Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing ways for you to save money while you’re at Disney.
Why should I try to save money on a Disney Cruise?
I love Disney. I love Disney Cruise Line. Some of my most cherished and priceless family memories happened out to sea with Mickey and the gang. But if I can save a couple hundred thousand dollars, that’s more money for cabanas, souvenirs, fruity drinks and the future cruise desk. Continue reading “How to Save Money on a Disney Cruise”
The sun rose over a lovely calm sea and the Disney Wonder rotated slowly into place next to the dock at Castaway Cay. We finished breakfast and headed for the forward gangway. It was time to go ashore in paradise.
Ben and I walked ashore, took some quick snaps and then walked straight for the cabana check-in desk. (If you don’t feel like walking, you can wait for a tram at the “Kargo Handling Tram Stop” and ride past the “Scuttle’s Cove Tram Stop” to the “Pelican Point Tram Stop.” The check-in desk for the cabanas is next to the shaded tram stop.)
We hopped into our golf cart and made it out to our cabana bright and early.
We made ourselves at home, laying out our items on the counter, claiming spots along the deck and slathering everyone in copious amounts of sunscreen.
The kids and I played in the cove. Counted fish. Splashed and squealed. The water in December isn’t exactly hot, but it’s still plenty warm enough for wading and floating in tubes.
Small silvery fish darted through the clear waters and after hours of frolicking on the beach, swinging in hammocks and snacking on fruit, chips and barbeque (fetched from Cookies Too!), the boys decided to go back to the ship.
The girls fetched a few dozen of the most beautiful shells to decorate the tables. Then fell to sipping cans of soda and sunning themselves. I love reading. I love reading and lounging even better, so I was game to hang about at the cabana as most of the guests headed back to the ship. Midafternoon, Kylee and I headed back to the ship ourselves.
I don’t know if it was because there were so few guests on the way back to the ship or if it was only a coincidence, but we spotted many lizards, a toad and a hermit crab along the path back to the Wonder.
Those sweet moments when I can talk to my daughter one on one and slow down to see the world from her point of view? Priceless.
Kylee spent her souvenir money in the Star Wars store. Ewoks are her favorite, Wicket particularly. When she’d spotted a stuffed Wickett in the store that evening, she knew just what she’d pick for her souvenir.
Despite Wickett joining us for “So You Want to Be a Mouseketeer,” we were not selected. Maybe next time!
Kylee headed into the Oceaneer Club while Ben and I headed up to the top deck to watch as the Disney Wonder headed back out to sea during an amazingly gorgeous sunset.
After all day laying in the sun, a long quiet dinner (with four children) seemed just the thing to do. The children wanted to eat quickly and head into the Oceaneer Club, but we ran into one of Kylee’s best friends on the way.
Our family chose to skip Toy Story the Musical in favor of a nice evening listening to music, romping in the kids clubs and walking around the promenade deck looking at the starlight.
Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion
I woke up early for a nice jog on deck, the humidity wasn’t too bad and the sea was pretty even so it was a good run. I think we were a bit off of Key West. The headwind suggested we were moving along at quite a clip rather than parked offshore.
Ernie joined me around sunrise so I walked with him for a while. The Wonder wouldn’t arrive in Key West until 11:30 so we had plenty of time.
I headed back to my stateroom for a shower then we hit Beach Blanket Buffet for a relaxed breakfast. Diana and Ernie met up with us and we hung about for a while.
And Kylee took some time for a swim. The pools are heated. The air is not. My kids, despite being born in the south, have no problem swimming when the air temperature is around 70. I do, but more power to her.
I wonder why she had the slide and pool all to herself. Oh yeah. Because she’s crazy. I wonder if she’ll swim during our Alaska cruise? Chris headed down to the Oceaneer Lab rather than help supervise swim time, but Ben kept me company.
Kylee eventually realized there weren’t any other kids and asked to go to the club until we arrived in Key West. Ben and I lounged around on deck enjoying the breeze until we were closer to port. We met up with the Ketchersides up on deck 9 around 11.
Most of us ate burgers while we waited for everyone to gather since we anticipated Key Lime based deserts in the offing. The kiddos headed down to deck four to engage in perhaps the least well organized game of shuffleboard ever.
Think Alice in Wonderland croquet without the flamingos.
Once the crew announced all ashore, the kids all streamed down onto the dock. Docking at Mallory Square means that we were only two blocks from Duvall Street. Even the shortest legs in our party easily made it to Kermit’s.
Between all of us, I think we still only tried a fraction of the available desserts. Kylee (who was in the midst of adding dairy slowly back into her diet) licked the chocolate off the outside of her frozen chocolate dipped Key Lime Pie. I nibbled on my Key Lime jelly beans.
A few slices of classic Key Lime pie disappeared. Several limeades. Key limeades, naturally.
We all walked back toward Mallory Square. Dad and Mom wandered off to take some pictures and window shop while Abigail headed back to the ship with her parents. Nancy and Shawn took Sydney to poke around the shops for some souvenirs.
We took advantage of the perfect weather to wander up the coast and take some pictures.
And goof off too.
By the time we headed back to the ship, the kids wanted to switch into comfy (read less sweaty) clothing and relax for a while. For Chris this means the Oceaneer Club.
For Kylee it means heading to Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball. The Snowbelles, Santa and Mrs. Claus and the Fab Five all hosted a singing dancing indoor party. If you missed the one in the afternoon, they offered another one after the second dinner seating too.
Kylee popped into the club to get her face painted like a peppermint while we caught a football game with Matt in Diversions. Actually I think they were watching at least two games simultaneously. There might’ve been a third as well. I don’t follow sportsing that well.
We would be enjoying dinner in Triton’s so we caught up with Pluto on the way in. Dinner, though yummy took a very long time. Chris walked himself up to the club before us adults received our main courses. Kylee wanted to leave too but was waiting to split my entrée. After a bit of window shopping in Treasure Ketch (and some legit souvenir shopping too) we headed to Cadillac Lounge.
We dropped off our purchases in the room then collected the kids to go watch Mike Super with Diana and Ernie. Chris turned to me a few moments after being seated to exclaim, “Wow. That’s really lucky. He has a great last name for a magician.”
The magic show itself was interesting and there were a few that were simply astonishing. After such a magical evening, Kylee wanted to be carried back up to our stateroom. Ugh. Not if I’m in heels and the ship is rocking. Thankfully everyone survived the five minute walk up to our deck seven home away from home.
As the kids fell asleep I browsed through the personal navigator. Tomorrow is Nassau. What kind of trouble could we possibly get into?
Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion
I woke up early the next morning and headed out for my morning run and empty ship photo walk. It’s nice to clear my head before a day that promised to be filled with nothing short of character overload.
Suffice it to say that it was early enough that the waves on the left side of the photo are reflecting moonlight and I had plenty of time to run before our “early” Disney Junior Character breakfast.
We scheduled all of our character ticketed events back to back to back on our first sea day. We’ve found it easier to schedule around one day of character events and I’ve nearly forgotten later in the week tickets. Besides, to the girls meeting the characters is a major part of vacation and it’s much easier to bypass the line for Ariel if you already met her earlier in the week during a princess gathering.
On itineraries of seven nights and more, the Disney Junior Characters host a character breakfast. The kids downed Mickey waffles (and so did a few of the adults) as Doc McStuffins, Jake (from the Neverland Pirates), Princess Sofia and as a special guest, Donald Duck greeted the tables. I don’t know if no one wanted to wake up early on the first day of vacation, but the characters managed to spend tons of time at each of the five or six tables with guests at the first seating. The entire center and far side of the restaurant stood empty.
Christopher does not like the possibility of Princesses sneaking up behind him, so we seated him toward the wall by the parents while the girls sat on the opposite side so they could easily slip in and out to meet the characters.
Matt and Becky took Abigail up to the sports deck to play basketball and soccer while Chris and Kylee took a quick dip before the club opened. Chris popped over to the club while all the Ketcherside girls joined up to meet the princesses at the princess gathering.
Cinderella, Belle, Ariel and Rapunzel were out for the Princess Gathering, so everyone got to meet her favorite. Princesses vary cruise to cruise and somewhat ship to ship, so it’s best to keep an open mind about which princesses you’ll meet.
PawPaw and Mimi joined up in the atrium and all of the Ketchersides (except Chris) trooped from the Princess Gathering down the hall to Animators Palate
Two gatherings down, one to go!
Seven princesses, a stuffed animal doctor, a duck with anger issues, a preschool pirate and a singing snowman later, we dropped the girls off in the Oceaneers Club.
Ben and I relaxed with fruity drinks in Diversions for a while. Matt and Becky headed up to the pool deck to track down Minnie Mouse with Abigail and lunch came and went uneventfully.
Except that when we dropped by the club midafternoon to check on Kylee and Chris, Kylee hadn’t eaten lunch. Her special request (no dairy) lunch hadn’t been delivered. Some kind of miscommunication between kitchen and club staff. This became a running theme this cruise, though they did fix it by the end of the week.
We took her off to the pool deck for a quick burger, then she did what all good blogger kids do: asked to take photos of the unique carpeting patterns.
Kylee headed back into the Oceaneer Club and Ben and I made it downstairs just in time to join in on Disney Tunes Trivia in the Promenade Lounge.
Do you know what state “Song of the South” takes place in?
I do now.
On walking up to collect my prize (a Mickey medal), I noticed a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. Alexia and her family relocated to Asia for work, but came all the way back to Texas to meet up with her extended family for this cruise.
Anyway, as I started to turn and head back to my table, the entertainment staff member started calling after me “If you want to keep the prize you have to sing for us!” Totally in jest. Alexia at the front table yells back “she’s in church choir!”
Side note: I was. Back in 2009. It’s been a while.
Anyway, everyone in her family starts calling to me so, to make a long story even longer, two minutes later I find myself singing and clapping along to a piano rendition of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Along with most of the member of the promenade lounge who mercifully joined in around “Mister bluebird’s on my shoulder.”
My, oh, my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way
Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s actual
Everything is “satisfactual”
I’ve done musical theatre, but this was nothing like that. This was without any rehearsal, without any sheet music, without any lyrics and without any warning. I’d put this squarely in the “bucket list/terrifying/awesome” category. I have no photos (for obvious reasons) but for the right price, I’m pretty sure my husband would leak his copy of the video. It’s not my best vocal performance.
I walked back over to my table, or I assume I did because my in-laws (who’d arrived when I started singing, naturally) and Ben both stood there laughing and having an amazing time rehashing the whole thing. I still think it was the oddest most out of body style experience of my life.
Ben and I headed off to do some shopping before collecting the kids to get dressed for formal night.
After dinner in Parrot Cay, where, per normal, my kids ate as fast as possible to be able to go to the Oceaneer Lab for Pluto’s Pajama Party. I trailed Chris most of the way to the club at a distance, but let him use his check-in privileges by himself to feel like a big kid. Kylee we still have to walk all the way to the club or lab (and plan to for a while yet.) Ben and I hung around the Cadillac Lounge enjoying Tim Ross on the piano and the chill atmosphere. There is something magical about getting to dress up and act like a lady. It almost makes me wish it were the fifties. Almost.
We fetched the kids in time to watch Ensign Bensen rescue the Golden Mickeys. This show grew on me. On first viewing I liked it, but after several rewatchings, I love the simple underdog message.
Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion
As an early Christmas gift (and to celebrate a big anniversary and some birthdays too), my in-laws took the entire extended Ketcherside family on the Disney Wonder for a Very MerryTime Reunion cruise.
(Thanks again mom!)
Very MerryTime cruise on Disney Cruise Line?
Yeah, we’re so there. Having done a cruise or two during the holidays, as well as several that weren’t, I’d say that there’s definitely a little extra pixie dust around Christmas.
Our MerryTime Reunion Crew
Being a crazy large reunion cruise, we’d be sharing this wonderful vacation with the grandparents Ernie and Diana, better known as Mimi and PawPaw. They’re no strangers to Disney Cruise Line. Most recently, they costarred in my Liberty of the Seas Live Blog.
My brother in law, Shawn, his wife Nancy and my niece Sydney (9, like Chris) joined up. They hadn’t cruised Disney beforehand, so I anxiously awaited their thoughts on our vacation…
My other brother in law, Matt, his wife, Becky and my niece Abigail rounded out our new cruisers. Abigail was going through a clingy stage so they weren’t sure how much time, if any, she would want to spend in the Oceaneer Club with her cousins.
Then there were the usual suspects.
Ben, Chris, Kylee, Duffy the Bear and I rounded out this motley crew. This would be our kids’ fifth voyage aboard Disney Cruise Line, but only their second on the Disney Wonder and their first on the Wonder for a longer itinerary. Ben and I would be on our seventh Disney Cruise and counting…
Planning a Cruise Reunion
Unlike our previous cruises, we needed to coordinate four family’s calendars in the days between the announcement of the itineraries and the opening of bookings. I answered questions and sent spare copies of Passporter’s Guide to Disney Cruise Line Guides to each of the first time cruisers in advance of bookings. In retrospect, the two day turn around between announcement and booking is quite short.
After collecting everyone’s booking numbers, I waited a few days for the craziness to die down then called up to link our staterooms for dining. Other than reminding everyone when their booking windows arrived and planning for a surprise or two, a cruise more or less plans itself and is perhaps the easiest way for a large party to enjoy a Disney vacation together.
It helps that everyone involved knew how to make their own magic!
Since our cruise embarked on Black Friday, it was a bit of a mishmash until we met up at port. Diana, Ernie, Matt Becky and Abigail stayed at the Moody Gardens Hotel the night before (planning to avail themselves of a deal to stay and then enjoy a shuttle to and from the hotel). Shawn, Nancy and Sydney would drive in from the western suburbs on the morning of and we would all meet up easily well before our boarding time.
With our bags waiting in readiness by the door, it was only a matter of waiting for the kids to wake up before our adventure began as it always does.
With Mickey pancakes at our favorite diner. I know we could go there anytime, but we only seem to go out for breakfast when we’re going on vacation. For me, this is when vacation begins, MerryTime reunion or not.
Before we arrive at the restaurant, last minute reviews of lists, verifying paperwork and checklists occupy my thoughts, but after a nice slow fun breakfast? I’m on vacation.
Yeah, we still have to drive clear across town, over a causeway and to port. But mentally, I’m already drinking a fruity drink and feeling the sea breeze through my hair. Which is probably why Ben drives.
We hang out at a little coffee shop just down the beach from the cruise terminal and I enjoy listening to various cruise staff as they pop in and sit down to enjoy the free stateside WiFi. At an hour until boarding we can’t wait any longer so we head over to our favorite no frills car park, EZ Cruise Parking.
This is the point that Ben starts to act like he’s on vacation (after double checking that we have our proper documentation of course.) A very short shuttle ride later and we’re standing on the porch of cruise terminal two.
After some quick pictures (and despite the fact that the first port arrivals don’t begin for an hour) we join the queue that runs halfway down the length of the building. Ben and Chris hold our place in line as Kylee and I say hello to half a dozen of our cruise meet friends, including a family from Nebraska that we’d cruised with the year before as well.
Diana and Ernie showed up shortly after us, followed quickly by Matt, Becky and Abigail. Once we were through security and checked in we did our usual check at the supervisors desk. As per normal, we were greeted by a “Captain Mickey is Sailing With a Full Ship” sign; no upgrades available.
Kylee very nearly pulled Abigail off her feet in her excitement over seeing her cousin again while Chris and his bear played with Diana. Several texts and much speculation later, Shawn, Nancy and Sydney arrived. Just in time for them to settle in for a minute or two, wander over and meet Mickey and then….
it was boarding time!
Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion
November 27, 2015
Seven Night BahamianExtended Family Reunion
Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today the kids are answering the question, which Disney Park is the best?
I love Disney Cruise Line. I wax poetic often. But after visiting Walt Disney World, surely the kids at least prefer Walt Disney World to the Disney Cruise Line. Right?
Turns out the little Castaway didn’t fall to far from the tree. When asked which Disney Park is the best, they both piped up with “Disney Cruise Line” without missing a beat. Hold onto your hats, because these little pirates took over the blog for the day!
(From here on Adventurer Mom’s comments appear in parentheses.)
Code Name: Adventurer Girl
Age: 7 1/2
Specialties: Vegan Diets, Parkour, Swimming, Singing
Castaway Club: Gold Member
Dream Itinerary: I’d probably go with the Bahamas and Key West because of Key Lime jelly beans.
Top 11 Things To Know About Disney Cruise Line
They’re tidy and kept well when you get there.
It’s so much fun when you get to meet Cinderella. But you don’t have to be dressed up.
Normally they keep up the Christmas decorations until like their first of second cruise in January. So if you need a late Christmas cruise, you can have one in January still. (Adventurer Mom note: They often come down just after New Year’s Eve. Check with Disney Cruise Line for the MerryTime Cruise schedule.)
The beds are warm and comfy. Especially the bunk beds. *vigorous jazz hands*
The waitresses and diners and room cleaner uppers are all very nice.
The horn isn’t too loud it’s just *When You Wish Upon a Star hummed loudly* and pretty.
The best part of a cruise is the splash pads and the Mickey slide.
The kids clubs are A.W.E.S.O.M.E. and there are slides and a big play treasure thing and lots of thingamajiggers. (???)
It’s a big blue shimmery pretty ship. If you like ships. Not like the Titanic.
The thing about the theatres is you never get bored. If they sneak up behind you in Villains Tonight! don’t get scared. It’s all scary but it’s supposed to be. It’s villains.
You have to put magnets on your door unless you want it to be totally plain.
Why Disney Cruise Line instead of Walt Disney World?
You don’t have to walk around all day and there aren’t rides that make you throw up in a throw up bowl. (Says my daughter, the adrenaline junkie who has never been motion sick on a ride in her life.) Instead you have fun rocking away on a verandah on an island port view or with the sea in your ears all the time. (I think she means she enjoys the sound of the ocean and rocking in hammocks).
Favorite onboard activity?
The kids’ club! (Oceaneer Club and Lab.) The Club and Lab is the best because it lets kids interact and talk without parents telling them to shush. And they can play and play and do video games and run around down slides and you can talk to Stitch and sometimes even Lilo.
Tell me about your most unforgettable Disney Cruise.
When we went on the Fantasy with the little Mickey sprinkles, I can never forget. I had hot chocolate, we got Mickey sprinkles in them and they were so yummy. I was in the concierge lounge and the concierge-y Miss what’s-her-name (Miss Julia you mean?) gave it to us.
What words would you use to describe Disney Cruise Line?
Fun, Inspiring, Awesome, Cool, Relaxing, Sunbathing, Splashing, Fireworks, Strengthening (from running around in the kids club “like a maniac”), Patient because the patient waiters are patient for us and the chefs who make our food.
Code Name: Adventurer Boy
Age: 9 1/2
Specialties: Legos, Parkour, Programming
Castaway Club: Gold Member
Dream Itinerary: Pretty much all the way across the world. Like Europe. Britain.
Why is Disney Cruise Line the perfect vacation?
You can relax. I like looking at the ocean. It is pretty interesting to see water in a place where water isn’t that smacked up into a sea. I like having to walk up very little to get to a restaurant because at Disney World it’s like a handful of space between each. I like the water parks, going down the water slide. The Disney Cruise has interesting mechanisms to look at like the elevators. It is interesting to think about how it works.
What is your favorite port and why?
Galveston. It seems more friendly. It is closer to home. (Can’t argue him on that.)
Okay, but what’s your favorite port the ship visits?
Castaway Cay! Because I’ve never seen a beach in my life except for there. (You’ve been to the beach in Galveston; doesn’t that count?) No. (I hate to agree with him, but Galveston really can’t compare with Castaway Cay.)
Favorite onboard activity?
Swimming! It has a bunch of space to swim in. I like sliding down the water slide as I said earlier. It is like pretty fast for a water slide as I first imagined. The Mickey slide is meant for big kids because if a baby was in it, it would not good.
Tell me about your most unforgettable Disney Cruise.
My first cruise. It was like really different from how I imagined when I left. I thought it was going to just be a plain old ship that would plunk us into the sea then plunk us back on land. But I was wrong. We got to see multiple islands like Castaway Cay, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Nassau. We got to swim with stingrays, me and mom. They were pretty much like squishy flat surfaces with long tails at the backs. I couldn’t forget the water or that day.
What words would you use to describe Disney Cruise Line?
Awesome, Cool, Interesting, Delicious, Fun, Unusual (you don’t see it everyday), Unforgettable, as if I’m part of something big and important (what do you mean?) *shrugs* like I’m special, Adventurous, Curious
(Come back tomorrow to hear what the kids think of Royal Caribbean. How does it stack up from a kid’s point of view?)
For more kid reviews,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
You’ve heard every daily detail of our trip aboard the Liberty of the Seas…but what did I think of Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean? Follow along as the two biggest family cruise companies go toe to toe.
Firstly, each cruise line definitely specializes and appeals to many kinds of travelers. I travel almost exclusively with my family. Therefore my impressions strongly lean into my experiences traveling with early elementary aged children.
As always with each experience, your mileage will vary.
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean
Liberty of the Seas, much like Disney Cruise Line, let us into the terminal around 10am. Check in and security are pretty nearly identical experiences in terms of efficiency at the Port of Galveston. With a boarding number one in hand, we still had to wait until every other frequent cruiser level boarded ahead of us leaving us boarding at 11:30. The biggest difference is that there aren’t any characters to meet or decorations while you are waiting to board. On Royal Caribbean you’re just sitting there.
On Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line, they call your number, take your number at the door, you walk past (or stop for) the pre-boarding pictures and walk up the gangway. On Royal, you scan your SeaPass, step onto the ship and are left to your own devices. As my son put it, “I don’t feel special here.”
On Disney, you step aboard directly into the stunning atrium, introduced by your family name and greeted by enthusiastic applause as helpful cast members direct you to your lunch options.
Both cruise lines checked our ship cards and lined us up. Royal ran us off of paper and clipboards while Disney ran us off of tablet computers. Both took longer than seemed necessary.
Only eighty-three kids under age twelve cruised with us on Liberty of the Seas and as such, they combined the Explorers (age 6-8) and Voyagers (age 9-11). They met in the Explorers room. Often my children were the only two children and they couldn’t run the scheduled activities so my son sat and played video games and my daughter did crafts with the counselors. (My son very much liked this.) When a dozen or so kids joined them, the only options were to participate in the scheduled activity or sit and read. Free play was discouraged and participation enforced with timeouts. This did not go over well with either of my children. My daughter loved many of the programs (and even said she preferred some of them to the options on Disney) but she never asked to stay longer when I picked her up. There is no way for children or for the club to contact parents other than calling the stateroom and leaving a phone message there.
After a pretty bad experience one evening when the kids wanted desperately to be picked up but without any way to contact me, and subsequently skipping the club for a day or two, the counselors dug up one of the phones used by the Babies and Tots program for us to check out. A day after rejoining the club, they face painted my son because they “had to for an activity” that he did not want to participate in despite him saying he did not want his face painted several times. (Side note: he has never allowed anyone to paint his face in the nine years he has been on the earth.) I was beyond frustrated with the lack of respect this showed for my kids. Basically he let them draw on his face so that he could go back to reading in peace rather than cause another problem and need a time out.
The clubs open and close for three hour sessions with intervening two hour breaks and an optional late night program (for a fee). To use the daytime program, we needed to adjust my kids swimming and rest to fit around the available hours. (We rarely could use any of the afternoon session, for example.)
The last night of our Royal Caribbean cruise, my son wanted me to pick him up early before programming was over in favor of coming back to the cabin and reading by himself. He’d read through all the books available in the club.
In stark contrast to our experience with Adventure Ocean on Royal, hundreds of elementary aged children cruise on each of our Disney cruises. There are overlapping activities to chose from and the kids are free to take part or not. They can transfer from the Oceaneer Club to the Oceaneer Lab at will. The children’s programs are correspondingly larger in scale and scope to support the increased volume of children. Both of my kids beg to get dropped off and enjoy being able to call the wave phones and ask to be picked up at any time. The club is available pretty much all day from nine in the morning to midnight (earlier in the morning on port days). It is easy to be flexible around when the kids need to have snacks or swim or rest when you can pop back in when it suits you. No matter how long and late they stayed in the club, there are always requests for just a bit more time. After thirty-four nights onboard with the kids, we’ve never had an issue with the kids club.
Basically this comes down to trust. I trust Disney to treat my kids well and with respect. I don’t have that level of trust with Royal Caribbean.
Both cruise lines feature Broadway style theatrical productions. While the majority of the shows on Royal don’t have a specific plot (the lovely Cirque de Soleil style “In the Air”) they are technically perfect and the acting is beautifully done. The comedian magician was quite funny and mostly family friendly, but as many of the jokes were political, the kids got bored and wiggly. The full Broadway show on Liberty of the Seas, Saturday Night Fever, is not family friendly, but my mother in law thought it featured an amazing cast and set. The activities during the day seemed either empty (two people showing up for trivia) or not family appropriate (sexiest man alive). I’m not a gambler, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so the casino was out. My daughter noticed that almost all the activities were “really just for adults” or in the club “just for kids.” There were a variety of games in the card room, so we took a lot of turns playing together on our own time.
All of the Disney shows are very family friendly, if a little on the short side. We all laugh and cry together as a family. And really that’s part of why I love these shows unabashedly. The animation classes, character meet and greets and activities for the family run from dawn to dusk.
Based on my years as a theatre buff, though, I have to give the stage shows to Royal…but the rest of the entertainment on the ship goes to Disney.
Disney offer basketball and soccer areas, ping-pong, and on some ships mini-golf.
Liberty of the Seas, with the advantage of size, has all of that and more. Although the ice skating and rock climbing don’t run all day everyday, the fact that they’re there at all trumps Disney. If you’re in a mood for something amusing, go check out people attempting to surf on Flowrider.
I will say that for runners, Disney’s deck four running track is far longer (it laps the entire ship and not only a part) and out of the wind compared to the very short jogging track on the top deck of Liberty of the Seas.
I’d say that they’re about even. Both offered a similar variety of excursions for relatively comparable prices and experiences.
The biggest difference was that my kids were the only kids on our Royal Caribbean excursion.
Crew and Service
Royal Caribbean staff seem very efficient and eager to finish to get on with the next guest. Despite this, there was often a line of over an hour at Guest Services on and off throughout our cruise. (I ended up in it the first evening over internet and the last day near lunch over a lost stuffed animal.) All of the crew from bar tenders to guest services often seem busy and don’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the ship. (Getting wrong information and “I don’t know” was common.) The shining exceptions were our room attendants. Both my parents and I loved our stateroom attendants. They performed their jobs quickly without us feeling like we were in the way, greeted us and the kids, went out of their way to find out things if I asked a question and never let things get awkward. Basically they were perfect crew members.
Disney Cruise Line values an excellent rating on their evaluations above an extremely efficient service. This comes across in cordial interactions and crew who either know their way around the ship or are willing to take the extra step to make your day magical. Most of my (reasonable) requests on Disney received genuine effort and pride of doing their job well.
Royal Caribbean is such a large ship and begins disembarkation so much later, with so many more people to disembark, it was early afternoon before I made it home (only an hour from port.) The biggest positive is instead of having everyone congregate near the exits, there are assigned lounges to wait in.
Disney Cruise Line gets me off of the ship before 9am every single time. Without fail. In an orderly fashion. If they assigned lounges to keep people from congregating in the atrium, that’d be another step in the right direction.
I’m going to say this one is slightly in Disney’s favor.
Atrium – I’m giving this one to Disney. Despite the impressive expanse of the Royal Promenade, it had the feeling of being in a mall and not somewhere really special. On DCL, you felt like you’d arrived at a ball.
Stateroom- I’ll compare interiors since I’ve stayed in those on both lines.
Royal Caribbean didn’t have enough storage (if my husband had come, his stuff would’ve needed to stay in a suitcase or hung up. We ran out of drawers. The two sets of bunk beds was a weird configuration and the top bunk’s side rail wouldn’t stay upright. There was no way to lock it into place. The decor was very beach resort but the linens were comfortable enough.
Disney Cruise Line sleeps the parents and kids on opposite sides of the curtain and not in a pair of bunk beds. This just makes sense to me. The ottoman and the chest/cabinet offered a lot of useful shelving. The decor feels timeless.
Disney offers a variety of adults only lounges in interesting and unique themes while Royal offers some very high-class lounges and some pub style lounges, nothing really popped as unique and fun. Also the secondhand smoke drifting by from the casino didn’t urge me to linger overly long.
Royal Caribbean wins. With the loss of the second funnel in their design, they gain enough deck space to put in rather large proper pools and an incredibly splash/play/slide are for the kids as well.
They could do with a bit more shade, though.
Eating in the main dining room for three nights on Royal Caribbean was enough for us. Despite being gorgeous, the food was just kind of okay. Windjammer offered an excellent variety of foods three meals a day and we found the servers here far more helpful and cheery than in other parts of the ship. Johnny Rockets was fun, but I don’t see why it is the only place on board that serves veggie burgers or why it warranted a upcharge outside of the cost of the drinks and shakes. I lost weight after a week on Liberty of the Seas. That’s a first for me on a cruise.
Disney Cruise Line food, oh how I love it. The chefs spoil a vegan, that’s for sure. With new and interesting options every meal, it’s mandatory to bring my stretchy pants when I dine. Palo, the adults only (for a minor upcharge) restaurant is completely worthwhile and a must do each trip. For more casual afternoons by the pool, food is right at hand whether you’re after a veggie burger and fries or a healthy wrap and fruit, it’s available within sight of the pool
Royal Caribbean features beautifully appointed gigantic theatres that would be just as fitting on land as on sea. This is one venue where you truly forget you’re in the middle of the Gulf. While Disney’s theatres are far more intimate, the movie theatres particularly can be a bit of a squeeze.
Royal Caribbean has one. Disney doesn’t.
I’m not overly fond of the merchandise offered on Royal Caribbean, but the shops were well laid out and easy to navigate with plenty of floor space. Disney’s shops are chock-full of interesting items from the kiddie souvenirs all the way up to expensive jewelry. Their downfall is they are often packed with wall to wall guests, particularly after dinner and the shows.
On Disney you visit three restaurants in rotation, so boredom never sets in. Indeed, you’re more likely to find people avoid booking specialty dining because they’d rather not miss the Animator’s Palate show night or the pirate night than locate people who skip the main dining.
Contrastingly, the main dining on Royal Caribbean seemed repetitive night to night, despite the lovely surroundings.
Both cruise lines offer a wide variety, but Disney always has vegetarian and vegan options readily available while Royal offers more exotic choices (sushi, pick your own stir fry, etc.)
Palo chocolate soufflé. <drops mic>
Disney includes all of your soft drinks. Royal Caribbean has reasonably priced drink packages that includes bottled water and Frappuccinos (or whatever they call those outside of Starbucks.) I’m giving this to Disney as the inability to walk up to a soda station and fill up my water bottle is just annoying.
The Promenade Café is larger, kid friendly and offers a rotating case of included snacks. Disney offers both Cove Café’s nearby ocean views and quiet adults only vibe or a family friendly coffee bar as well…I’d give this to Disney but only by a hair.
Actual numbers I found shopping for cruises on March 16, 2016.
Disney Fantasy May 14, 2016
7-Night Western Caribbean
Port Canaveral, Cozumel, George Town, Falmouth, Castaway Cay, Port Canaveral
IGT (Interior Guarantee Stateroom)
1 Adult 2 Children
Base Cost $3,366.62
Liberty of the Seas May 15, 2016
7-Night Western Caribbean
Galveston, Cozumel, George Town, Falmouth, Galveston
IGT (Interior Guarantee Stateroom)
1 Adult 2 Children
Base Cost $1,872.97
Soda Package (x3) $198.24
Gratuity Difference $19.95
Printed Luggage Tags: $35.00
Total Base Cost: $2,126.16
I added in the soda package since DCL includes soda in the base price, as well as the difference in base gratuities between the two lines, and the cost of getting your luggage tags printed and not printing your own. (Yes, Royal Caribbean charges for that.) Before boarding, Liberty of the Seas is leaving me with an extra $1,240.45, but down one day on a private island.
Despite my initial reluctance to spend more once onboard Royal Caribbean (I hate the feeling of paying more money once I’m in an all-inclusive environment) I spent around two hundred dollars more onboard this cruise than I had on my earlier cruise on the Disney Dream (which included a private cabana split among us and a fantastic dinner at Remy). I did not eat in any of the main specialty dining dinners, but I did eat at Johnny Rockets twice.
All in all, I’m guesstimating the price difference is under a thousand dollars between the two (very different) experiences.
So, Disney Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean?
Between the kids club, the second-hand smoke and the general feeling of nickel and dime-ing, Royal Caribbean is just not that magical to me. I wouldn’t take the kids on Royal again until they’re much older, with the possible exception of a very port intensive cruise, such as Europe. I don’t think I’d particularly take my husband without the kids as it doesn’t fit well with our family friendly lifestyle.
For my money, next time I’ll be back on the beautiful Disney Wonder.
Catch up on the live blog from our week aboard Liberty of the Seas:
Chances are, if you know me, you’ll probably guess (and quite correctly) that I returned from a Disney Cruise Line vacation…and have another one or two (or half-dozen) in the early planning stages.
Why Disney Cruise Line?
Disney Cruise Line combines amazing service, attention to detail and pixie dust to create an unforgettable dream come true vacation.
Besides, if the kiddos are happily playing in the Oceaneer Club, then I can go relax on a pool lounger for a while (or about a hundred other adult only activities, I’m just a big fan of hammock time).
Isn’t it super expensive to cruise?
Haven’t you heard that cruising is only for super rich people? (News to me. All of the people I’ve met on Disney Cruise Line work hard at their jobs, budget for their vacation and save up for their vacations.)
I’ve found most of the WDW vacations cost roughly as much (once you include dining ) as a similar length of cruise if not more than a cruise. Surprise! In many cases, Disney Cruise Line offers more mileage for you money.
If you’re looking to save a little money on your Disney Cruise Line vacation, I highly suggest trying the off season and booking on opening day.
Do you ever get in a travel rut?
If you’ve been going to the same Disney ship on the same itinerary, staying in the same stateroom, going on the same port adventures for several years in a row, you might be in a travel rut. You might be in a travel rut if you no longer read the Personal Navigator, but still arrive to all your favorite activities on time and already have the trivia questions memorized. Your “ship sense” let’s you know when and where they start. You might be in a travel rut if you’re more worn out by the idea of packing again rather than excited by your upcoming vacation. And if you are feeling more deja vu than pixie dust, you’re definitely in a travel rut.
If you’re in a travel rut, you’re doing it wrong. Disney Cruise Line cruises four unique ships (soon to be six ships) out of ten home ports to over a hundred unique ports of call. Each day at sea they offer dozens of unique activities (with new ones introduced every so often). If you’re bored onboard, just walk down the hall and find something new to do. Odds are with dozens of activities offered daily, there is something you haven’t seen or tried. Galley tour, trivia and Art of the Theme tour not your thing? Try staring at the waves for a while with a good friend, a good book and a good drink. That never gets old.
If you’re still in a travel rut, try something new. A new specialty restaurant, a new port adventure or meeting new guests and crew members can infuse a sense of adventure mid-trip.
If you find yourself counting down the end of a trip with dread instead of living in the moment, it’s difficult to properly enjoy vacation. Kind of like when you let the coming weekly grind on Monday steal the joy of a perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon. I find photography, running, yoga, drawing with my kids or staring at the sea remarkably calming and helpful in grounding me in the moment. Whatever helps keep you in the moment is invaluable in vacation enjoyment.
Consider for a moment if you really want to shake things up. Part of the reason we fall into travel ruts is that the memories we associate with places return on each subsequent trip.
And that can add its own sense of wonder and nostalgia to an already magical location!
Extreme Cases of Travel Rut-itis
If you’re still in a rut, maybe you need to shake it off a little more. Sometimes it’s not so much a rut as a valley. Forgetting your normal vacation is amazing might be a sign it’s time for a serious shake up.
If you’re STILL in a travel rut, try something really new. Anything from a nice weekend staycation at a quaint nearby bed and breakfast to a bucket list style tour of far-flung continents resets your mind in an almost unquantifiable way.
Hear me out here: if your anti-rut trip is a total flop, you may look at your normal vacation spot with newfound respect and affection, but if your explorations open up new favorites and inspire a new annual destination, or even the urge to branch out to yet further places, you’re officially out of your rut.
Have you ever had a travel rut?
How did you get over it?
In my opinion, longer cruises of seven nights and more are far better for first time cruisers. This is particularly true for cruisers with small kids.
I know, you look at your vacation days as precious. You spend time considering the price and value of a shorter cruise combined with other vacation options and start to second guess the longer cruises. The three night cruises are cheaper, after all!
Hear me out.
If you break down the cost per night, the longer itineraries are often less expensive and you get to enjoy more quality vacation time.
A note for families of children who are worried about sea sickness: if your kids *don’t* get sick (and according to my pediatrician, it’s rare for a child under five to experience seasickness), a three or four night cruise is still not that relaxing with littles compared to a longer cruise. Blame the adjustment period.
Over Four Nights is the Best Length for a First Cruise
The first afternoon/night generally turns into a rush between unpacking, safety drills and all the excitement of a new place our kids barely made it through dinner (always book main, not late with littles) and crashed before the show for their first few cruises. Night one, although magical, is kind of a wash.
Day/Night 2 Shorter Cruises Getting acquainted with the ship. You and your family are learning your way around the ship (if it is a sea day), figuring out how the Oceaneer Club functions, and learning what works onboard for your family. Possibly a port day, at which point you’ll learn your way around this night. This is the first evening the kids have to settle into the club. Longer Cruisers
This is probably a sea day. So once your kids settle into the club, might I suggest a nice brunch?
Day/Night 3 VACATION! (Finally!) Port day? Sea Day? Either way, you’re getting into the cruise vibe. (If you’re on a three night cruise, prepare to pack up your bags and have them ready to set out after dinner. If it’s your first cruise, pay extra attention to debarkation instructions provided in your room. Hint: leave out an outfit to wear to debark the next morning.)
Day/Night 4 Three Nighters
Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over.
Vacation but with that bittersweet almost over feeling. The afternoon is spent packing up the room to ready the suitcases to set out after dinner. Longer Cruisers
VACATION! This is the point where we begin to forget what day of the week it is. Double down on sunscreen today because you’ve still got half your vacation ahead of you.
Day/Night 5 Four Nighters Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over. See above. Longer Cruisers
VACATION! Stage shows, rotational dining menus and entertainment (from the stage shows to the activities for different age groups) remain new each evening. If this is your first cruise, you are likely to discover new parts of the ship to hang out through the end of your trip. Today it’s an overlooked aft deck perfect for looking at Castaway Cay or the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
Doing the we’re on vacation dance all day long!
Vacation but with a bit of the bittersweet “almost done” feeling. Remember to put your bags out this evening and then go enjoy your last night of vacation!
Morning 8 Breakfast and Debark before 9am. Vacation is well and truly over. See above.
So in a four night cruise with little kid’s, that’s maybe two good days of vacation. No sea days (so no brunch) and a feeling among the other passengers that everything is very urgent. Rather than offering many , reservations and meet and greets become almost competitive. While a seven night offers five good days of vacation…and more diverse ports in addition to Castaway Cay (which is super for kids.)
All for the same amount of adjustment time and packing/unpacking.
I get the dilemma of trying it out on a shorter itinerary for less of an investment, but for us it was worth the risk.
Any cruise is better than no cruise!
Our first cruise was a three night cruise. We did not have time to do it all, despite my best planning and a solid effort to try everything! Our second, seven night cruise, we still did not have time to do it all. There were activities to do, things to see and restaurant menus left to try. Much like Walt Disney World, there is more to see than can ever be seen and with new spaces and features premiering all the time, revisiting old favorite ships is still very much worthwhile.