Disney Cruising – At Sea Day Tips

Before the first Disney cruise we took that had an at sea day on the itinerary, we wondered what the heck that would be like.  At SEA.  You’re stuck on a ship, floating around in the ocean with typically no land in sight.  What does one DO under such conditions?  Sleep in?  Lay by the pool?  Honestly, we are simply not the kind of family that would be excited by either one of those options!  This caused us no small measure of concern initially.  Seven Disney cruises later, we think we’ve got a pretty good handle on exactly how to make use of an at sea day to the best advantage.

Disney Cruising – At Sea Day Tips

Plan ahead – At sea days provide the perfect opportunity to splurge!  Book in advance both spa treatments and adults-only dining.  Both of these are wonderfully relaxing experiences.  We’ve enjoyed massages and both brunch and dinner this way many times.  We strongly recommend making this part of every at sea day opportunity!Disney Cruise Sunrise

Get UP!  You are on a Disney cruise – this is most definitely not the time to sleep in.  Get your patootie out of bed and embrace the day!  There is food to eat and activities to try.  Sleeping late is for wimps and ne’er do wells (I’ve always wanted to say that!) – you’ve paid good money for the amenities Disney Cruise Line offers and there’s no better opportunity to make the most of that investment like an at sea day.Disney Dream Children's Play Area

Walk around a bit, breathe in the sea air, grab some grub and make some decisions.  Your personal navigator (offered in both print and through the DCL app) will detail the day’s schedule.  Plenty of fun for all ages will be on the agenda. We find there’s usually not enough time in the day for us to do everything that appeals to us.Disney Dream Gym

Consider activity – Explore the ship, work out in the exercise room, play games like ping-pong, basketball or shuffleboard.  The astoundingly plentiful cruise food makes burning some excess calories very appealing.  We thought the Midship Detective Agency was awesome on the Disney Dream!  It was a lot like a scavenger hunt that took us all over the ship.  Word of caution – if you feel strongly about hanging out by the pool, get there early for a lounge chair!  If you want to try the AquaDuck or AquaDunk slides (depends on the ship), be prepared to wait in long queues.Disney Dream Pool

Learn something new or see a movie – Both options are available.  Attend a cooking demonstration.  Learn to draw a Disney character or create towel animals.  Mixology and other adult beverage seminars are loads of fun!  First run movies will be shown in the very comfortable and spacious on-board theater.  I haven’t even mentioned the Disney character meet-and-greets or the trivia games!  So much to do in one day!Disney-Dream-Cooking-DemoMovie-on-the-Disney-Magic

Are you a Disney Cruise fan?  What’s your favorite at sea day activity?



Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Clam-mobile-selfie“Work hard, play hard!” – I like this motto.  We do work hard and we deserve to relax and have fun, right?  By golly, we’ve earned it!  When we go on vacation, we tend to throw moderation to the wind, kick up our heels and indulge, feast and pamper ourselves – all the things we deny ourselves day-to-day.  I’m no nutrition or financial management expert, but as I get older, I feel like I’m having a more difficult time snapping back after playing hard.  When we vacation, we tend to over-indulge in every area – food, drinks, and snacks, extras and souvenirs.  Never is this more true than on a Disney vacation.  I’d like to change that habit.

Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Let’s talk about food first.  Our family is all about trying new things and making our Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) at the earliest possible time.  One table-service meal per day is our minimum requirement for optimum happiness and we’ve been known to book more.  We overeat on vacation and rationalize it by believing that all the walking we do will burn off those excess calories – honestly, that’s just not the case.  Shula's-Filet-TwoThe older we get, the harder it is to lose weight.  Gone are the days where those extra pounds just drop back off once we get home. Recently at Walt Disney World, Raymond and I tried to be more mindful of this – baby steps, really – and what we tried seemed to work well!  On next vacation, we plan to use these strategies –

  • Portion Control – Often portions are HUGE and totally share-able.  We tried sharing lunch a couple of times – splitting appetizer, entrée, and dessert.  Turns out, we were completely satisfied with half-portions and this was a great lesson to take into the future.Citrus-Swirl
  • Give and Take – Think a little bit ahead as in…I’ll pass on this ice cream now in favor of dessert with dinner.  I’ll admit that this one will be a bit of a challenge – when I’m hungry and have a hankerin’ for a churro or a Mickey ice cream bar, I’m in the moment and might swear (to myself) that I’ll pass on dessert later.  In reality, if cheesecake’s on the menu, Raymond will definitely order it and I’ll have to eat some.  This one sounds good in theory, but execution may prove impossible.Be-our-Guest-Eggs
  • Choose “Less Unhealthy” options – It’d be silly to suggest that we could or would eat only healthy meals at Walt Disney World, but we can make better selections.  Maybe.  We can try!

Now, about those adult beverages – We enjoy wine with dinner, but recently blundered with wine pairings for each course at Jiko.  Not only did we overeat big-time, but were way too sleepy when we left – no return to the parks for us that night.  We headed straight back to our resort and fell asleep.  I don’t even want to talk about what that splurge did to our dinner bill.  It’s easy to over-indulge with empty calories in this category, but we’ve got a plan formulated for dealing with that as well…Shula's-Wine

  • Allow one (maximum of two) splurges per day – We know we’re still going to order a bottle of wine with dinner, but we can cut down on the number of times we stop for a cold beer in Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Also, we love the Resort Loop Pub Crawl but can probably be perfectly happy with one stop per day (or less).Rose&Crown-Beer-Flight
  • Prioritize our “Must-Try” list – There are quite a few things on this list – most of which can be found in World Showcase.  Before I say planning in advance for these vacation libations will take all the fun and spontaneity out of exploring the World, we need to give it a try…I’ll let you know how it goes.RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Coffee
  • Skip the after dinner specialty coffee – Yes, even after the wine, it’s sometimes tempting to enjoy a fancy adult coffee with dessert…or even AS dessert.  Since this splurge is rare, it may be the easiest one to do without.

The extra expenses – Food and beverages are a huge part of our vacation budget, so we try to work out how much that’s going to set us back and set aside that money in advance.  We save about $7 when we purchase $150-worth of Disney gift cards at Sam’s Club, so I try to buy enough gift cards pre-vacation to take care of our food, drinks, and any spa treatments we have booked.  As far as souvenirs go, I’m all about Disney Christmas ornaments and always add one or two to our collection on every vacation.  We usually also like to buy a couple of Disney pins and a coffee mug.  If we could stick with these, we wouldn’t have a problem – we could easily budget for this expense.Shoe-Ornament-Mrs. Incredible

Disney merch!  This company sure has our number and knows exactly what buttons to push to get us to spend more by playing on our emotions.  There’s really only one way to cut down on spending in this category and that would be to stop shopping!  Ha!  Like that’s going to happen.  What we can do is just say no…right now.  RM-Mickey-Tray RM-Mickey-Dinner-Plate RM-Minne-WatchWith the Shop Disney Parks app and the ability to use personal shoppers from home, if I pass up something using this “say no right now” method and later decide I can’t live without whatever it was, I can always try to get it later.  I believe this will cut way down on impulse/emotionally driven purchases.  Maybe.  We’ll see, won’t we.

Do you try to exercise sensible consumption on your Disney vacations?  What are your best ideas to avoid over-indulging? 



Ten Reasons to Sail on Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line  Ten Reasons to Sail on Disney Cruise Line:

  1. Beautiful ships full of Disney magic and extraordinary service.
  2. The evening shows – excellent Broadway-style entertainment for the whole family.
  3. Designated well-themed areas for children (and teens) with incredibly creative activities and lots of FUN (and safety!).
  4. Designated adults-only areas with adult entertainment, refreshments, separate pools, restaurants, and more.
  5. Castaway Cay – Disney’s Private Island is one of the ports of call on manDisney's Castaway Cayy Disney cruises and it is truly a paradise with something for everyone.  Want to run a 5k?  Ride a bicycle? Snorkel, parasail, swim, eat, dance, drink, play in the sand, lay in a hammock and do nothing at all – in an absolutely gorgeous setting!  Adults-only, teens-only and family beaches ensure everyone can have the time of their life.  Even a massage in a cabana on the beach is available!  (Full review here.)
  6. Castaway Club – once you’ve taken that first cruise, you’re automatically a member with perks for repeat cruisers.  This article gives more details.
  7. Excursions – Disney offers a tremendous number of family-friendly, adults-only and teen-only port excursions and they take good care of you!  We’ve had incredible family adventures (like zip-lining in Alaska, swimming with stingrays in the Bahamas, and exploring the ruins of Pompeii) we will remember for the rest of our lives.
  8. Fish Extender groups and Door decorating!  You can pre-arrange to take part in a gift exchange (like secret Santa) with other cruisers.  You can (and should) bring fun magnetic decorations for your stateroom door. See Fish Extender deets here and Door Décor here.
  9. Characters – They seem to be everywhere and much easier to meet than in the parks.  Drop off a pillowcase or a photo mat and some markers at Guest Services and the characters will autograph your items…which will then be returned to your stateroom.
  10. Parties and First-run Movies –  The Sail Away and pirate-themed parties are both bunches of Meeting Formal Minnie on Disney Cruise Linefun (especially for children).  Each ship’s movie theater shows the latest releases (and favorite Disney movies).
  11. BONUS – Rotational Dining and Room Service.  You keep the same restaurant servers at dinner each evening (unless you dine at an adults-only restaurant) for the duration of your cruise – you get to know them and they cater to (and often anticipate) your every need.  The room service menu items (with a few exceptions) are included in the price of your cruise.  Order appetizers while getting ready for dinner or a show, order cookies and milk for a bedtime snack!  Too tired to leave your stateroom?  Order dinner!

The reasons I’ve just listed are solely based on my own family’s experiences.  We are not people who generally suffer from seasickness – it would be rare for one of us to have an Disney Cruise Line Shipepisode, but not unheard of.  We are a family that loves Disney vacations above all others.  (I believe if Disney had its own ski resort, we would never stray from Disney property or cruise ship.)

The difference between a Walt Disney World vacation and a Disney Cruise Line vacation is, for us, purely a relaxation factor.  All the things we love about Walt Disney World like good food, great service by friendly Cast Members, wonderful resort accommodations, Disney’s magical details (even hidden Mickeys!), meeting Disney characters, awesome entertainment – are all there on a Disney cruise.  What is NOT on a Disney cruise?  Walking ten miles a day, rope-drop frenzy, waiting for transportation in the blazing sun (or late at night), or favorite thrill rides and attractions (but there ARE plenty of View of Castaway Cayadventures to be found on a cruise).  We go home much more relaxed, but completely satisfied that we did and saw a bunch of amazing things!

HOW did we become such big Disney Cruise Line fans?  What made us opt to turn away from Walt Disney World and take that very first cruise?  I’ll tell you – it was our children.  After we got home from a spring break trip to WDW one year (2006), Megan started asking when we would be going back, but  Joseph said,  “WAIT – I want to go to the beach.  I want to see the ocean.  Last time we went to the shore, I was so little I can’t remember what it was like.  We need to go back to the beach!”  And a months’ long argument began between the two of them Grand Cayman Excursionfrom that day forward.

As for me, that’s when an idea began to form – I knew my plan wouldn’t be an easy one to pull off since I was certain Raymond would not initially be on board with it (YES!  score a pun point for me!).  Why not give both children what they want as a Christmas gift?  Land and sea vacation package!  Knowing Raymond would be adverse to the cruise portion of the trip, I talked him into it with 4 days at WDW followed by a 3-day cruise.  He was picturing the cruise being rather like a hostage crisis – he’d be stuck on a ship with nothing to do!  I was determined to show him the joys Disney Cruise Line had to offer.  The happy ending to this tale is that when we walked off the ship, Raymond announced that he’d had a wonderful time and would gladly take a 7-day Disney Castaway Cay's Mt. Rustmorecruise in the future!  (The story of the Christmas gift reveal is here.)

Our baby steps from that first short Bahamian trip to a Disney cruise European adventure went like this:

  • December 2006, Land and Sea (4-days at WDW followed by 3-days in the Bahamas which consisted of stops at Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island)
  • December 2007/January 2008 – New Year’s Eve 7-day Western Caribbean (for Megan’s senior trip), followed by a couple of days at WDW (Orlando to Key West to Grand Cayman to Cozumel to Castaway Cay and back to Orlando)
  • Disney Mediterranean Cruise, Excursion to Florence, ItalyMay 2010 – 5-night Castaway Cay double-dip (+ 2 days at WDW.  Orlando to Castaway Cay to Nassau to Castaway Cay to Orlando)
  • May 2011 – 7-night Alaskan cruise (from Vancouver, visited Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Tracy Arm Fjord, back to Vancouver)
  • August 2013 – 7-night Mediterranean (from Barcelona to Ville Franche, France and then to La Spezia, Civitavecchia, and Naples in Italy, then back to Barcelona) (Trip report starts here.)

Our bravery increased over time – the more fun and adventure we had, the more we wanted to see and do!  The price of airfare was, is and always will be the big holdup for doing more cruisesPirate Party on Disney Cruise Line that leave from distant ports, but we have always had as much fun (or more, gasp!) on a Disney cruise as we have had at each of our 12+ trips to Walt Disney World.  Next up?  Disney’s cruise through the fjords of Norway, summer 2015.

Have you taken a Disney cruise?  If not, have you been considering one?  What do you or don’t you like about the idea?


Cruising on the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean – Last Chapter

The Disney Cruise Line's Magic in the MediterraneanThis is the last installment of the trip report for our August, 2013 Mediterranean cruise aboard the Disney Magic.  Links to all previous posts are at the very bottom of this page.

To wrap things up, I’m going to mash up all the observations and tips I can offer you in this last installment – if you’re reading this, maybe you’re considering a Mediterranean cruise in the future.  I hope I can help in some small way. 

Wow!  What a vacation!  August 17th dawned exactly like the previous days of our vacation in Europe – sunny and warm.  We’d read many sources that listed reasons to avoid Europe in August; one of them being the weather.  We live in Louisiana where the summers can be brutal!  The sunny weather with temperatures in high 80’s we experienced on this trip was a refreshing break from the heat and humidity at home.  The Mediterranean Sea was so calm, Grant The Shorline of Italy as seen from the Disney Magiccommented that he was actually a little bit disappointed.  Since it was his first cruise, he was looking forward to gaining his “sea legs”, but the water was so calm, he often forgot he was on a cruise.  The weather could not have been more perfect.  On the day we headed home, we were off the ship bright and early, toting our own luggage to catch Disney transportation straight to the airport.

Research paid off big-time!  We were certainly at an advantage with knowing how to dress appropriately for touring cathedrals, knowing how to avoid pickpockets and gypsy scams, and knowing how to speak at least basic phrases in Spanish, French, and Italian.  By researching our options (and not just limiting ourselves to Disney excursions), we were able to feel confident about our private tours – knowing that we were dealing with reputable companies and Florence, Italy on our 2013 Disney Cruisepaying fair prices.

Do NOT underestimate the effects of jet lag.  I researched tips for dealing with jet lag, but ignored them to my detriment!  I knew I was supposed to drink lots of water and get up and move around the plane as much as possible.  I sat like a lump watching movie after movie.  A couple (few?) of the complimentary glasses of wine did not help with hydration.  The result?  Tired, crabby, and puffy!  My swollen feet didn’t recouperate until after the vacation was over!  You want to avoid this at all costs so you can enjoy all the activities and adventures available on a Mediterranean cruise without the distraction of sore feet!

Remember to book onboard activities at the earliest possible time.  We gave spa treatmentsTouring in Italy on a Disney Cruise as gifts during the months leading up to the cruise.  Grant (and Megan) got a couple’s massage – we made up and printed up our own gift certificate for Grant’s birthday and did the same for Joseph and Jason’s graduation gifts – for individual massages.  In order for this to work, we needed to pre-book those spa treatments early to get the best times on “at sea” days.  Same thing with our Palo dining reservations.  By the time we were able to book, Palo dinner on our first at-sea day was completely unavailable, but we managed to get a dinner reservation that would still work.  We were lucky to score brunch for Megan’s birthday on the last day of the cruise (also a day at sea).  If we had been unable to get days/times that we liked, I would have gone straight to Touring Florence, Italy on our Disney Mediterranean Cruisethe Palo reservation line as soon as we boarded the ship – I’ve done that before (Alaskan cruise on the Wonder) and was able to get a last-minute reservation at a decent time.

Disney lets you bring your own beverages – take advantage of this special perk and save money!  We were able to bring wine and water on board in Barcelona, then purchased additional bottles of wine at each cruise port.  This allowed us to have Happy Hour in our cabin each afternoon before dinner and we didn’t have to pay the expensive prices on board.  Raymond and I polished off any leftover wine during late evenings on our veranda – enjoyed with the chocolates left by the cabin steward.  Gazing at the stars Disney's Mediterranean Cruise - Touring Romein the clear Mediterranean sky while listening to the sound of the ship gliding through the water… the perfect way to wrap up the day and just be in the moment.

This Disney cruise was the most expensive vacation we’d ever taken and being the epic, world class worrier that I am, I imagined a million things that could have gone wrong from illness to injury to missing flights or the ship!  I worried about pickpockets, bad tour guides and seasickness.  I worried about whether or not everyone would enjoy every activity.  Once we were underway, though, all those worries melted away.  We were all able to fully enjoy and appreciate the tremendous investment of time, money, and effort that went into getting the six of us on this particular cruise – This trip was absolutely, without a doubt worth every single bit of worry and preparation; worth every penny of expense.  Would we do it again?  In a heartbeat.

The Mediterranean Sunset - Viewed from our Balcony on the Disney MagicThank you so much for following along!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip report.  If you were looking for tips and helpful information, I hope you found what you needed.  If you have any questions, post them in a comment and I’ll do my best.  Tomorrow, Disney Cruise Line will announce their 2015 late spring and summer itineraries.  We took advantage of the rebooking offer while on board the Magic and booked a placeholder cruise – so tomorrow we’ll transfer that reservation to a new date and begin the whole process again.  Stay tuned to find out where we’ll be headed next!

Links to all the other parts of the trip report: