Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cruisin’ Along – Why You Should Book a Disney Cruise NOW!!

Do you love Disney’s attention to detail, customer service and all-encompassing feeling of magic?

Do you also wish sometimes you could experience all of that without the crushing crowds and heat of being inside a Disney park?

Then Disney Cruise Line is the place for you!
Disney Cruise Ship

I was skeptical at first, too.  As Walt Disney World vets, I wondered if we’d still feel that Disney magic if we weren’t in a park?  Would my kids be bored? Would my husband and I actually get to RELAX?  What if we get seasick / hate being on a boat / have bad weather / can’t find anything to do in port? My list of reasons “why not” to do a cruise was endless. But now that we’ve done it, I can’t believe we waited so long! 
Picture with Captain Mickey before boarding

So let me tell you all the reasons WHY…..!

Rotational Dining
Rotational dining is a feature unique to DCL.  You will select either main or late dining when you book your cruise, and this will be your assigned dinner time during your cruise.  While the times can vary by itinerary, main dining is usually around 5:45 and late is around 8:15.  Each night, you will be assigned a different Main Dining Room for your evening meal.  Your table guests, table number and servers will remain the same every night, even as you move restaurants!  By keeping the same servers night after night, they really get to know you and your family, and will have soon learned your favorite drink, how you like your meat prepared, and which kid will only eat plain noodles and broccoli!  By the end of the cruise, your servers will definitely feel like part of your family, and can help make your dining experience truly exceptional.  Loved the dessert you had last night in a different dining room?  They can get it for you!  Don’t know which appetizer to choose?  They’ll bring them all!  Kids are done eating and bored?  Ours even did magic tricks for them!

Activities for All Ages
Traveling with kids? There are four distinct Youth Clubs are located on each of the 4 ships, with activities and events tailored to specific ages as follows:
·         Oceaneer Club – ages 3-12
·         Oceaneer Lab – ages 3-12
·         Edge – ages 11-14
·         Vibe – ages 14-17

Kids' Clubs
The Oceaneer Club and Lab are connected, and children are able to move freely between the activities offered at both.  While the Lab focuses on learning while having fun, the Club is pure Disney fantasy, including performances, storytelling, dress-up opportunities and arts and crafts.  (Note that children must meet both the 3 year old age minimum AND be fully potty trained to participate in the youth activities.)

Each ship also offers the “it’s a small world nursery” for those aged 6 months to 3 years (or ages 1-3 on Transatlantic, Hawaii and Panama Canal itineraries).  Only the nursery requires reservations, and carries an additional cost.  Access to all other youth clubs is provided free of charge, and kids may come and go as they please.
No kids? No problem! There are also several “adults only” areas on each ship, including nightclubs, lounges and pools. You can also choose to pamper yourself at the spa or take part in beverage tastings and mixology classes! Each ship even offers adult-exclusive dining options (available by reservation and with an additional cost).

Broadway Caliber Shows
Live productions are performed 2 times each evening, to accommodate the dining schedules.  Main dining will watch the second show; late dining will watch the first.  Snacks and beverages are available for purchase outside the theater – and the ships even offer a refillable popcorn bucket, just like the parks!

You can also watch full length feature films in the Walt Disney Theater on all 4 ships, including PremEARS that are released during your sailing!

Special Events
All cruises include Disney’s top of the line entertainment, activities and character experiences.  But you can also experience themed and seasonal offerings on select sailings:

·         Pirate Night –where the servers, characters and guests don their favorite pirate gear and enjoy the “Pirates in the Caribbean” Deck Party, complete with an industry first…fireworks at sea!  Offered on all 4 ships on most Bahamian and Caribbean sailings.
Pirate Night

·         Star Wars Day at Sea – including galactic activities, guest speakers, costume celebrations and epic character experiences.  Currently available on select 7-night Caribbean sailings from January 2018 through April 2018.
·         Marvel Day at Sea – which includes action packed activities and shows as well as heroic character encounters.  Currently available on select 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami in early 2018.
·         Halloween on the High Seas – Experience thrills and chills at sea, including eerie entertainment and not-so-scary parties.  And don’t miss Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream!  Offered on all 4 ships on most itineraries departing during September and October.
·         Very Merrytime Cruises – Seasonal fun includes themed crafts and activities, story time with Mrs. Claus and jolly holiday d├ęcor around every corner, including a life-sized gingerbread house and 24-foot Christmas tree!  Even Castaway Cay is transformed into a Winter Wonderland during these sailings! Offered on all 4 ships on most itineraries departing mid-November through Christmas. 

Variety of Ports / Itineraries
Disney Cruise Line currently offers sailings to the following destinations: Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, California Coast, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Panama Canal and Transatlantic.  Sailings range from 2 to 14 nights, with new destinations and itineraries constantly being added.

Prices are generally the lowest they will be on “opening day” – the date that booking for a particular cruise opens.  The cost will only go up as the ship fills, so the earlier you book the better.  Unlike booking a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, with the hopes of being able to apply a discount at a later date, DCL rarely offers promotions. They simply don’t need to – their ships are at near-capacity year-round.  While last minute deals can be found on occasion, they are often for military or Florida residents only. 

DCL bookings are currently open through May 2019.  Summer 2019 itineraries will be released in early 2018 and the remainder of 2019 in late spring 2018.  Mark your calendars NOW if you are considering traveling during one of those times to snag an opening day rate!

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay
Did you know that Disney has its own private island in the Bahamas?  That’s right, Castaway Cay is a private island, with access exclusive only to those on a DCL sailing.  The island is staffed by Disney employees, which means you’ll get the same level of customer service on the island that you are getting on the ship.

All Bahamian and Caribbean sailings include a stop at Castaway Cay as one of the ports.  Some itineraries even offer two stops at Castaway Cay (known as a “double dip”) and believe me, once you’ve spent a day at Castaway Cay, you’ll understand why these cruises are in such high demand!

Castaway Cay is divided into two areas – the family beach and the adult beach (Serenity Bay). The youth clubs also move to the beach on Castaway Cay day - Scuttle’s Cove is for ages 3-12 and the Teen Hideout is available for those 13-17.

You’ll also be served lunch on the island – the family beach offers a barbeque buffet in 2 locations – Cookie’s BBQ and Cookies Too.  Serenity Bay has its own buffet, Air Bar BBQ, which also includes steak and lobster!

Cookie's BBQ

There are plenty of excursions to be found on Castaway Cay, from boating to biking to stingray feedings!  You can even take part in the Castaway Cay 5K (make sure your register for this event as soon as you board!  There’s no charge and every participant receives a medal!)

Castaway Cay also has 24 cabanas that can be rented by the day.  Cabanas are a great option for those traveling with children who may need to nap during the day, or for those that may need a reprieve from the sun for medical reasons.  They are also a great option for those who are simply looking to be pampered or who want to add even more relaxation to their day.  The cabanas come fully furnished, and include snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, towels, sunscreen, beach toys and a safe.  They also each have their own hammock and lounge chairs on the beach, and include free tube, snorkel and bike rentals for all members of your party.  These cabanas go FAST so if getting one is a priority, plan to book one as soon as your online check in window opens.  And if at first you don’t succeed, check back frequently.  I was able to secure one on my family’s first cruise by checking the website several times a day for openings, and it was the best Disney money we’ve ever spent!

Cabanas at Castaway Cay

Land and Sea Options
Worried you won’t be getting enough Disney?  Why not consider extending your cruise with a day (or more!) at Walt Disney World before or after your cruise?  DCL will provide transport both to and from any resort on Disney property, and well as Orlando International Airport (note, however, that unlike Magical Express, which is free, cruise transport carries a one-way cost of $35 per person).

Select sailings out of New York even include a day at Walt Disney World, with a one-day park hopper included in the cost of your cruise!

Awards and Accolades
Don’t just take my word for it, listen to the experts!!!  Disney Cruise Line was voted “Best for Families” by the 2017 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks awards.  They were also voted #1 Top Large Cruise Ship Line by Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. The 2017 Cruise Critics Cruisers’ Choice Awards honored DCL with 8 first-place honors, including Best Overall Ship in both the Large and Mid-Size categories. And not only was Castaway Cay named the Best Cruise Line Private Island by the 2017 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards, but U.S. News & World Report also ranked DCL as #1 on their list of Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean!

So what are you waiting for?  Contact your travel agent to book your Disney Cruise Line experience today!  I promise you won’t regret it!!

By Alyssa
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