Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disney Cruising 101

You're getting a little piece of history with this one.  I took this in 2004.
Some of you may know that I've had some Disney Cruise drama these past few months.  My family had booked a cruise, then decided to cancel it, then decided to keep it, then decided to cancel it, etc.  Well, I can finally say that our cruise is paid off!  I'm going on the Disney Dream in August!  Now some of you may never have cruised before, so I'm going to give you some Disney Cruising 101 to help you out if you're interested.

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  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!


  1. Have fun! I got engaged on the Disney Dream (with the help of Lou Mongello :) ) and the whole trip was so much fun! It was my first cruise and I agree that I wasn't sure what to expect and if I'd be bored, but I ended up being pretty overwhelmed by how much there was to do (and not enough time to do it!) for the first few days. Then I realized the solution is to just re-book for the honeymoon hehe- yep, I booked the honeymoon the day I got engaged lol.

  2. Hi Amanda! I'm that weird cast member who talked to you in the Confectionary!! :)

    When my college program ended in february me and my boyfriend went on a Disney Cruise (on the Dream!!) and it was just amazing!! And to my surprise, it was the wdw radio cruise! The new ship is unbelievable and there's so much to do!! Specially for Disney lovers like us :) I was afraid my boyfriend would get tired of all the characters and stuff, but he loved everything. He really liked the food (it's so good!! And you can get as many Mickey premium bars as you want for dessert!) and the "building the Disney Dream" presentation.

    Have you thought about the port adventures? I highly recommend the parasailing at Castaway Cay, even if you're a little afraid of heights. It's really smooth and so peaceful when you're up there. And you get to see the ship and all castaway cay from the sea!! It's amazing, I just wish you were up in the air for a little longer.

    I don't mean to sound like a stalker or anything, but I love you're blog and your tweets! I can really relate to being a huge Disney fan and a college student :)

    Not that you don't know it already, but you're gonna absolutely love your cruise!

  3. I love cruising and I can't wait to take a Disney one. We're looking at an Alaskan one sometime next year. :)

  4. Hey analise I was on the WDW Radio Cruise too! I was the one who got engaged at the welcome meet :)

    Good to know about the parasailing, we're thinking about doing it on the honeymoon but I'm a bit afraid of heights. Maybe we'll give it a try anyways. Can you go with two people at the same time?

  5. I'm curious to know if you plan on attending any of the college student meets on board?

  6. Hi Angela! Congratulations on your engagement!!

    About the parasailing, yes, two people can go up at the same time. I went with my boyfriend, of course, and it was a very special moment up there, seeing the Disney Dream up close and from the top and Castaway Cay.

    I was very nervous during the boat ride (it's a bumpy ride and you get wet) and while the others were doing (about 8 people go in the boat each time) but when we finally went up it was just amazing. Really. I was not scared anymore. It doesn't feel like you're so high when you're up there and the water is so clear sometimes you can see the bottom of the sea. And it's really smooth, you don't feel like you're being pulled as fast as you actually are.

    You really should do it, it's amazing and not scary at all! :)

  7. Angela, congratulations! A Disney Cruise honeymoon will be amazing! Which is another great tip... you can get a great deal by booking another cruise while you're on board!

    Anelise, you mean you were the AWESOME cast member who talked to you in the Confectionary! I hope my boyfriend likes the cruise too! He's been on non-Disney cruises, and he's a big WDW fan, so hopefully he will. I think there's enough non-Disney stuff to do also if he gets overwhelmed. We're actually not doing Port Adventures because I'm on a budget, and we're doing WDW after the cruise, which is taking up a large portion of my budget. My sister is doing two, though, a sea lion swim at Nassau and parasailing at Castaway Cay. I've been parasailing before in Florida though, and it is really awesome! My boyfriend's not really into it, though. Oh well.

    Hedy, I do plan on attending at least the first college student meet, just to check out the other people our age. I'll be with James, so it's not like I'll really need to make some friends, but it would be nice to meet other people. If the first one goes well, perhaps we'll go to some of the other meets.

  8. Jessica, if you're looking at a specific cruise now, book it! You'll get your deposit back if you cancel, but if you do decide to go, you'll have your lower rate locked in!

  9. Oh ya rebooking is great, and the best part about it is that you save lots of money, and it's totally refundable. So, if we decided to do the cruise for the honeymoon we've saved a bunch of money, and if we changed our mind to do something else we can be fully refunded :) OF course, the next trip might be different as we were a bit spoiled on the last trip having our travel agent with us- she got champagne delivered to our room, arranged for the Captain of the ship to meet us, had little treats waiting for us in our room... haha might not be the same next time!

    My fiance isn't so much a Disney fan and he was impressed by the fact that on much of the cruise the Disney bits were subtle and could largely be avoided. In fact, he thought that the only thing on the entire cruise where it was fully DISNEY were the shows- and his favourite part of Disney World are the shows so he loved it anyways. The adults pool was also a huge life-saver since the kids pool was NUTS and super loud.

  10. Angela, hopefully James feels the same way about the ship! I really think/hope he's going to like it!