I love everything Disney. Give me any park, any day, and I will be a happy girl. But doing a Disney Cruise exceeded my wildest dreams. It was by far my favourite family vacation that we have ever done. It was just my husband and our kids and I will treasure those memories until the day I die. A once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend for every Disney fan. Even at that price tag (I don’t want to talk about it), if you can somehow make it work, you will not regret it!
As far as booking goes, it was a little overwhelming. We were combining the cruise with a week in Walt Disney World, so it was multiple hotels, transfers and flights. Thankfully my husband is great at booking that kind of stuff, so we took care of it on our own. We did look at going through a travel agent, and it was significantly more expensive.
We booked the cruise directly through the website. You often won’t find a better deal elsewhere. We called them (Disney) several times as well. Anytime you are booking a Disney trip and need help with something I would recommend calling. Their customer service team is extremely helpful. Start with a time frame of when you would like to go and then look at dates online for the cruises. They recommend booking about a year in advance. We booked only 3 months ahead, and it worked out for us but it’s always best to plan ahead.
The cruise that we booked was a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream. We were also doing a week in WDW so we thought that would be a sufficient amount of time. It was, but it went so fast that if you have the chance to do a one week cruise I would recommend it. There is just SO much to do on the ship itself. We took a Disney cruise line shuttle from the resort to Port Canaveral (not included which seems crazy considering the cost of the cruise). I was hoping to get there early but we didn’t get there as early as I would have liked. I believe you can embark as early as 12:00 pm but when we booked the shuttle we didn’t have a choice for earlier. Getting there early gives you a chance to explore the ship and get the kids onto the AquaDuck (the ship’s waterslide!) before the crowds arrive. We arrived closer to 4 pm and felt a bit rushed. Everyone MUST partake in the safety demonstration on your predetermined deck. That took about 45 mins to 1 hr and felt like it went on for ever, although I understand the importance of it.
When you book your cruise you sign up for a dinner slot. We booked the cruise a little late so all that was available was an 8:00 pm dining plan which I didn’t think would be great for our family. We asked the information staff what to do about moving it and they said to go down to the restaurant at the earlier time to see if they could switch it. Thankfully it worked and we were able to move to the 5:30 dinner time. It was a bit tricky to get to dinner on days that we disembarked but overall, it worked well for us.
The Disney Dream has 3 sit down restaurants that you rotate through. One of which you will do twice (the night it was a double was “Pirate Night,” so everything changes for that anyway). There are 2 adult only restaurants that you can eat at, but you have to make a reservation and will be paying. Palo features Northern Italian with a modern twist and Remy is fine French cuisine. We enjoyed the 3 restaurants so much that we didn’t miss the nicer ones. One option is to book a nice quiet adult only dinner while your kids eat in the Kids Club. It was really important for us to eat together as a family. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss one of the regular dining experiences.
Each restaurant had it’s own personality and unique menu. Each one blew me away with the flavours and quality of the food. The first restaurant we ate in was the Enchanted Garden. It was so beautiful, the kids really enjoyed walking around and looking at all the details. How it works is that you have the same table number each night and the server that you have the first night will be with you every night, following you to each restaurant. They had a different uniform for each restaurant; just another classic Disney detail. We absolutely LOVED our waiter team (1 waiter and 1 busboy). After the first night they remembered what my kids liked to drink and had them waiting at the table with their names on them. There was always colouring on the table and if the waiter could see my kids starting to get bored he would pop over with a quiz or something to entertain them. Just over and above expectations. The Enchanted Garden menu featured market-style food. Things like heirloom tomato soup, cucumber garden rolls, mushroom tarts, scallops, sea bass on risotto, and prime rib. Every dinner started with bread service which fit the theme of the restaurant so the Enchanted Garden had crusty rolls with chickpea puree. There was always a soup or salad course, appetizer, main and then dessert. The kids had a separate kid friendly menu but were allowed to order off the main menu if they preferred. I appreciated that they also had a vegetarian menu as well as some lighter options. And the dessert. SO GOOD! The kids could order off the menu or get a Mickey Mouse chocolate covered ice cream bar like you get in the parks. With Mickey sprinkles!
The next restaurant was Royal Palace, which is inspired by Disney fairy tales. With ornate details, marble floors, and beautiful chandeliers my daughter was in heaven. This menu was much more refined and my adventurous daughter tried the escargot for dinner! Not sure she really liked them, but she felt fancy ordering them which is really all that mattered. The waiter was so gracious and he just kind of joked around with her about being sophisticated, which my daughter just loved. The bread basket was in the shape of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, how cute is that?
The third night we were back in the Royal Palace for “Pirate Night,” but it had been transformed! More about that later. The fourth and final night was in the Animator’s Palate. This was my favorite for sure! Everything started in black and white and then the walls started to come alive with color as you ate! Crush the turtle also visited us through the screens on the wall which the kids thought was the coolest thing. He interacts and asks you personal questions and it’s amazing. This was the night our kids wanted to rush through dinner to get to their kids lab. Again, the waiter was amazing. He ordered their food right away so they could eat, and one of us ran the kids down to the Kids Club and ate the rest of our dinner in peace (other than Crush!).
For breakfast we just ate at the Cabana buffet. There was a large selection of breakfast foods. They did an amazing job keeping the food hot and replenished. They even had a huge cereal bar if your kids prefer. You do have the option of doing a sit down breakfast. If this is your preference just head to the restaurant you ate at the previous night. We decided to do this one of the mornings but we were disappointed to find out that it was the same food as the Cabana but you had to wait for it. I wouldn’t recommend it.
With a 4 day cruise you only have 2 stops, I think that’s perfect so that you still have time to do everything on the ship. The first was Nassau and the second was Disney’s own island Castaway Cay.
Nassau is home to the famous Atlantis Aquaventure. You can get a day pass but it costs $204 USD (ages 10+) and $146 USD (ages 4-10). Our kids are not huge water slide fans, and we had 2 water slide days in WDW so spending $1000 Canadian for one day was just not worth it for our family. Instead we did research and found a couple of fun things to do.
When we got off the ship we hit the main strip in Nassau which is fairly commercialized. So naturally, we grabbed a Starbucks and headed on our merry way. Our first stop was the pirate museum. It was a little “budget,” but we all really enjoyed it. Except for one part where you go through a pirate ship. My daughter got a little freaked out by that. Then we headed to a local beach called Junkanoo and chilled for the day. I had bought a couple of small floaties for the kids and we had packed a frisbee. It was a tourist beach so there was a lot of entertainment. Music, games like musical chairs and limbo, and other things. We had also read about a restaurant called Fish Fry. Now there are locals that have been hired by restaurants to bring tourists to their restaurant, but I had read about one specific place online that locals and cruise ship employees who frequent the islands recommend. It was worth the extra 10 min walk (who am I kidding, I sent my husband 😉). The best jerk chicken, rice and beans, and seafood fritters I have ever had. We headed back to the ship a little early and did a little shopping before heading onto the ship. In my opinion, it was the perfect day.
Castaway Cay is the island that is privately owned by Disney and one of the top reasons we chose to do a cruise in the Bahamas. While you are on the island there is a lot of different options. If you have teens there is a teen hideout section on the island (14-17). Then I would head over to Serenity Bay, the adult only section! For families the main part of the beach is set up with lots of beach chairs, hammocks, umbrellas. Stunning. Here’s a map. There is so much to see and explore. Some of which is included in the pricing; other experiences, such as the boat rentals and snorkeling, cost extra.
Our kids wanted to check out the kids area called Spring-a-Leak but that didn’t last very long. We spent most of the day enjoying the beach. We also checked out Pelican Plunge: a floating platform that has two waterslides that land you in the ocean. My son was so brave and “took the plunge” but my daughter didn’t like to idea so we waited safely on shore.
A huge BBQ lunch was included in the day, and the food was great. Hamburgers, ribs, chicken, salads, fruit, corn, all the usual suspects. Fountain drink stations and ice cream cones (soft serve) were also available throughout the day. This was handy, because it was a very hot day! There was also Olaf’s Summertime Freeze with some fun treats for purchase.
Another fun thing about the Bahama Cruise is they do a whole night dedicated to Pirates. Festivities start at dinner where you are encouraged to dress in your best pirate garbs. Parents too! I didn’t want to spend too much time or money on our costumes so we borrowed, bought used, and got creative. My husband even put on eyeliner (and I kind of liked it). When you go to your room after it’s been made up you will find gold coins and special Mickey Pirate bandannas waiting for you on the bed. Your costume can be as simple as a black and white striped shirt and the Mickey bandanna they give you. Don’t fret!
Our pirate meal was in the Royal Palace but everything was set up for Pirate Night. The kids had pirate hats waiting for them and a special Pirate menu.
After dinner, the kids went to the Oceaneer Club after dinner where there were lots of pirate adventures waiting for them. The evening activities didn’t start until 10:00 pm up on the main deck. There was a pirate show featuring pyrotechnics and none other than our favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. The show finished with spectacular fireworks and a massive buffet. This was a family highlight of the trip for us!
One of the perks of being on the cruise is there is an amazing team to take care of your kiddos so that you can spend some solo time relaxing! There is an adult only pool area, several adult only lounges and even nightclubs if that’s your scene. There is so much to pack into the four days that we didn’t have as much time alone as we might have liked. But we still managed to get to the pool deck to tan and swim in peace a couple of times. Our kids still go to bed fairly early so we usually only had from after dinner until 9:30 pm or so on our own. No complaints here! Another fun thing to do on the ship is see a movie in the theater. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was just out when we went so my husband and I dropped our kids off, grabbed some popcorn and went to the movie alone. It was glorious!
Maybe the idea of leaving your kids is stressful; either for you or for your kid. They have a great system so that your kid can call you anytime to let you know they are ready to be picked up. When you get into your room you will see two walkie talkie type phones charging at the desk. One stays with you and the other with your children. This ensures that they will be able to get a hold of you when they need, or vice versa. We also had the Disney Cruise app where we could direct message each other using the ships wi-fi. So my daughter was able to message us on her phone as well. Everyone was happy and my husband and I got some much needed rest and relaxation.
There are so many options when it comes to activities on the ship. Disney wants to make sure there is something for everyone. The only problem is that we wanted to do everything! Evening was the hardest time to decide what to do. Saying yes to one fun thing was saying no to another. Each night they had a different live show or evening entertainment. Any of them would have been amazing but we decided to catch the show on the last night. My son was on the edge of his seat the whole night and laughing throughout the show. I can’t even remember exactly what it was about but it had different Disney characters throughout it with many of the favorite classic movie songs.
Night time is a great time to do the AquaDuck so we promised the kids we would do that one night. It was such a cool experience and with the warm Caribbean air we were perfectly comfortable. The lines are much shorter at night so it’s a great time to do it.
If your kids are into meeting characters they put out a schedule of meet and greet times so you can be sure to see your favorites. Having kids that were a little bit older they didn’t really care to spend time doing that when there was so much to do on the ship. If we happened to be walking by a character we would ask the kids if they wanted to stop for a photo, but they just couldn’t be bothered. That’s something we can do any time we are in a Disney park so we wanted to focus on the things that were unique to the ship.
On the ship there is an on board Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I was actually very sad that my daughter was out of the princess dress up phase. Starting with the Crown Package ($64.99 USD) your princess gets a glitterfied hairstyle, face gems, make-up, nail polish, a sash and a cinch bag to take home all your goodies. The most elaborate package is the Royal Sea Package. If you are all about spoiling your princess this is the way to go. For ages 3-12, your princess gets 3 full make over experiences complete with costumes (which you take home with you). They give you a royal trunk and a glass slipper to keep as well. At $595 USD you can expect the royal treatment for that one! Something they do for all the girls that get makeovers is present them. All the princesses are there for the occasion and your princess is announced and escorted down the grand staircase. My princess would not have liked that because she is quite shy but others would just love it I’m sure. If your daughter isn’t into princesses they offer Star Wars themed makeovers as well. And if you have a little prince, don’t fret, they have packages for boys as well! On “Pirate Night” you can also book an appointment to be transformed into a pirate. So much fun!
Rooms and Staff
We were able to book a room with a veranda which I highly recommend. For the amount the cruise costs, it wasn’t a huge difference for a room with a balcony and for us that really made the experience. During the day the room has a queen bed and a couch. While you are at dinner the amazing staff turns the couch into bunk beds and lays out information for the next days activities. And usually some sort of cool animal. Overall we found the staff to be amazing. From the waiters to the cabin stewards, they went over and above to make our experience as wonderful as we could have imagined.
Things to Know Before You Go
Before leaving for our trip I had done a lot of research about the cruise. I came across something called a Fish Extender. You can make them or buy them on Etsy. Basically it’s a small gift exchange with any participants on the ship. You will know who’s participating by something hanging on their stateroom door. They are kind of like little mail boxes, usually made of cloth or something soft. I saw a lot of fun ones all over the ship. You can make it as simple or elaborate as you want. Disney folks tend to go big or go home. You exchange little gifts with other families that are also doing it. Anything from candy, cards, little games, or something themed… the ideas are limitless. It’s fun for the kids because when you come back to your stateroom you can check to see what other people left for you! I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until we got there. I decided not to do it because I didn’t really understand what it was and the whole thing kind of overwhelmed me. I wish I had done it, but what can you do?
Another thing that people do is decorate their stateroom doors. Personalized for your family, there is no limit to what you can do for this. If you have a Cricut or a Silhouette CAMEO you can make them yourself. You could also use paper or foam or any other sort of crafting materials you like to work with. Here’s an example of something you can purchase from Etsy if crafting isn’t your thing. We also did not know much about this ahead of time and I wish we had! Such a fun way to personalize your stateroom door. They all look the same from the outside so this way your kids know which door is yours. It’s just a great way to feel part of the larger Disney community and I would recommend checking it out before you go.
Phew, that was a long one! So much information but these are all the things that I wanted to know, and some I didn’t know I needed to know!
Have a magical day!