Considering a Disney Cruise? Why a Four-Night is Just Right!

Lots of Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans I know have considered adding Disney Cruise Line vacations to their Disney travel lineup.  I wholeheartedly encourage this idea!  While I’ve been a Disney World fan for almost 30 years, it took me a while to see the light and embrace Disney Cruise Line in the same way I do Disney World.  Yes, they’re vastly different experiences, but equally magical in their own way.  A while back I compared the two.  Today I’m offering advice on choosing the right first-Disney-cruise experience.

Considering a Disney Cruise? Why a Four-Night is Just Right!

If you’ve never taken your family on a cruise before, choosing the right one may make or break any future cruise potential.  Think about it.  Will anyone get seasick?  Will there be enough activities to make everyone happy?  Will the accommodations be sufficient for your family size?  All legitimate first-time cruiser questions.  I really worked hard to talk Raymond into that very first Disney cruise and it was only for 3-nights!  He was worried about all of the above plus thought a day-at-sea sounded like a hostage crisis.  Choosing an itinerary that offers the best chance of a successful first Disney cruise experience is crucial to success!

Four-Night Itineraries are like the Momma Bear’s stuff in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  A three night cruise is too short.  Just when you get your bags unpacked and figure out where everything on the ship is located, it’s time to go.  A seven night cruise is too long for the first one.  It’s a pretty big commitment of both time and finances for trying something new.  For extreme seasickness sufferers, I imagine seven nights would feel like a month.  Four nights?  Just right!

The best things about Disney cruises – the service, the food, the characters, the shows, the gorgeous ships – it all takes time to explore.  Getting used to using the Disney Cruise Line app and the Personal Navigators to plan activities takes a day or so.  Your dining room servers stay with you in every dining room for every dinner service and they want to make you happy!  They try to anticipate your every need.  After a day or two, they know what your kids want to drink, they know what kind of wine you like, and they adapt to any food preferences/restrictions you have.  Four nights gives all this a chance to come together.Mickey and Minnie Mouse, DCL

Finally, the four night itineraries out of Port Canaveral are perfect for combining land and sea vacations!  Spend some time at Walt Disney World either before or after your first cruise.  Best of both worlds!  We’ve done this several times and have enjoyed every minute!

Have you taken your family on a Disney Cruise?  What itinerary to you like best?

 

 

2017 Disney Cruise Vacation, Version 2.0

Here’s what we’ve done since our September 9th cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma…

First we were sad.  Sad for everyone and everywhere that experienced Irma’s devastation.  I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a little sad for ourselves too, but seriously, we couldn’t be mad – life happens and there’s way worse stuff than a lost vacation.

2017 Disney Cruise Vacation, Version 2.0

We took a few days to think about our options.  We knew we were getting 100% of our money back from Disney Cruise Line and a 25% discount on a future cruise.  We decided to cancel our time off from work (September 11-15) and try to squeeze those days in sometime before the end of the year.  We’d already registered for a few weekend cycling events and had a 4-day Disney World visit booked in mid-November.

While trying to decide on Plan B, I paid close attention to social media to see what other cancelled-cruisers were doing.  Turns out, a whole bunch of them were being super mad!  Mad at Disney Cruise Line for not refunding their money fast enough (10-day time period).  Also mad they lost their 10% discount and $200 on-board credit for booking their lost cruise while on a previous sailing (even though a 25% discount is much better).  Some were mad that other fall cruises were booked up and all the adult dining reservations were gone.  Others were just mad in general and Disney Cruise Line was a convenient outlet for that anger.  Watching these people come unspooled was not helping our situation, so I gave that up.  We spent a weekend away, rode our bicycles, and thought about what to do.

Time to End the Pity Party

Exactly a week after Irma left us vacation-less, I decided it was time to stop moping around and get busy.  On September 14th, I called Disney Cruise Line and a wonderful woman named Gianna helped me add a 4-day cruise on the Dream to the front of our already scheduled WDW trip.  I knew from information posted on Disney Cruise Line’s website that we would not be eligible to receive the 25% discount until September 18th.  Gianna assured me I could call back then and apply the discount to this cruise.

Next I called American Airlines.  When we cancelled our flights for the original cruise, we were penalized.  We got the tickets back but would pay a $200 change fee to use them again.  I was going to see if I could do something about that.  I didn’t know this until the day I called, but Raymond had booked first class tickets for our trip to WDW as a birthday surprise for me.  If we moved our Orlando-bound flight in November up by four days to make the cruise, there would be a penalty for that too.  First class might have to go.  American Airlines hasn’t always been easy to deal with, so I took a deep breath and chanted, “be nice, be nice, be nice” as I placed that call.

I actually managed to be very nice (shocker, I know) and the young man who answered my call put me on hold while he spoke with his supervisor.  Next thing I knew, I was speaking to the supervisor, David, who had lots of genuinely helpful options for me to consider.  He was patient and kind and by the time I hung up, I’d gotten a penalty-free refund on the cancelled flights to be used towards future travel.  I was also able to move our Orlando-bound flight in November with no extra charge.  Still in first class even!  Shout-out to David at American Airlines for his amazing customer service skills!

The only thing I’m worried about now is that we are flying to Orlando on the morning our cruise sails.  Normally we would never do this!  But we’d already registered for the Bayou Teche Brewery Bike Bash and Giant Omelette Celebration Ride (two-day cycling events).  There’s no way we wanted to miss out on that.  (Can you blame us?  Beer!  And omelettes!)  So Raymond, Joseph and I will bicycle 100 miles over the weekend, then Raymond and I will catch our plane on Monday morning.  I’m thinking it’ll be a great way to burn off some of those cruise calories in advance.  I’ll be trying not to think about all the things that could go wrong and cause us to miss our ship.

I called Disney Cruise Line on Monday (9/18) and they were happy to apply the 25% discount to this new cruise.  So, while not exactly the 28th anniversary celebration we had planned, we ended up with a solid replacement in the form of a sea-and-land Disney vacation instead.

We’ve got to stop scheduling vacations during the peak of hurricane season.

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricanes, Disney Vacations, and Perspective

I’ve been obsessively watching Hurricane Irma for over a week.  On Saturday, I spent my time doing laundry and watching the Weather Channel, checking NOAA online, and watching for news on my Facebook feed from folks closer to the situation than I was.  On Sunday, I stopped packing for vacation.  On Wednesday evening at 7:30, Disney Cruise Line cancelled our trip.  While we honestly appreciate their caution and concern for guest safety, the disappointment was…well, you can imagine.

From Disney Cruise Line’s website:

“The September 9 sailing of the Disney Fantasy is cancelled. Refunds will automatically be processed back to the original form of payment used for the cruise booking. Guests are invited to book a future cruise at a 25 percent discount by calling us at 1-855-347-2784 or 407-566-7054 from September 18, 2017, through October 18, 2017. 

While we always strive to deliver magical cruise vacations, nothing is more important to us than providing a safe experience for our guests and crew. We will continue to closely monitor Hurricane Irma and provide updates as necessary.”

Hurricanes, Disney Vacations, and Perspective

As I was wallowing in self-pity over the Disney cruise we won’t be taking on Saturday, I realized that mixed in with the sadness and disappointment was also relief.  We will be safe and sound as Irma barrels along on her course of mayhem and destruction.  While riding out Hurricane Matthew at Disney World last year was an adventure, it’s not one I’d care to repeat.Hurricane Matthew at Walt Disney World

To all my Florida friends – I’m sorry you’ll be dealing with the potential havoc brought by a powerful and unpredictable force of nature.  I’ve been praying steadily for your safety and Irma’s demise.  Having lived in Louisiana for almost 30 years, I well know the worry and helplessness that comes with not being able to control or anticipate what might happen when your home is in the path of a hurricane.  I’m sorry you’re dealing with that now.

As you are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, please know that you’ll continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.  Through the Living a Disney Life blog and on social media, I’ve gotten to know so many of you and your friendship means a great deal to me!

Be safe and take care, Disney friends.  Please let me know how you’re doing…Lisa

Looking Forward to Sailing Aboard the Fantasy

Our last Disney cruise was in February, 2016 on the Dream.  It was a short, four-night trip to Nassau and Castaway Cay.  I was recovering from the Glass Slipper Challenge and it was the perfect cruise for lots of rest and relaxation with a bit of recreation thrown in for fun.  We enjoyed both dinner and brunch at Remy, dinner at Palo, did the Midship Detective Agency activity, ran the Castaway Cay 5K and skipped Nassau altogether.  Before the ship returned to Port Canaveral, we’d booked anther cruise and the time to sail has nearly arrived!

Looking Forward to Sailing Aboard the Fantasy

Since the Dream and the Fantasy are so similar, we feel like we know what to expect in general.  However, two of the Fantasy’s MDRs (Main Dining Rooms) are uncharted territory for us.  We’re excited to try the Enchanted Garden and Royal Court restaurants – we missed the Enchanted Garden on the Dream due to other dinner plans that night.  I expect Animator’s Palate to be pretty much as it is the other ships. Since we’re old and set in our ways, we requested the early dinner seating.  We prefer dinner before the evening show rather than the other way around.  We also like to turn in fairly early and don’t want to feel like we’re going to sleep on full bellies.   We love the adults-only dining options on Disney cruises.  We’re skipping Remy this time, but have booked both dinner and brunch at Palo.  Remy is fantastic and I highly recommend it, but we’re spending a chunk of our travel budget on excursions this time around and Remy didn’t make the cut, financially speaking.

Our plans by day…

Embarkation Day – We want to kick off the trip by relaxing.  We do have an afternoon meet-up planned with the Facebook group we joined for this trip.  After that and the lifeboat drill, we’ll try to watch the sail-away party from our favorite spot on the upper deck.

Sunday – Day at Sea, Formal Night, dinner at Palo.  We LOVE the fitness center and will certainly visit it this day.  If there’s a spin class offered, we’ll try to make it.  The spin instructors are always great, it’s a good workout, and bonus!  No extra charge involved!  We have a Chocolate and Liquor tasting booked in the afternoon.  This will be new to us.  We tried to book it on the Dream, but had no luck…the tasting was already at full capacity. 

Monday – Day at Sea, Halloween on the High Seas theme, Dinner in our assigned dining room.  Depending on the schedule, we’ll try to catch a movie and also see if we can attend a cooking demonstration of some type.  Those are two of our favorite activities on at-sea days.  Rather than worry with costumes, I bought us a couple of Nightmare Before Christmas-themed shirts to wear this day.  That way we’ll still feel like we’re participating, but won’t have to pack lots of extra stuff.

Tuesday – Tortola and the Wreck and Reef Dive excursion.  This is also Pirate night.  I expect we’ll be exhausted from our adventure, but I would love to make it to the deck party.

Wednesday – St. Thomas Certified Scuba excursion.  No special theme for dinner – I’m sure we’ll turn in early…really early.  By this time on previous cruises, I’ve been known to fall asleep during the evening’s show.  I know I can sleep in the next morning, but I’ve never been good at shaking off being sleepy.

Thursday – Day at Sea.  Brunch at Palo then Raymond has an afternoon massage scheduled at the spa (birthday gift from me).  Hopefully, there will be more movies and/or cooking demos to see!  This should be semi-formal night and we’ll be in whatever dining room is on our rotation. Friday – Castaway Cay!  As of now, we’re planning on doing the 5K before relaxing at Serenity Bay for a while.  We like the 5K because it’s very low-key and is a fun way to burn off some of those cruise calories.  Castaway Cay's Mt. RustmoreAfter lunch we have the “Abaco Rigid Hull Snorkeling Adventure – Adult Only” excursion.  We’ve done this one before back in 2010 and we saw some awesome sea creatures and plant life.  We’ll probably head back to the ship fairly early so we can start getting our suitcases packed.  So sad!  We haven’t even left yet, and here I am talking about the entire trip being over.  If you’ve been on a Disney cruise before, you know how bittersweet that last night can be!

Now there’s still the unresolved matter of Hurricane Irma.  Will she crash our vacation?  Will she move on before we arrive?  Will she maybe force us on an alternate itinerary?  Only time will tell.  No matter what, like every Disney vacation we’ve taken – this one’s bound to be an adventure!