Cruisin’ with Mickey

Last summer, my parents took my family on a Disney Cruise. My kids were at great ages for Disney – 6 and 8, and my parents wanted to do Disney with the kids…without having to actually “do” Disney with the kids. My parents aren’t amusement park people. And while Disney World and Disneyland are hardly your average amusement parks, it was still out of my parents’ comfort zone. It’s a lot of walking, and standing in line, and walking, and standing in line.

But a cruise? My parents are experts on cruises! They have been on huge ships, small ships with sails, and riverboats. They love the all-inclusive side of a cruise – you board the ship and let the staff take care of you. You can disembark at every port, or just stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities. This is their kind of vacation.

So we were BEYOND grateful and excited that they wanted to do this for us! We used a local Disney travel agent who arranged flights, organized our paperwork, and answered the zillion questions we had about all things Disney cruise. She also helped us book excursions, character meet-and-greets, and dinner reservations. For Disney cruise newbies, this was a huge help.

Our cruise was on the ship Fantasy, and was seven nights, through the eastern Caribbean, with stops in St. Thomas, Tortola, and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. We had three days at sea, which was a wonderful way to explore everything the ship has to offer. And it has everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. We even cut our day short in Tortola, so we could enjoy a less-crowded ship and unlimited rides on the Aquaduck.  But don’t, I repeat, don’t skip Castaway Cay. You’ll thank me later.

Before we left, I made it my job to check every Pinterest post about taking a Disney cruise – what to pack, how to pack, what to buy, must-dos, things to avoid, things to skip – you name it, I found it on Pinterest. I also joined a Facebook group for Disney Cruise devotees (these people know. it. all.) and one for our exact cruise so we could connect with people ahead of time. I felt ready to enjoy this cruise like a boss!

And that, my friends, is what we did. This was absolutely one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken! My kids loved it. My parents loved it – and they have high expectations when it comes to cruises. They said it rivaled one of their favorite luxury cruise lines. If they were swayed, you know Disney did it right.

Now that time has passed (and we’re hopefully thinking about the next cruise…), I’ve had time to think about all the tips and tricks I learned from our experience. Here are some things I’ve come away with:

Do your homework ahead of time. Go on Pinterest. There are blogs devoted to Disney cruises. Find them and compare notes. I learned so much and we were so prepared.
Give in to the Disney magic. Seriously. Embrace it. There are places on the ship that are decidedly Disney, but there are also areas where it is subtler. Get pictures with the characters. My husband happened on Pluto when he was getting something we’d left in the room. His picture is priceless. My mom purposely sought a picture with Aladdin. Find your inner child and run with it.

• That being said, there are plenty of adult-only spaces that are legit! On the Fantasy, there are many bars and lounges that are decidedly un-Disney. There is an adult-only pool area and restaurant as well. You can escape when needed.

• And when you are needing some adult time, take advantage of the Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, and It’s a Small World Nursery. These are the kids’ clubs on the ship. My 8-year-old spent two days in the Club from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. He LOVED it. There are planned activities as well as rooms for the kids to chill with a movie or video game. They have a very strict check-in/check-out procedure with wristbands and picture ID. The kids can request to have you paged at any time. They feed them lunch, dinner and snacks. We loved it and didn’t feel guilty one bit.

Room service is included in your fare, so USE IT! We ordered it a few mornings when we didn’t feel like being presentable to dine at the breakfast buffet. The portions are ample, and the service was quick. We ordered milk and cookies before bed one night. Bliss.

The staterooms are impressive! I felt there was plenty of storage and room to move. And each stateroom has TWO bathrooms. TWO! One with a toilet and sink, and another with a shower/tub and sink. Brilliant! And the soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are all exclusive Disney cruise line products from H2O+. I may have brought some a lot home with me… • Make time for yourself. There are so many places on the ship you can escape to! One afternoon, I sat in the floor-to-ceiling porthole in our room, sipped wine and watched Frozen. Alone. Another day, I bought a day pass for part of the spa and took a nap on one of their heated loungers. Alone. And one morning after breakfast, my daughter played in the pool while I sat in a nearby deck chair, sipping coffee and watching Ratatouille (my favorite Disney movie) on their pool-side jumbotron.

Admittedly, I could go on and on. If you have the means and are debating a Disney cruise, do it. You won’t be disappointed. It works for adults only, as well as families of multiple generations. Disney has thought of everything for everyone – kids and kids-at-heart.

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