|You're getting a little piece of history with this one. I took this in 2004.|
About the Ships: At the time I'm writing this blog post, Disney Cruise Line has three ships. The Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder are the two older, "classic" ships. They are essentially identical in layout. During 2011, the Disney Wonder will be sailing to Alaska and the Pacific Coast in the summer and the Mexican Rivera in the winter; the Magic will be sailing in the Mediterranean in the summer and to the Caribbean in the winter. In 2012, the Wonder will also do one sailing to Hawaii, while the Magic will be departing on cruises to Canada and the Bahamas from New York over the summer and to the Caribbean from Galveston, Texas in the fall.
The Disney Dream is Disney's newest ship in over ten years, and it is significantly more advanced in terms of guest technology. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the Dream will be making 3, 4, and 5-night cruises to the Bahamas. Additionally, in February 2012, the Disney Fantasy will be introduced. This ship will be the Dream's "sister ship," so like the Magic and the Wonder, they will be very similar. The Fantasy will sail 7-night itineraries to the Caribbean during 2012.
I'm used to Walt Disney World. Will I be bored on the ship? No way! In fact, those who have been on Disney Cruises will likely tell you that they didn't have enough time to do everything they wanted! As Disney does best, they have perfected the perfect balance of activities for kids, activities for adults, and activities for families. Kids ages 3-17 have their own, age separated clubs that are open all day and night and free of charge. Many families find that they have to make their kids leave! Adults, on the other hand, have their own pool... no kids allowed. They also have a fitness center, spa, and adults only restaurants and night clubs for their enjoyment. Family time is cool too, as there are two pools families can enjoy, as well as a sports deck, family restaurants (with rotational dining... so cool!), family shows, etc. Whether you want to leave your kid at the club and have some alone time or hang out together all day, there's something for everyone on the Disney ships.
When and how should I book a cruise? The most important Disney Cruise booking tip I can give you is to book at least a year in advance to get the best price. If you have to cancel later, that's fine, and you'll get your deposit back. But you don't want to book three months out like it's Walt Disney World. Your wallet will be hurting if you do.
If you don't have a travel agent, the easiest way to book a Disney Cruise is online at disneycruise.com. If you click "Search for a Cruise" on top and go to "Find a Cruise," you can search for the perfect cruise by many different criteria. My favorite part, when it takes you to the page that shows you how much the cruise costs, it also shows other cruises that fit that criteria in the left bar. You can easily see if changing your cruise dates can save you (or cost you) a lot of money! Now I don't always use a travel agent, but I do recommend always using one for a cruise. Most will give you a complimentary onboard credit for using their services, and who doesn't love free money? Plus they can take care of all the booking, so you don't have to worry about it.
Booking Cruise Activities: Almost everything on the ship is included in your cruise cost, so you don't have to worry about booking extra activities. But if you want to, you can. For example, all the Disney ships have the adults only restaurant Palo, and the Disney Dream and Fantasy will have an additional adults only restaurant called Remy. You have to make reservations for these ahead of time, which you can either do online or on the ship, but they're on a first-come, first-served basis. To book these online, you must be paid in full. If you're a platinum Castaway Club member (you've taken more than 10 Disney cruises), you get to book 120 days in advance. If you're gold (you've taken 5-9 cruises), you get to book 105 days in advance. If you're silver (you've taken 1-4 cruises), you get to book 90 days in advance, and if you've never taken a Disney cruise, you get to book these cruise activities 75 days in advance. It is at this date that you also get to do online check-in if you'd like.
Additional cruise activities that can be booked at the appropriate number of days in advance include spa treatments and shore excursions (or as Disney calls them, Port Adventures). If you plan on booking a Cabana at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, you can do that too. And do you have a child under the age of 4 who isn't potty trained? You can register them for time at the nursery on board (though unlike the other kids clubs, there is a nominal hourly fee for babies).
So sorry if this is super long, or if you're not into cruise stuff. I just thought this would be a nice little intro for people who were interested but didn't know much about it. I've been on three Disney cruises in the past, and I'm so excited to be able to go on the Dream in August! Perhaps I'll do a few more posts on cruising before (and after) we go!
Do you have any cruise questions for me? Ask me in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook, and I'll answer them in a future post!