A while back, Trips + Giggles' traveling mom and our Disney Cruise Fairy Godmother, Tracy, gave us the lowdown on the Disney Dream Cruise. Since then, we've had a few reader questions about Disney cruises that we've done our best to answer. But Clueless in Texas had a few questions that we thought Tracy should answer in-depth.
To be brutally honest, this question came into us nearly a year ago and Tracy answered it pretty promptly but we didn't get around to jazzing it up into a post until now. So...it's not exactly the most current but hopefully there are some nuggets in there that you can use.
If you have another question about Disney cruises, send them to us and we'll have our fairy godmother answer them promptly for you! Promise!
DISNEY CRUISE QUESTION:
Thanks so much for your review! I found it to be very helpful...much appreciated. I will be taking my family (2 girls..8 and 4) on the Disney Dream at the end of September and I've been reading everything in sight trying to figure out what to do and what not to do! This is our first cruise and my children's first Disney experience. I've had a hard time trying to figure out logistics of when to do things on the ship coordinating with different themed nights and dinners:)
I've got both of my girls booked at the bibbity bobbity boutique but I'm concerned it won't line up with other activities. Our cruise is having a Halloween party one night and I know one night is pirate night. Also, is there a formal night on every cruise? We are taking the 4 night cruise with one day at sea. How crazy is the first day? I know there is the party when we set sail and I'm sure the pools are super crowded. What are your thoughts on main seating vs. second seating for dinner? Or just skipping it altogether one night and grabbing dinner somewhere else on your own time? I've been really conflicted over getting off the boat at Nassau. The excursions are crazy expensive for a family of 4 in my opinion. Is EVERYTHING closed on the ship? That is something I just learned reading your review. Thanks for your help!
Clueless in Texas...
OUR DISNEY CRUISE FAIRY GODMOTHER SAYS...
Hi Clueless in Texas...
Congratulations on your first Disney Cruise! You have excellent timing, as I have just returned this past week from another fun filled trip on the Disney Dream. Hopefully, I will be able to answer all of your questions with the most up to date information available.
THAT FIRST DAY
Soooo, lets start right from the beginning—the first day. The earlier you book your arrival at the terminal, the more time you will have in relative calmness at the terminal and on the ship. Staterooms are scheduled to be available at 1:30pm, but if you are able to board before then, definitely take advantage of it.
Pack a bag with bathing suits and head to the lunch buffet either next to the pool at Cabanas, or in the sit-down dining restaurant, Enchanted Garden. Cabanas will get more and more crowded the later it gets in the day, but the Enchanted Garden remains relatively sane throughout the entire lunch service. The pools also will get more and more crowded the closer it gets to departure. So if a dip in the Mickey pool is a top priority early on, you may want to go for a swim when you first get on the ship, then head down to the Enchanted Garden for a calm lunch when the pool gets intolerable.
There is also a Nemo Splash Zone behind the pool, in the coveted shade. It is for ages 8 and under, and the age limit is strictly enforced (as my 12-year-old found out the hard way when the staff threatened to make him walk the plank if they found him hiding out in there again.) The pools will close somewhere around 3:30 so they can prepare for the Sail Away dance party.
They lay the dance floor right over the pools, so once that is done make your way to the front, as close to the jumbo movie screen as possible. That is where the show will take place at 4:30. If you can't get near enough for your girls to be able to see, head up a deck and you should be able to get right in front with a perfect arial view. When the show is over and the ship is officially underway, the pools will reopen.
I found a great time to squeeze in something to do was the day of departure at 5:30. My daughter and I both headed to the spa for pedicures. SECRET TIP: The ship does a secret little girl mani/pedi party only on day of departure, while you relax in solitude in other area of spa. During the rest of cruise, the spa is adults only.
WHICH SEATING TO GET?
The 5:30 time, however, only works if you have the second dinner seating. I have had both, and I will say I prefer the second seating. To me it feels less rushed, so that you can relax and move about your day without worrying about being late for dinner. That being said, everything to do onboard is scheduled around the dinner seatings equally. You will have the exact same opportunities to do and see things regardless of which dinner seating you attend. So pick which one you think works better for your children. My children have always been night owls. They are perfectly happy to have a late lunch and party on throughout the evening.
You will get your restaurant rotation when you arrive on the ship. By far, the favorite is Animators Palate. If you are going to skip a restaurant one night, make sure it is not that one. During dinner service, various fish "swim" throughout the restaurant and interact with the guests who are sitting nearby. The kids think it is the most amazing thing ever. If you do decide to skip a restaurant one evening, I recommend heading back to Cabanas next to the pool. It transforms from buffet chaos to a practically empty al fresco restaurant serving a very similar menu to what is being served in the assigned restaurants. It can be a welcome change to the regular scheduled dining.
TO GET OFF THE SHIP IN NASSAU OR NOT TO GET OFF THE SHIP?
On to activities! I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of getting off the ship in Nassau. I agree, the excursions are extremely expensive, particularly given the already hefty cost of the cruise. If you feel you are too close to Atlantis to miss it, I would suggest purchasing a day pass directly through Atlantis and taking a taxi from the ship dock. I have not done this personally, but I have a friend who did who said it saved her a significant amount of money and was pretty pain free.
If you have any interest in duty-free shopping, you can walk off the ship and into the downtown area. But usually, I stay on the ship when it is in port at Nassau. Only the shops on the ship will be closed while in port. Everything else is absolutely open and yours to use with significantly fewer people on board. This is an excellent time to head to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, take in a movie, sit by the pool, or play some mini-golf. If you are looking for a time where you are guaranteed to not have an activity schedule conflict, I would say while in port in Nassau is it.
I also highly recommend securing a free ticket, through your online check in, to the Princess Anna & Queen Elsa photo opportunities. This is a new feature, and it makes getting to see all of your favorite princesses completely pain free. In the past, you waited in crazy long lines to get to see the princesses. Now, I took my daughter to see Anna & Elsa and we were the only people there! It was fantastic. If you don't get a ticket, some of the princesses are still available, although they are not always posted on the schedule. So be ready for them to pop up unannounced, particularly at the farewell party on the last night.
Most character appearances are also scheduled around the breakfast and dinner seatings. There will be some in the morning, none in the afternoon, will pick up again when ship is getting ready to sail from Nassau. The live shows are also focused around the dinner service. The second seating goes to the live show while the first seating is at dinner and vice versa. Another thing to do during the alternate dinner service—the Aquaduck. The lines for the water ride move very slowly, and can get to be an hour or more. But if you go during dinner, the line is practically nonexistent. My children rode it all alone for an hour while the early dinner seating was in full swing.
Unfortunately, I have not sailed on the 4-night with a day at sea (I am jealous!!), but I will give you an educated guess. I know they do not have formal night on every sailing, so I would say your Halloween themed night (so fun!) will replace formal night. I would also say that they will pack in a bunch of extra activities during your day at sea, unlike the other days when you are in port and the ship is relatively quiet mid-day.
The ship is also a ghost town when in port at Castaway Cay but I wouldn't miss getting off at port here to do something on the ship. Oh, and a word on Bippity Boppity and the theme nights—the boutique will transform to mirror your theme. So, if your girls have their hearts set on being made up as their favorite princess, don't schedule their time at the boutique on, for example, pirate night. They will only be creating pirates that day, there will not be a princess in sight.
I hope I have answered all of your questions!! Have a great time on your first Disney Cruise, let us know what goes on during the day at sea!!
Your Disney Cruise Fairy Godmother