated he had to dress up at all. He was 13 and I made him wear khakis and navy pants with a polo. That was more than appropriate. Some kids were wearing khaki shorts, the non-cargo dressier kind is definitely fine but wrinkled cargo shorts would be pushing it! 


o   A nice sundress with sweater (it gets chilly) would be totally fine for ladies and girls.
o   There is a formal night, many of the men were wearing ties and the women were dressier than sundresses.
o   I am not a formal person, so we ditched the festivities and ate at an alternate meal at Cabanas that night! (more on that in my dining section)

·        Getting there and Embarkation (setting sail)
o   Once you submit final payment (through me) you will need to go online and sign in to complete some documents for boarding and choose a time to board the ship.
o   I strongly suggest you pick the earliest possible time you think you will arrive.  Why not jump onboard and start enjoying your time as quickly as possible?  If you don’t do this quickly you will be assigned one of the last times and they may or may not let you in sooner.
o   You will arrive at the port-parking there is $120 for a week
o   If you drive and come in the night before I would suggest staying at a place nearby that has stay, park and cruise benefits.
o   If you fly and you arrive the day you sail there is a Disney Cruise line transfer for $70 roundtrip for each member of your party.
o   If you fly and arrive prior to sailing or stay beyond sailing I suggest staying at Walt Disney World in a resort.  Transportation from the airport to the resort is free. Then you would pick up the Disney transfers for $70 per person.
o   I set up all Disney transfers for you.

Additional Costs to consider
·        Parking ($120/week) or transfers ($70 roundtrip/person)
·        Tips for drop off of luggage at Port, usually $1-2/bag
·        Tips for room service-room service is free but you will want to tip them a few dollars. However, you don't want to tip the baristas or bars because it is autmatically added to the check.
·        Gratuities: can be paid in advance or while onboard      
o   3 night cruise: $36/person
o   4 night cruise: $48/person
o   5 night cruise: $60/person
o   7 night cruise: $84/person
·        Alcohol or bottled water

Bringing Alcohol on Board
While adult Guests ages 21 and older may bring alcohol onboard, the following guidelines apply:
  • Alcohol brought on board may not be consumed in any lounge or public area.
  • Guests who arrive in the dining room with a bottle of champagne or wine that has been brought on board will be charged a corking fee of $20.00 per bottle.
  • Beverages must be packed in your carry-on bag—which must not exceed 22 inches wide, 14 inches high and 9 inches deep in dimension
  • Coolers filled with personal items (e.g. soda, alcohol, chips, candy, etc.) may not be brought on board.

Please note: Disney Cruise Line reserves the right to remove fragile items (including beverages) from checked luggage. In such cases, items will be stored and returned at the end of the voyage. Beverage containers are considered fragile and have previously caused damage in checked luggage. All fragile items must be transported inside carry-on luggage.
Dining
·        As you board the ship, meals are being prepared on Deck 9 of the Fantasy/Dream at the buffet in the Cabanas Dining Room.  This is an amazing buffet-we were very pleased, there is something for everyone!
·        Breakfast
o   Room service: you can place your order the night before and it will come at the time you schedule it
o   Buffets at the Cabanas on Deck 9 and in Enchanted Garden on Deck 2 and Royal Court on Deck 3. The main difference at Enchanted Garden and Royal Court was that you had servers getting your drinks and the buffet was smaller.  You are serving yourself in the Cabanas but the buffet is massive.
o   Fyi-we went to breakfast at Enchanted Gardens some days at 7:30 a.m. while are kids were asleep and had a light breakfast…then we went with them to the end of the breakfast buffet at Cabanas at 10…um, yes eating AGAIN! Did I mention there is a fitness room and running track.
·        Lunch
o   Cabanas is the best lunch option in general. There is something for everyone, it is fresh and delicious.
o   If you want to head to Royal Court-they offer non-buffet lunches and they are posted after breakfast each day. We would go down and see what they had then decide where to eat. After a few days, you are stuffed beyond measure and welcome a meal that is measured and calm!
o   Flo’s Café beside the pool on Deck 9 has burgers, sandwiches, salads, wraps and desserts throughout the day.  It is open more than any other meal area on the ship (other than room service)
·        Dinner
o   Your server and assistant server will be with you throughout your week. This is especially nice if you have allergies or dietary concerns. You won’t have to explain yourself to someone new night after night.
o   When you book you will choose Main seating (6 p.m.) or Second Seating (8 pm). Generally, Main seating sells out quickly and the majority of those I book tend to be left with Second Seating. I know that 8 p.m. seems really late but while cruising, you will have plenty to eat and snack on and staying up late is the norm.  Do not fret; you will be fine with this later meal time. We can request Main seating and hope they switch you if it is important to you but it cannot be guaranteed.
o   There are three main dinner halls and you will rotate through each of them.  This is a pre-planned rotation and you will get the order of your dining once you check in to your room.  They offer different meals and have their own theme. They are each fantastic and unique. 
o   If you would like you can skip your dining hall any night to go to Cabanas instead. At night this is a seated, order off a menu meal.  We did this one night and were pleased.
§ You can go any time it is open-not your regularly scheduled meal time
§ Mickey Ice Cream bars are often a dessert option
§ Staff is fun and far less people are dining here so service is very personable.
§ FAST-our teen son was thrilled with how quickly we ordered and were served allowing him to return to the Edge!

Dinner at Remy or Palo
·        These are two dinner options that require reservations and an upcharge. They are both adult only. These adult only dinners do have a dress code: men must wear a suit or tux, ladies must wear a pantsuit, skirt and blouse, or dress. no tennis shoes, jeans, capris, shorts, flip flops or sandals
o   Palo: $20/person upcharge for lunch or dinner
o   Remy: $75/person upcharge for dinner
o   Remy Champagne Brunch: $50/person

Wave Phones
·        This is like a NON-Smart phone!  However, they are wonderful for texting and keeping in touch while out and about on the ship.  There are two free wave phones in each state room and you carry them around to stay in touch.  This was absolutely why we allowed our kids (11 and 14) to roam freely. They could check in with us from wherever they were. Helped located others in our party, get these figured out that first day.

Kids Clubs
·        It’s a Small World Nursery: Children 12 weeks-3 years old, this is the only kids area that charges a fee. You will need to go to them at check in and find out their hours and fees, they are subject to change. This is a great way to have a quite dinner!
·        Oceaneer’s Lab and Club: Children ages 3-12



o   Disney's Oceaneer Club, a children's activity center located on Deck 5, Midship, is the perfect place for kids to dress up as their favorite princess or hero, play computer games and enjoy a wide variety of supervised themed activities throughout the day.
o   Disney's Oceaneer Lab, a children's activity center located at Deck 5, Midship, is the ideal place for children to play and learn while at sea, thanks to the plethora of imaginative, themed activities and games available daily
·        Edge: Children ages 11-14
o   Entertainment
§  Edge features a vast array of hi-tech fun, including:

§  An illuminated dance floor for music lovers
§  Notebook computers for game playing and accessing a unique onboard social media application
§  A state-of-the-art video wall that stretches more than 18 feet long and nearly 5 feet tall. Comprised of 18 individual LCD screens, the video wall acts as a giant screen—its separate screens can even be divided in any combination to accommodate different-sized video feeds
o   Activities at Edge
§  Edge hosts a wide range of fun-filled activities for tween cruisers ages 11 to 14. Check the Personal Navigator—the Disney Cruise Line daily newsletter detailing all there is to see and do—for specific dates and times of activities while onboard.

§  That's Hilarious
·        Through the magic of special effects, costumes and camera tricks, tweens are given the unique opportunity to create a hilarious improvisational comedy show and perform it live for Guests on the ship.
§Ghost Voyagers
·        The ship is passing through mysterious waters of history and legend. Strange occurrences have happened to several passengers in the past. Were these circumstances actual ghosts or just the imaginations of the people who witnessed them? Equipped with state-of-the-art ghost-hunting gear, it's up to the "Ghost Voyagers" to find out.
·        Vibe: Children ages 14-17

o   Teens will find big-screen plasma TVs, a lounge area, dance floor and the latest gaming technology. Teens have plenty of freedom on a Disney cruise under the watchful eyes of trained counselors. Teens can see "What's Happening Today" in the Personal Navigator. There are also teen-only excursions on Castaway Cay, Disney's very own private island paradise.

The Ship-things to see and do
·        Running track on Deck with a 1/3 mile lap on Deck 4
·        Movie theater with first run movies complimentary running throughout the day
·        Live theater performances nightly before or after dinner
·        Kids Clubs
-   Mini golf, basketball and sports

·        Night Clubs that are adult only
·        Teen clubs
·        Comedy shows
·        Adult only swim and quiet areas
·        Adult only meals
·        Running track
·        Fitness room
·        Spa
·        Pool, Slide, Hot Tub
·        Detective game throughout the ship with several versions to play it multiple times

·        Character meet and greets

·        Free ship tours
·        Family games and activities
·        Spa tours the first day

Miscellaneous Ramblings from Michelle
·        There are tiny meal snack areas in odd locations throughout the ship…these are free and we made a game of checking them out several times a day. There is one near the barista on Deck 4-it is a simply glass case with little gourmet snack and desserts that change throughout the day. There is another one in the adult only pool area inside the ‘indoor reading room’
·        Go on a free ship tour (look in the Navigator to find times) early in the week. My husband and I did this then took our kids and parents back to key areas to show them neat things we had learned.
·        The Skyline nightclub has a wall that changes to the type of music every fifteen minutes. It will show the skyline to different major cities all over the world.  If you look closely, very closely, you will see that there are tiny Star Wars people in every city.  The Imagineers that created this room did that to ‘sign’ their masterpiece!
·        The ice cream flavors at Cabanas changed throughout the week
·        Go to the fast food by the pool ‘Flo’s Café’ and get cookies, then go across the deck to the self -serve soft ice cream and make a messy ice cream sandwich

·        Go in every bathroom on the ship, they are individualized and pretty amazing.  The ones in the adult, club area are especially impressive. 
·        Adult only, club areas are actually open to anyone and a ghost town during the day. If your kids are Disney enthusiasts like mine, they would enjoy sneaking through and seeing it all. (Including the bathrooms J)
·        Staying on the ship when it is in port allows you to go down that amazing slide, over and over with very little wait!

·        Order room service at least once, cookies before bed for kids is a treat they will talk about forever!  My daughter loved getting a cheese tray: cheese, crackers and fruit.
·        Fresh fruit on the ship was beyond delicious
·        We picked a table at Cabanas to eat at and ate there every time. This ended up being a huge help with older kids that could meet up with us and my parents along.  They would get there early and get the table sometimes and it was no trouble finding them.
-    Eat light at dinner on Pirate Night because there is a wonderful 'light meal and desserts' after the pirate fireworks, it is all decorated with the pirate theme and the food was excellent.

·        Laundry is available on the ship.  This may or may not matter to you. We prefer to travel light then do laundry. We start it, move on and keep an eye on the time so we don’t sit in the laundry room.  The washer and drier are small and of course you have to pay. You use your state room key to operate laundry. Bring your own detergent to save.
·        Make sure and do the big AquaDuck at night as well as during the day. It is lit up after dark making the ride even more fun!


·        If your room shower has you feeling a little claustrophobic, head over to the spa and walk right on back to the fitness showers on the left! These are big showers with towels and all the bathroom essentials are supplied.
·        Fireworks are on pirate night, we watched this in solitude from the verandah outside Cabanas…I’m still not convinced we were allowed to be there but no one made us move!

Excursions
·        These are available to book prior to sailing or while on the ship at the excursions desk.


Tulum
·        The big advantage to doing excursions through the authorized Disney groups is they guarantee they will get you back to the ship on time for boarding. If you go with someone you find on your own and they have car trouble or something goes wrong, you are on your own and may miss re-boarding. They will leave without you!

Booking another Cruise
·        While onboard a Disney Cruise is the best possible price you will ever get for another Disney Cruise.  There will be information in your room to book as well as a booking desk.  They will offer you incentives like a booking credit for your next voyage and the lowest possible prices.  You will be very tempted to book, remember it is 100% refundable. I suggest you book if you think it is a possibility because you can move the dates and keep the onboard credit offer. 
·        If you do book onboard there is a spot to list my name as your travel agent, I hope you will offer me the opportunity to plan your trip again. 

Deembarkation (Your sad return to reality)
·        The night before you leave, you will need to put the majority of your luggage in the hall for them to pick up and take out to customs for you. 
·        You will keep only what you have to have for the final morning. I highly suggest you get rid of EVERYTHING you can. Obviously, everyone will be leaving that ship at nearly the same time. While Disney does an amazing job of managing this departure, you still will want the least amount to lug around with you.
·        When you get up, you will get ready and leave your cabin for the last time, report to breakfast then exit the ship to customs.
·        All of your luggage will be deliberately placed in a labeled area and you will easily retrieve it and line up to go through the customs clearance.
This is a quick, painless process. 

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