If you are thinking about booking a Disney Cruise and not sure if it’s worth it, let me tell you: it is worth it! The service on a Disney Cruise is second to none. The food is great and the atmosphere is like being in an over the top Disney movie (in a fun way!). In addition the amenities on board and the activities for all ages are astounding in number.
Here, I talk about the Disney Fantasy Caribbean Cruise which starts and finishes in Port Canaveral, Florida, along with some of the on board activities and amenities, best port adventures, and extra family tips.
The Ship and On Board Amenities
The check-in process for a Disney Cruise is very smooth. Your family will be given a time slot to check in and board, which makes the whole process completely easy and doesn’t feel like there are thousands of people boarding the ship with you all at once. Your luggage will be tagged and waiting in your room when you get on.
Boarding a Disney ship is so much fun. The crew, along with many Disney characters are there to clap and welcome you on board, and you are finally greeted with the magnificent decor and service that will be there for your entire trip.
There is of course, the Disney Kids’ Clubs, which you register your children for beforehand. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are chock full of activities all day long.
TIP: It’s a good idea to register your kids before boarding. If you choose not to use it at all, that’s fine, but it’s good to have them registered in case you change your mind. Your kids will receive an RFID bracelet upon check in for the clubs. Some parents and kids opt to stay in the Oceaneers Club or Lab all day long everyday. For us, we found a sweet spot of going through the Personal Navigator Bulletin (delivered to your room) everyday and figuring out which activities sounded most fun to the kids. They then would pick and choose an activity here or there to attend. We’d drop them off and pick them up when it was over.
Your room on the ship has Wave phones. They are small cordless phones which ring your rooms and you can carry around with you. It’s a way for other family members in other rooms traveling on board to get a hold of you, and it’s also the way the Oceaneers Club will contact you if your child wants to be picked up early.
(TIP: there is also the Disney Cruise Line app which I highly recommend downloading before you board the cruise ship. Since there is no cell service for the cruise, the app allows you to text family members and friends within the app while at sea. This is helpful for rallying family and friends to different activities or letting them know where you’ll be. The app also has the schedule for the day, along with character appearances, and anything else you may need while on board so you don’t have to carry the paper bulletin around with you.)
On Board Activities
There are endless, and I mean endless activities for all ages. There are constant Disney movies playing in the theaters, character appearances throughout the day, documentaries and non-fiction talks about the area you are cruising to, scavenger hunts, games and much more.
We did one of the family scavenger hunts on board the ship and the kids had a great time running around with the Wave phones, calling each other when they found a clue. Trivia is also fun to do as a family and the kids will have a ball volunteering their answers. There are family dance parties, exercise classes, crafts, and those aren’t even the activities in the Oceaneer Club.
The Disney Fantasy has shuffleboard on the outer decks, mini golf, and of course the pools and water slides. There are mini water slides for younger kids, a zero depth water area for little ones, and the bigger water slide that juts out and around the deck, right over the ocean.
In the evening, there is a main performance after or before dinner at the Walt Disney Theatre. It may be a magic show or comedy show or a musical, but there is always one performance that you CANNOT MISS! It’s a Broadway quality play or musical. Think Aladdin or Frozen — and it is AMAZING!
TALE: For the most part, with small kids, we found that we didn’t do the evening shows most days, but we kept the kids up for the big performance and it was worth it ten times over. I was worried the kids wouldn’t be able to stay up for an 8:30 pm start time performance, but the shows are so well put together and so well executed, they will be mesmerized, I promise you. (TIP: The Walt Disney Theatre also has booster seats for the seats so that small children can see the stage a bit better.)
On Board Food
The food, oh the food on a cruise ship. Kids will love all the options at sea, and so will adults. The Disney Fantasy has three main dining rooms, each a different theme, which you will be given a rotating schedule when you arrive for which day you will eat where.
In addition to those, there are all kinds of restaurants, bars and pubs open throughout the day for snacking, fine dining or lounging. On Deck 11, for example, there are several food court type restaurants by the pool that serve pizza, salads, soft serve ice cream, burgers, etc.
There are several lounges and bars that offer ambiance and two fine dining restaurants on the ship called Palo and Remy, which require reservations and are for adults only. We tried Remy and, not only was the food superb, but the service was top-notch and it was a very special experience. If you are celebrating something special, find the kids an activity at Oceaneer Club or have them go to dinner with the rest of your family, while you enjoy an evening out at Palo or Remy. The views alone are worth it!
What to Pack
The Disney Fantasy has evening attire suggestions for each night: cruise casual, semi formal and themed nights. You will know beforehand the themes: for the Caribbean cruise we took we had a Star Wars themed day and a pirate night as well. (TIP: If you don’t have costumes to bring (or just don’t have the room to pack them) don’t fret. You’ll get a small accessory in your room for the themed night. )
Most of the time we wore casual clothes, but the semi-formal nights are fun because you can all dress up and get some great family pictures. (The Fantasy will have photographers set up during dinner times for families to get pictures with one another.)
I found it easy to pack the kids a formal outfit that could be worn a couple of times and re-purposed with a different shirt or necklace, for example. Other than a semi-formal outfit, for a Caribbean cruise, you will want to pack sunscreen, swimsuits, sunglasses and sandals.
What NOT to Pack
Shampoo, conditioner and body wash are in your room, along with towels in your room and on the pool decks. There are also several stores on board the ship and in the event that your sandals break (happened to us) or you forget sunscreen, you can purchase whatever you need from swimsuits to hoodies or sunglasses.
Laundry: there is laundry on board and you are able to use your key to the world card to do laundry.
(TIP: It’s best to do laundry in the early morning hours or while people are off at a port as these are usually the least crowded times.)
Disney Cruise Service: A Travel Tale
As always when traveling with kids, it’s unpredictable and the same goes with Disney Cruises. The awesome thing, however, is that you are in good hands on a Disney Cruise as the service is second to none and be sure that staff will do anything they can to help you (with a smile) when something goes awry.
For example, we had two kids come down with some kind of bug within 24 hours of one another. Staff sent us Pedialyte popsicles and constant fresh towels and came to check on us several times. The Pedialyte/electrolyte pops seem like such a small thing, but it was a such a gift, seeing as we were on a ship, at sea, with no other options.
Best Port Activities
If you have younger kids, you have to pay careful attention to the minimum age (and sometimes weight and height) requirements for the port adventures as that will narrow your options down significantly. It takes research, but planning a few port adventures will be something the whole family will remember for a lifetime!
(TIP: there are hundreds of port adventures to choose from so don’t skip this tip in researching what’s available, seeing what ages your children are and if they can do it. Then, I recommend ranking your favorite port activities for each port as a 1,2 or 3. When activities open, log in and try to get your first choice. If you can’t move down to your second, etc. Port adventures fill up VERY quickly, so having more than one choice will speed the process along for you and hopefully help you secure one of your top choices.)
Here are a few of our favorite family port activities:
Jamaica: Adventure Falls and River Tubing. River tubing is fun for families with kids of all ages. The kids can ride on their own tube or with another adult and you can spend as long as you want floating down the lazy river. There are restaurants and wildlife around as well, making it a fun day of exploring.
Mexico: Submarine Expedition. There are a couple of different ports with submarine expeditions. Pay attention to how long the tour is (they differ) and if you’ll see sea creatures or shipwrecks or both as they are each a bit different and that may sway you in your decision as well.
Castaway Cay: Disney’s own island is probably the best (and certainly most convenient) port on this trip. The ship docks literally right up to the island so you don’t need any bus or car transfers to where you want to go. The island is super easy to navigate. You can snorkel, take glass bottom boats, parasail, snorkel or more.
(TALE: We found with kids, just relaxing at the beach and exploring the island was most fun. The great thing is that this is Disney’s private island, so unlike any other port on a regular cruise, you can go on and off the cruise ship easily as you please, without having to deal with the lines and passports, etc. The meals are also free at the restaurants on the beach as they are Disney Cruise restaurants.)