Meeting the Disney characters is such a highlight of any Disney trip – for adults and kids alike! When cruising with Disney there are plenty of opportunities to meet characters around the ship.
We found the characters to be very generous with their time on the cruise – much more so than in the parks.
At the port before boarding
Before even boarding the ship you can meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their cruise attire. Once you’ve officially checked in at the terminal, have all your Key To The World card and are in the pre-boarding room, keep an eye out for the characters having their photo taken.
Roaming the ship
Each evening on the chip you’ll receive a “Navigator” which tells you what’s on the following day, including where the characters will be and when. Arrive about 15 minute before the character is due incase there is a bit of a line. The characters stay in each spot for their designated time and then swap with a new character if there is another scheduled after them. If the line is long ask the cast member if you will make to the front before the character is due to leave to save any disappointment.
Characters also walk around the ship but usually won’t stop for a photo as they’re en route to their new timed appointment. You might get lucky though – sometimes they will let kids tag along with them as they walk at top speed to wherever it is they’re going!
It’s worth returning to meet the same core characters (Mickey Mouse etc) on different occasions as they will have lots of outfit changes.
Dance parties Check the Navigator for any character dance parties that are usually held in the lobby. This is such a fun way to get up close to characters as they really let loose and bust a move or two that honestly looks really difficult in those massive suits.
Major props to the cast members inside who come out with some moves worthy of a role in the next Step Up dance movie. Characters at the dance parties will often really engage with the kids too. On one of our cruises Peter Pan let the little kids in a circle dance holding their hands while Stitch bore up well to kids throwing themselves all over him in enthusiastic hugs.
Ticketed meet and greet events These events are best booked in advance as soon as your cruise’s activity window opens. They are free but require tickets booked into designated 15 minute time slots. At the time of writing, a Princess Gathering and Frozen meeting are offered on select Disney cruises.
The bonus of ticketed events is that there is no lining up! Just turn up at your allotted time and that’s it. At the Princess Gathering there are four princesses to meet. On both of our cruises we had Tiana, Cinderella, Ariel and Belle. We’ve yet to see Rapunzel or Snow White! At the Frozen meeting, on one cruise we had Anna and Elsa, but on the Alaska cruise Olaf was there too.
Dining at the restaurants can also lead to character encounters! On the Disney Wonder, Tiana makes her way around the diners in the new restaurant based on her, Tiana’s Place.
Special events – Royal Court Royal Tea
There are also additional events such as Royal Court Royal Tea which are also ticketed and cost a fee to attend, where you can meet characters. At the Royal Court Royal Tea Cinderella, Tiana and Ariel attended and spent a lot of time with each child. The Royal Court Royal Tea sells out so needs to be booked well in advance.
A free ticketed event that needs to be booked in advance, at the character breakfasts guests enjoy a full table service meal while characters come around to each table. On the Fantasy we had a Disney Junior Breakfast with Sophia the First, Jake and Mickey Mouse, while on the Wonder we we had a Disney Character Breakfast with Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Pluto.
The characters also make the rounds at kids club! Spider-Man and the cast of Frozen dropped in while Cheese was at kids club on the Wonder. Check the Navigator to see what sessions are likely to have characters visiting and then double check with the kids club staff.
If your kids are a bit more reserved or like to collected things, bring an autograph book for the characters to sign. It gives shyer kids something to do that takes the attention off them.
Bring a camera with a flash for a decent photo (not an iPhone!). The inside of the ship is not lit well for phones or photos without a flash in general.
Buy an all-inclusive photo package before sailing to get a 15% discount and receive all the images that are taken while aboard the boat, then hand over your Key to the World card each time you meet a character to their accompanying staff member and let them take care of the photos for you. If you don’t like the images you can cancel the package while on board the ship and receive a refund, or downgrade to a smaller package.
We had the most incredible week sailing the Disney Wonder up the Inside Passage of Alaska. Our cruise departure date was July 17, 2017 and included the ports of Icy Strait, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. The Disney Wonder sailed out of the port of Vancouver, Alaska.
What to do in Vancouver
We arrived in Vancouver a few days before the ship left so we could acclimatise and also to see more of the city. We spent three very full days in Vancouver and absolutely loved it. Summer in the city is gorgeous and there is lots to do – the guide to what to see and do in Vancouver is here.
Check in at Vancouver Port
The process is very simple. Arrive at your PAT (Port Arrival Time) and follow the signs and directions. We dropped off our luggage (don’t forget to use the bag tags), head to the check in desks to receive our Key To The World cards (as Silver Castaway Club members we received bonus lanyards – otherwise bring your own) as well as the Navigator for the first day (each day onboard the ship you will receive a “Navigator” which is a printed guide to the following day’s activities) and then head through customs.
As the ship starts in Vancouver then sails into the US state of Alaska, you must clear customs before boarding the ship. It was the simplest customs we have ever had to go through. Next was the security check, which we also breezed through, and finally the boarding room.
In the boarding room we took photos with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and then boarded straight away.
We had a sit down lunch at Triton’s restaurant, but the popular buffet restaurant, Cabanas, is also open for lunch and breakfast every day (except for disembarking day). We checked into our room when the luggage arrived, roamed decks, had a quick dip in the pool. The first day was all about checking out our surroundings and settling in before dinner. Each evening guests are allocated one of three restaurants for sit down dining, changing location each night in what’s called the “dining rotation”. Our first evening we were in Triton’s, which is loosely themed on The Little Mermaid.
We came back after dinner to find our room transformed for the evening. The bunk bed was pulled down from the wall and made up for Cheese to sleep on, and we had a cute towel animal on the bed plus the Navigator for the next day’s activities. Each evening this routine was repeated.
Hubby wanted to see a movie that was showing that night, so the kid and I listened to live music in the lobby, hung out in the room together after dinner and went to bed early after watching a spectacular sunset from our balcony.
Day 1: At Sea
We booked our Disney Character Breakfast for the first at-sea day. The breakfast is a free ticketed event that is best booked in advance when your activity booking window opens.
Each session of the character breakfast is held in the Animator’s Palate dining room. We ordered from the menu and met the characters circulating around the tables while waiting for the food to arrive. Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Pluto all came by for a visit.
The package included a choice of dress, hairstyling, makeup, nail polish, a face gem, princess sash, crown, wand and a cute little bag to put all her goodies in.
After the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique we head to the atrium for another free, ticketed event, the Princess Meet and Greet (book your tickets online at the same time as your other activities to get the best time for you).
At the Princess Meet and Greet we met Belle, Ariel, Tiana and Cinderella. The princesses made small talk while signing autograph books and taking photos – they are all extremely gracious and a delight to meet.
We lunched at Cabanas and then explored the ship while on the Anna’s Chocolate Chase Scavenger Hunt. The hunt took us all around the ship in search of Frozen-themed clues. The instructions told us to leave the completed form the following morning on our beds to receive a chocolatey surprise.
The first evening on the cruise was “formal night” so we put on kind of dressy clothes and, after taking a few pictures in the lobby, we went to our designated dining rotation in Animator’s Palate. This evening featured a really fun animated show on the video screens plus a surprise appearance by Mickey Mouse dressed as the magician.
After dinner we walked down to the Walt Disney Theatre to watch the Golden Mickeys, a cute show that is a take-off of the Oscars, combined with scenes from Disney movies.
Day 2: Icy Strait Point, Alaska. We spent the morning checking Cheese into kid’s club. For her age group, there is the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab for kids 3-12. They are two separate areas that are connected via a tunnel that the kids love to run up and down.
The Club and Lab both have activities that run each day as well as being open for free play. Characters often visit, such as Spider-Man and the cast of Frozen. While we were waiting to dock, Cheese and I enjoyed one of the many free daily activities that are run all over the ship – 3D Star Wars crafts.
We docked at Icy Strait Point and headed down to check it out after eating lunch. Cheese and I walked around the port and enjoyed the rocky beach, while the rest of the family went on the Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise. Read more about our Icy Strait Point port adventures here.
Cheese and I headed back to the ship to get ready for the Royal Court Royal Tea, a ticketed event for an additional fee that runs once every cruise to a small amount of people. It’s an event that, despite being pricey, books out extremely quickly. You can read about our Royal Court Royal Tea experience in detail here.
We had a lovely afternoon of cakes, meeting princesses and enjoying the songs and storytelling during the Royal Tea event, before heading back out to Icy Strait Point for a walk down one of the nature trails.
We checked back into our room before dinner and found the chocolate prize for completing the scavenger hunt the day before.
Our dining rotation for the evening was the brand new Tiana’s Place, which was our fave restaurant for the attention to detail and ambiance. Live jazz music played during dinner and Tiana herself made the rounds to meet her little fans.
When we returned to our room that evening we had a lovely surprise – a beautiful photo was waiting for us from our Royal Court Royal Tea we had enjoyed earlier that day.
Day 3: Skagway, Alaska
A full day in Skagway meant plenty of time for both an excursion and exploring the town. We booked a tour called Yukon Ho through Skagway Day Trips and highly enjoyed our tour over the Canadian boarder into the Yukon, and fantastic visit to a summer dog sledding camp.
On the tour we held 7-week-old puppies and had a ride on the dog sled, and spotted a bear along the way. Back in town we walked around the historic gold mining era streets before boarding the ship. Read more about our Skagway port adventure here.
Back on board, our dining rotation was Triton’s, followed by the Freezing The Night Away deck party. We donned our light-up snowflakes and made sure we were up on deck in plenty of time. After getting the kid her daily cone of unlimited soft serve, we found her a spot at the front for her to watch the show and gave her and her friends blankets that are stored on the deck incase they felt cold (which they didn’t!).
The deck party featured the whole Frozen cast with lively music and dancing, capped off with “snow” falling from above and silver streamers shooting out across the deck. A highlight night for the kids.
Day 4: Juneau & Tracy Arm, Alaska
A super early morning for us in Juneau so we order room service (available 24 hours a day, room service is free onboard) then meet at what feels like the crack of dawn for our Disney Exclusive Glacier Dog Musher For A Day port adventure. The bonus for us with this excursion over the regular dog mushing ones was the additional time we were given on the glacier with the dogs.
We took an incredibly scenic helicopter flight to the top of the Norris Glacier. In this snowy wonderland we met the dogs and people who lived in complete isolation here during the summer months while training for dog sled races such as the Iditerod.
An incredible few hours flew by where we hugged and patted the dogs, made snow angels on the top of a glacier, and whooshed through the snow on a sled. Playing with the puppies completed the experience, before we were flown back town to Juneau and boarded the ship. Read more about our dog sledding port adventure here.
Our time in Juneau was brief as the ship sailed onwards towards Tracy Arm after lunch. We dropped Cheese off at kid’s club and enjoyed a quiet afternoon on our balcony reading books and watching the amazing scenery as it became more and more glacial. From 4pm onwards Tracy Arm could be viewed from the deck, so we all head up there to take a look.
Dinner rotation was Triton’s again with a Frozen-themed menu. We had an extremely rushed dinner as it was on at the same time as the ship was reaching the peak position to see the glacier.
Up on deck the weather was milder than we had expected. The glacier was right there in front of the ship – we were amazed at how close we were.
The top deck was crowded so after a bit of a look we went back downstairs to our rooms and watched from our balcony instead as we sailed back out of Tracy Arm.
Day 5: Ketchikan, Alaska
Our last point of call, we booked the Neets Bay Bear Watch By Float Plane excursion, which left mid-morning so it wasn’t as rushed as the previous day. We took a shuttle bus to the floatplane base, and then flew to Neets Bay (around 25 minutes away).
Neets Bay is a great spot to see bears as it’s home to a salmon hatchery. Each summer, the salmon return to the hatchery to spawn, which brings the bears in the neighbouring woods out to try their luck at fishing in the stream. We saw about seven black bears on our trip, as well as a few bald eagles.
Back in Ketchikan, there is time to take a walk around the town and look at the totem poles before boarding the ship. A few streets from the port is Creek Street, an historic area that is actually a boardwalk mounted on stilts on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.
Creek Street was Ketchikan’s red light district between 1903 and 1954, with over 20 bawdy houses set up for business on the one strip. The area is now a combination of shops, museums and art galleries. Read more about our Ketchikan port adventure here.
Our dining rotation that night was Animator’s Palate, which featured the character drawing event. At each diner’s place is a piece of paper for the person to draw themselves (or anything really!). During the evening all the drawings are collected and scanned, then turned into an incredible animated show around the walls of the restaurant.
The evening also included a “decorate your own cupcake” option for the kids’ dessert, making it our daughter’s favourite night of the cruise.
We decided to head to the Walt Disney Theatre that evening to watch the show Dreams, An Enchanted Classic. It’s a really sweet story about a girl who needs to believe in herself to fly and featured characters such as Peter Pan.
Day 6: At Sea
Our last day on the ship! We had booked the free Frozen meet and greet but Cheese told us she met them in kid’s club already so didn’t want to meet them again. We had already done the meet and greet on our previous trip so didn’t think we were missing too much by letting her cancel.
We spent an incredibly relaxing day with Cheese in kid’s club and us having a coffee at the adult-only Cove Cafe. We used the free time to trying food from the other casual (and included in the price of the cruise) cafes up on deck, where I was served a pretty good veggie burger and fries.
Cheese wasn’t into meeting the characters on this cruise but was keen to meet Minnie Mouse one last time in her Alaskan gear. While I was waiting in line for Minnie I managed to meet Mickey in his Alaskan gear too. I really love how the characters change outfits several times over the course of the cruise so each time you meet them they look different.
Our last dining rotation was at Tiana’s Place again and the theme was mardi gras night. This meant we were handed festive beads to put on, there was more live music, Louis the alligator made an appearance with Tiana, and the whole restaurant was encouraged to get up and dance. We also highly enjoyed the beignets this evening!
The last show for the cruise was the brand new Frozen musical spectacular. Of all the shows we saw on the ship, it was our favourite. The show cleverly blended puppetry, technology and live actors/singers to create a really riveting performance.
Day 7: Disembarking Day
We put out our bags the night before and had an early breakfast in Tiana’s Place. It’s always sad to leave the ship and this time was no exception. After a quick breakfast we collected our carrying bags and walked off the ship, collecting our bags and then catching a taxi to the airport.
The only privately-owned cruise port in Alaska, Icy Strait Point is near the small village of Hoonah on Chichagof Island, about 35 miles west of Juneau. Owned by the Huna Totem Corporation, a group made up of 1,350 Alaskan Natives with ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area.
Icy Strait Point is home to a restored 1912 Alaska salmon cannery and museum, restaurants, shops that are 100% owned by Alaskans, a beach and some beautiful walking trails. It’s also the jumping off point for nature and adventure tours, as well as being home to plenty of wild life such as bears and eagles (we saw a bald eagle in a tree right in port!).
It’s also one of the best places in the world to spot humpback whales in Alaska, with frequent sightings from May to September.
During our visit to Icy Strait Point, our family split into two groups. Cheese and I explored the port solo and then returned to the ship for the Royal Court Royal Tea, and then ventured out again afterwards for some more time on shore.
We wandered down to the beach, threw rocks and investigated the barnacles and crabs living in the rocks, then strolled along the waterfront into the main village area to walk through the cannery and shops. It’s a great little port with a very authentic feel to it, no doubt as a result of being owned and operated by native Alaskans
The rest of the family boarded the 2.5 hr Whale and Marine Mammals Cruise aboard a catamaran that sailed past Chichagof Island to the Point Adolphus area, one of Alaska’s premier whale-watching sites. This area is so full of whales that if you don’t see one, the operators will give you a $100 cash refund.
Before the ship left port we had time to walk around one of the nature trails near the port.
The city of Ketchikan was the last stop on our 7-night cruise up the Inside Passage of Alaska with the Disney Wonder. While the city itself is known for its many Native American totem poles that can be seen around the town and its historic Creek Street district, it’s also a jumping off point to experience some of the natural and wildlife wonders of Alaska.
Nearby is Misty Fiords National Monument, which makes for a popular floatplane trip to see snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning in the streams. Wildlife in the Ketchikan area include black bears, wolves and bald eagles.
We chose on our stop at Ketchikan to take a floatplane to nearby Neets Bay to hopefully see some bears up close (but not too close!). Our trip was organised through Disney Cruise Line, but if you sail with another cruise line to the port you can take the same tour that we did through Taquan Air.
Neets Bay is 40miles north of downtown Ketchikan – a 25 min plane ride or 35 min by boat. it’s a prime spot to see black bears from late July through early September because the bay is also home to the Neets Bay fish hatchery, where thousands of Coho, Chinook, & Chum salmon return every year in early June to swim upstream and spawn. The salmon attract the bears and the bears attract the people!
For our floatplane and bear watching adventure, we are picked up at the cruise port and transferred by by to the waterfront base where the planes depart. It’s about a 15-minute drive. We watch a safety video before boarding our plane, and then an approximately 25 min flight to Neets Bay. The plane ride is bumpier than expected and for the first time ever, Cheese and I feel motion sick in the air.
On the ground at Neets Bay, we are given a tour of the hatchery on the way to the bear viewing platform. It’s as short 1/4 mile/400m walk through the rainforest and during the walk we learn about the different kinds of salmon, their life cycle and the bears who live in the forest and return every year.
The observation area we are led to has two small undercover gazebo areas where we stand when the rain comes down. The stream directly in front of is teams with salmon and it’s not long before we see bears ambling down to the river to try their hand at fishing.
Despite the abundant number of salmon in the stream, the bears don’t manage to catch any while we are watching. We see about seven different bears during our stay, as well as several bald eagles.
When our time at the river is up we walk back to the waterfront to catch our floatplane back to Ketchikan. During our walk back through the rainforest we come across a black bear only a metre or so away.
The bear was somewhat startled to see us, but was quite relaxed about having several cameras snapping photos not too far away. I guess the bears who return continually to Neets bay have learned that they get a free food buffet but in return have to put up with the paparazzi.
Back in Ketchikan, there is time to take a walk around the town and look at the totem poles before boarding the ship. A few streets from the port is Creek Street, an historic area that is actually a boardwalk mounted on stilts on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.
Creek Street was Ketchikan’s red light district between 1903 and 1954, with over 20 bawdy houses set up for business on the one strip. The area is now a combination of shops, museums and art galleries.
NOTE: There is no food allowed on this trip as it attracts the bears. Be sure to feed kids a BIG meal before boarding the floatplane. There are bathrooms and water available at the hatchery. Ketchikan has a very we climate and there will be a high chance of rain when you visit so dress accordingly.
The port of Skagway in southeast Alaska is a popular stop on the Inside Passage cruise route. The town itself is an historic city with gold-rush-era buildings that have been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
On our stop in Skagway we took the “Yukon Ho” tour with Skagway Day Trips, a local company that specialise in intimate tours.
Our Yukon Ho tour was a four-hour adventure from seal level to 3300 ft over the White Pass Summit, through the Tormented Valley and into the Yukon territory in Canada.
During our Yukon Ho tour we made several stops to admire the spectacular scenery including the “Welcome the Alaska” and “Welcome to the Yukon” signs that make for great photo ops.
The highlight of the tour was a stop at the Tutshi Lake Musher’s Camp where we met and played with 7-week-old Alaskan Husky puppies and added a dog sled ride to our tour package.
While at the musher’s camp we learned more about the life of the Alaskan Huskies and the people who race them in the annual Iditarod competition through snowy Alaska. The camp’s owner, Michelle Phillips, placed 13th in the race in 2017, making her the highest ranking dog musher to be currently running dog sledding tours.
We learned that the purpose of the summer training camp that we visited was to train younger dogs while keeping the team in shape for race season. Alaskan Huskies are a mixed breed that combines breeds such as Siberian Huskies, greyhounds, vizsla and mastiffs to create the perfect race dog.
The dogs were a lot smaller than we had expected. As they are bred to be marathon runners, they are quite light in weight. Their coats were also not as big and fluffy as we had expected, yet when we ran our hands through the fur we could feel the thick layers that make the dogs so suitable for the cold.
On the day we visited it was a mild day yet still required us to wear warm layers – the dogs, however, were unbearably hot and had sprinklers on them while they rested in the shade.
Our dog sled ride was a fun run through some gorgeous scenery, with the dogs yipping in excitement the entire way.
Playing with puppies were another special experience we enjoyed at the mushing camp. As visitors, we provided them with much-needed socialisation that will help them acclimatise themselves to the presence of strangers in the future.
This is particularly important as when the dogs race they are in contact with large numbers of unfamiliar people and dogs so need to be able to cope with environments that are very different to the quiet, isolated part of Alaska where they train during the year.
After a few swings on what was the biggest swing any of us had ever seen, we were back in the van, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife.
While the tours can’t promise animal spottings, we were fortunate to see a deer and grizzly bear on the side of the road.
After a stop to skip rocks and a few more photo ops, we arrived in Skagway with enough time to walk around the town to check out the historic buildings before boarding our ship, the Disney Wonder.
I’m going to be upfront and say Disney cruises are REALLY expensive. Crazy expensive – much more so than a lot of other cruise liners, in fact, that offer similar itineraries. So why choose to spend your time and your money that way? Simply because the experience is unparalleled. We just got back from the 7-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy, and can happily say that here are 16 reasons why, for us, a Disney cruise is worth the money.
1. It’s (almost!) all-inclusive
All your food at the main restaurants and snack joints, entertainment, use of facilities and even room services are included in the price. What’s an extra charge? The spa services, popcorn before the shows, snacks from additional cafes not in the main dining areas and alcohol, and gratuity at the end of the trip (it’s charged to the room at a rate of $12 per person per day).
2. The service is impecable
We received some of the best service of our lives on the ship, especially from the servers in the dining rooms. Our head waiter, assistance and dining room head all knew our name and our dining preferences (for example, I’m a fussy vegetarian and my daughter is fussy period), and would be prepared to offer us with alternatives to the menu each evening if they knew we wouldn’t like them. Our amazing servers followed us each night through the dining rotation (there are three restaurants that we rotated between) so we were always greeted with their smiling faces each evening.
3. Mickey is everywhere
It’s fun to make a game of finding all the hidden Mickeys. From tiny nautical Mickeys made out of ropes in the shower curtains to bigger emblems on the ships decks, there are Mickeys everywhere you look in both discrete and obvious ways, but still pulled together so harmoniously as to present an elegant ship for adults rather than a carnival for children. A masterful design.
4. Disney magic is all around
Disney is renowned for making the ordinary magical, and they don’t disappoint on a cruise, either. Little touches like magical pictures that guests can interact with, or a steering wheel set up in front of what looks to be an ordinary painting but turns out to be a pirate ship that you can steer in search of treasure really give the illusion of a bit of pixie dust sprinkled liberally over every element of the ship.
5. See the world with zero effort
One of the big bonuses to taking a cruise is that you get to wake up at exotic destinations without lifting a finger. Everything is so incredibly easy and manageable, which is what we wanted with a young child. On our cruise, we visited Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and Disney’s own island, Castaway Cay. We were offered off-ship excursions at additional costs, or you can also just walk straight off the ship and find your own way around.
6. Incredible entertainment every day and night
Dazzling shows is what Disney does best, and again they bring this to the cruise. Every night there is a new show to see, the highlight on ours being Aladdin. The performers and staging in these shows is just incredible – it’s a standard of quality that you would happily pay to see under ordinary circumstances.
If you feel like seeing a movie on the cruise, you can head into one of the two movie theatres playing brand new or recent releases (on our ship we had Finding Dory the same day it was released globally in cinemas, Jungle Book and the new Captain America movie), or lie in luxury on the pool deck and watch the “Funnel Vision” movie screen playing Disney classics above the pool on the top deck during the day and night.
7. Water play all day
The top desk is all about getting wet! Our number one fave water play activity was the AquaDuck slide, an exhilarating “water coaster” that sends guests clinging to rafts speeding around the ship enclosed in a tube. Kids can also enjoy a more sedate Mickey slide, the Nemo Reef splash area for littlies, the shallow Mickey Pool and AquaLabs for older kids. Adults can sit back and relax in adult-only pools, too.
8. Everything is super high quality
This is Disney, after all, where nothing but the best is good enough. Every detail about the ship is flawless, and I’d challenge anyone to find a paint chip or a carpet stain on the entire boat. The rooms, the food, the facilities, absolutely everything is top notch, shiny and brand-new looking.
9. The kids won’t want to leave kids’ club
There are plenty of options for kids to be entertained while adults take some time out to relax. As well as a nursery for babies, there’s the “Oceaneer Lab” and “Oceaneer Club” for kids 3-12, “Edge” for tweens 11-14 and “Vibe” for teenagers 14-17. Cheese was a great age for the Oceaneer Lab/Club and loved going so much she would request to be dropped off when we asked what she’d like to do. In the Oceaneer Lab/Club, as well as various open play areas, kids are also entertained with games and visiting characters such as Lilo and Stich or Tinkerbell.
10. Activities are endless
Let me put it this way, no one will be bored. Every evening, an activity sheet is released for the next day which is jam packed with options for the whole family. Adults can choose from plenty of 18+ options such as bingo, animation and fitness classes, but the majority of activities are family-focussed, such as character appearances, trivia competitions and even baby racing. Yes, you read that right.
11. The food is top notch
Dining aboard a boat was a major concern of mine, which thankfully we didn’t need to worry about at all. There were both plenty of options, as well as lots of fresh, healthy food to choose from. Each morning and lunch we dined at Cabanas, the buffet restaurant on the top deck, blown away with the choice of food such as fruit, made-to-order omelettes, yogurts, cereals, toasts, bagels, Mickey waffles and more for breakfast, followed by salads, more fruit, and hot food options such as vegetables, pasta dishes, pizza and so forth for lunch.
Dinner each night was served in a rotating restaurant – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden and Royal Court, where we were presented with a three course menu to select what we would like. While there were always vegetarian options made available, if I didn’t particularly fancy that night’s menu, the kitchen staff were more than happy to either send me a dish from another restaurant, or whip me up something specially in the back.
If we missed our dining rotation or the Cabanas buffet times, there were snack options available on the pool deck most of the day, including burgers, sandwiches, pizza and fruit, plus the 24-hour room service. It was hard exercising off all the food we ate!
12. Free-on demand tv
On a Disney boat, you’d expect a lot of Disney TV, wouldn’t you? In the rooms, Disney TV shows and movies are streamed 24-hours on demand, with a huge variety to appeal to both the kiddies during the day, and adults once the kidlets have gone to bed at night.
13. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Wittout a doubt my daughter’s favoruite thing abut the ship was her transformation into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. You can read about our experience here.
14. Plenty of 18+ only areas
While we loved spending time with our daughter on the Fantasy, we occasionally needed some adult time, so when she was keen to head off to the kids’ clubs we would also happily wander up to the 18+ areas for a drink or just a coffee and would sit happily watching the ocean roll past and chat or read a book without having to listen to other peoples’ children screaming. Bliss!
15. Everything is seamlessly run
The ship is run with what can only be called Disney efficiency. Everything happens exactly when it is supposed to happen, to the very second, and there are no hiccups, no mishaps, no wrinkles in the perfect Disney holiday experience. A Disney cruise is a slickly run machine.
16. Countless character interactions
The numerous character interactions were a big plus for our family and our daughter who is at the age where she likes to throw herself with gay abandon at all Disney characters like they’re a long-lost loved one. Luckily the characters are ready for four-year-old missiles and handle all the poking and whacking with swords with good humour.
I did wonder if, after the first day or so, she’d get bored with seeing the same characters over and over again, but, the geniuses, have outfitted the characters in numerous costumes, so each time we saw them they always looked a bit different (except for Peter Pan, who always looked exactly like Peter Pan in his tights and little green hat). On formal night, for example, the characters appeared in tuxes and sparkling gowns, and needless to say, pirate night was full of eye patches and bandanas.
Every day the times and locations for where the character meet and greets will occur is printed in the “navigator” that is distributed to the rooms each evening with the following day’s activities so you always know where to find your favourite giant plush or princess. Characters often just roam the ship too, so you never know who might start crowing over the balcony (yes, the crowd favourite, Peter Pan, yet again).
The most popular characters have free ticketed events that you can sign up for online before boarding the ship, such as the princess Royal Court, Anna and Elsa from Frozen and the Disney Junior character breakfast.
Compared to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, the characters on the boat spend a lot of time with each guest interacting with them personally, rather than it just being a quick photo op. This does make the wait a bit longer, but the characters and also Disney cast members who are managing the crowds, make the kids each feel so incredibly special that it’s worth it.
We’ve just gotten back from our first cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy – a 7-night Caribbean cruise. The cruise was incredibly fun, but there was so much to learn beforehand to really get the most out of the experience. When you’re planning your own Disney Cruise, tips and tricks like these will help you plan your own perfect cruise, before you even get on board.
Book well in advance. Hard core cruisers book a year in advance when the cruise is released. It’s believed they get the best prices then. Booking three months out is considered last minute but cabins are often still available.
Think hard about what cabin/type do you want. We went for middle ship with a verandah as I was terrified of sea sickness. The cabins to the edges and with a porthole or “magic window” are cheaper.
Your advance booking window is determined by your Castaway Club membership level, as follows: First-Time Guests – 75 days prior to sail date; Silver Castaway Club Member – 90 days prior to sail date; Gold Castaway Club Member – 105 days prior to sail date; Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Member – 120 days prior to sail date.
Take note of the day that the activities are released in US time – 12:01 EST and log on during the night to book things like the princess royal court.
Book your activities as soon as you can as the popular ones book up fast. You can easily cancel your activities up to 3 days before departure – including the port activities. Some popular activities, like the Princess afternoon tea, book up as soon as they are released. Others have plenty of spots but you should still book in as soon as possible to get the days and times you want.
Free on-board activities that require booking include the Princess meet and greet, Frozen meet and greet and Disney Junior breakfast (currently only available on 7-night or longer cruises).
Join your cruise Facebook group – search for the ship departure date and name in Facebook. Many of the people in the Facebook group will be frequent cruisers so can answer all of your tricky questions.
Many frequent cruisers hang decorations on their door called “Fish Extenders” and take park in a “Fish Exchange”. Every stateroom has a fish of some kind hanging on the wall outside the door where Disney staff place important communications to you such as excursion tickets and notes. A Fish Extender (FE) is something that you hang off the fish while still allowing the Disney staff to use it for its original purpose. All the people in the exchange buy or make little items and place them in each other’s fish extenders. It’s basically a gift exchange.
Choose your dining rotation when you book your cabin – main dining is the early session which begins at 5:45pm, and second seating, which starts at 8pm. If you book too late you will be placed in late dining like we were and have to request a change and hope it comes through. For your assigned seating time and restaurant rotation, please check the dining tickets located in your stateroom upon arrival.
“Main” or early dining fills up fast. If you’re not sure what dining rotation you want when you book your cruise, choose early as it’s the most popular. It’s always possible to change it to the late session when you board, but rarely the other way around. If you book late (like I did) you might be allocated the late dining session. if this happens, call Disney Cruise Line and request to be put on the wait list for the change.
Both dining session get to see the same live shows at night. If you do “main” or early dining, you will then be able to see the late show, which is at 8:30pm. If you do late dining, you can then do the early show, which is at 6:15pm.
If you aren’t able to get the dining session you want, you can still use several other flexible and included dining options on the ship, including the free 24-hour room service.
If you missed out on your dining session even after being wait listed, there are Disney Cruise Line employees set up in one of the main dining rooms on embarkation day to try to accommodate dining requests (which dining room it is will be listed on the Navigator that you get at the Port).
In case you forget where you’re supposed to eat dinner each night, your dining rotation will also be listed on the Key to the World card as well as the tickets in the room.
Many frequent cruisers place Disney magnets all over their doors, often with their family names and pictures on them. You can make your own or order some on Etsy.
Take note of your Port Arrival time (PAT). Your PAT determine your boarding number therefore when you board the ship. If you do not complete online checking then you will most likely get a high boarding number and sit in the terminal waiting to board the ship. PAT are first come first serve therefore by completing your checkin as soon as it is enabled online, you will have a better chance of a earlier PAT. Note: If you are taking the Disney Cruise Line busses from the Walt Disney World resorts then this is not that important since the buses will not get to the port until after 1pm anyway.
If you buy a disney photo premium package in advance you get 15% off. If you don’t like the photos on board you can ask for a refund. This discount only applies to the most expensive packages, like purchasing all of the digital images. Go to: http://www.mycruisephotos.com/DCL
You are also able to register kids for kids’ club online before boarding the ship. I’d highly advise doing so as it just saves time filing in more forms when you go to drop them off for the first time.
Pack breakables in your carry on bag, plus anything you might need for the rest of the day as it can take a while for luggage to be delivered to rooms.
Put a pair of swimmers in your carry on so you can head straight to the pool when you get onboard.
Be early for everything onboard. If there is a movie, a show, even a character meet and greet, be early, by at least 15 minutes if not longer. If you want to see it, everyone else is bound to as well.
Formal, semi-formal and pirate dress-up nights are really optional. We were travelling a long way before and after our cruise so had minimal luggage space for special formal or dress-up wear, and it ended up not being a big deal at all. We just wore our nicest clothes and they were fine. Some people go al out, however, wearing suits and fancy dresses, and make the most out of the opportunity to get glammed up and have portraits taken.
If you book another cruise onboard you get a discounted rate. The deposit you place down on the cruise is completely refundable so it’s a good idea if you’re strongly considering taking another cruise in the near future.
The water in the cabins is drinkable but a bit funky tasting. I’d advise taking large refillable water bottles with you and refilling them throughout the day at the free beverage station on the pool deck.
There are shops onboard where you can buy most things you might forget, like sunscreen, hats, toothbrushes and so on, but they are on the pricey side. Stock up on your own everything before boarding, including sea sickness medication, just in case. It is possible to get free sea sickness medication free of charge from guest services if you forget to pack your own.
Are you a Disney cruiser? I’d love to add your tips and tricks!