Things I learned during a Disney Cruise

The second in my series about cruising with Disney.  In the first blog, I talked about things we learned prior to going on our cruise.  We learned a lot more during and after the cruise!

Culture, Entertainment

  • There is definitely a unique culture on board, especially on the WBTA (West Bound Transatlantic) cruise.  People were so friendly and gregarious.
  • You have a lot of repeats cruisers who have done this cruise before, regardless of the destination, i.e. to Miami or New York City, via Canada or Castaway Cay, etc…  And they truly love it for various reasons.
  • For Disney, you did not see a lot of people wearing ears on board.  I was definitely not in the norm, wearing my Stitch hat I picked up at TokyoDisneysea, and my Stitch slippers.
  • I was expecting the cruise to be primarily just North Americans, and while Canadians and Americans did make up a significant number of passengers on the ship, there was a significant presence from France, Germany, Austria, The United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia; and all who appreciated Disney whether it’s the characters, the level of service, etc…
  • On the longer cruises, the are two must-dos (among many)
    • The Officers Deck Party – This surprised me
    • Do check out the kids areas when they have the open houses.  It’s your chance to experience what they experience.
  • Normally I am not one for shows on board and deck parties.  Have to say, I was pretty blown away by the shows and the deck parties.  Okay, some of the deck parties can start out a bit hokey, but there are some really really cool elements to each of them.  I don’t want to ruin the element of surprise, but you can definitely see videos of the experiences on YouTube.
  • Did I say, do the shows?  I say, do the shows. They are fantastic and the things Disney does with the stage is pretty amazing given we’re floating at sea.
  • Do see a movie in the Buena Vista Theatre.  Probably the best 3D screen I have seen.  When watching Finding Dory at an angle, we still had a prefect 3D image with the glasses on!
  • Characters will roam about the ship.  This one afternoon, I kept on running into Belle and we finally chatted about the book she was reading (Winnie the Pooh).  You can even get advice from Rapunzel on the conditioner she uses (Disney H2O for sure!).

Activities

  • As an adult, you will not be bored!  There is a lot to do:
    • Character meets – If that’s your thing
    • Chocolate and wine pairing, tastings
    • Cheese and wine pairing, tastings
    • Mixology classes
    • Karaoke in After Hours
    • Game shows in After Hours
    • Learn to draw characters
    • Bingo
    • Deck parties
    • Use the pool
  • The kids won’t be bored either, there is a ton of stuff for them to do.  Interestingly, on the Disney Magic all the kids areas are on deck 5.  There was a point where I had to go to Deck 5, stepped out of the elevator and wondered, “Where am I?  I don’t recognize this deck.”  Of course!  It’s the kids deck, where the Buena Vista There is also found.

The ship

  • Disney Magic is a gorgeous ship.  Upon walking on the ship, I was looking at the ship and, despite being from 1998, it is very very well maintained.  Now, it went through dry dock renovations in 2013, but the ship is constantly being repainted on the outside (saw this in Halifax and Ponta Delgada) and fixed where needed.  It’s all part of making magic and the high bars that Disney sets.
  • We got talking to a couple of contractors from an engineering company that were working on the ship.  They had told us that Disney had quite a few redundancy systems on the ship unlike any other cruise line they had worked with.  Think backup, to the backup, to the backup, to the backup.  Given the history of other cruise lines and the challenges the industry has had, it’s clear that Disney takes the safety of their passengers seriously, as well as the investment in their ships, the cruise industry and even their stockholders.
  • Not every ship in Disney’s fleet is the same.  Despite Magic and Wonder, Fantasy and Dream being sister ships and similar size categories, the design for each is different.

Dining, Drinks and Service

  • Dining is an experience on DCL.  Each dinner had some form of entertainment, so you want to stay until the end if you can.  Now Scott and I noticed that people would often leave before the entertainment began and wondered why, however I just realized, if you’ve seen it before…  For a first timer, definitely stay and experience it.  And often, they’re short surprises.
  • The serving team is fantastic and get to know you.  With Princess we had anytime dining, so didn’t get to experience that level of service.  With Royal Caribbean, we had specifically timed dining, and the degree to which the staff got to you know you wasn’t there.
  • Disney is also the first cruise line where our stateroom host specifically introduced herself and was quite visible.  If we needed anything, she was there.  Fantastic.  On Princess we never met our stateroom host.  We did on RCI but didn’t seem as approachable as they were on DCL.
  • On DCL there is no drink package required. Pop, water, coffee, tea and hot chocolate is included in your stateroom fees.  We did order a bottled water package as we missed having water on our cruise in February on RCI.
  • That said, if you want wine with dinner, there is a wine package available.  You can order this in advance or in one of the dining rooms when you board.
  • If you could not get that elusive Palo Brunch dining reservation, you can order it on board when you arrive.  In the case of Magic, go directly to Lumiere’s and line up.  The line does go quickly.
  • If you want premium coffee, for adults there is the Cove Cafe, and for Teens there is Vibe.  At Cove Cafe, you pay for these, I’m not sure about Vibe since I’m not a teen.
  • At Cove Cafe you get a buy 6 get one free card for coffee.
  • The coffee in Cabanas and at the drink station is kind of lacking in flavour. LOL.  It looks dark, but, yeah… I won’t say skip it as I need my coffee fix in the morning, but, yeah…
  • Tea offerings were from Twinings.  Awesome!
  • Get yourself a water bottle to fill during the cruise.  The cups at the drink station are small.
  • Disney has a rotational dining concept, so on Magic, you go between the three restaurants – Animator’s Palate, Carioca’s and Lumiere’s with their various themes.
  • The restaurants all serve different meals every night.  That doesn’t mean you’ll miss a particular meal because, again, rotational dining.
  • Palo is fantastic and the service is top notch.  You will be stuffed after so heed everyone’s advice – Do not eat at Palo for Brunch and Dinner in the same 24 hour period!
  • Palo beats out Princess’ Sabatini’s for best Italian at sea, hands down.
  • I can’t talk enough about the service we received from the staff on the ship.

Shopping, Photos, Excursions

  • If you are a Disney Vacation Club member you get 10% off at the stores on board for when your order is $50 or more, and they were offering spa treatments at a discount all cruise long, not just on port days.
  • Depending on the price of the excursion booked, we found Disney’s pricing to be a bit cheaper than some other cruise lines.  I figure you pay a bit more upfront, and hence excursions are a bit cheaper  That said, while you could pay for your own local excursion, you get the guarantees that you’ll be back on the ship on time and if there is an issue with an excursion, that the cruise line will help out.
  • There are a LOT of photo opportunities, every night with or without characters.  For the WBTA, the Photo package was $399 for digital photos only.  Add $100 for printed photos too.  We ended up with 163 photos and didn’t hit each of the stations each night.
  • Staff are more than willing to take photos with your camera just like in the parks, and do get into the spirit.

Personal Lessons Learned

  • I think three days is the longest I want to go without seeing/being on land.  We’ll have to see one of these days.  The WBTA 2017 we booked is only two days at sea at a time.
  • I don’t feel like I relaxed on the cruise.  There was just so much to do.  I did say after the first sea day that I did not want to spend my full cruise in lines waiting to meet characters. LOL
  • In terms of the WBTA, definitely spend time up front by the pool, in the sun, etc… It does get colder the closer you get to Canada.  That said, I was hoping the weather would have been a lot better so the last sea day on our way to New York was spent by the pool.  Nature had some alternative plans with rain.
  • I think my tactic for the Palo Brunch is to decline any of the cooked items from the kitchen and just have the buffet.  There’s just so much there that’s tasty and awesome.  But that said the pizza and the calzone is AMAZING and a must do.
  • For the Palo Dinner, one main is definitely enough.  Have the Calamari, it is AMAZING.  Did I say have the Calamari?  It’s a must do.
  • Having done my first Disney cruise, there are definitely those “first timer” opportunities I no longer have to do, especially when it comes to dining, so I think I can effectively manage my weight better.
  • Things I need to do on the next cruise
    • Buy a cigar and smoke it.  Anyone want to join me?
    • Go on Aqua Dunk
    • Determine if, as an adult, if I can go on the other waterslide and if so, go on it
    • Chill by the pool more often, and actually swim more
    • Paint an animation cell in the Mickey Mouse Club

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