Disney Cruise Line: Planning a Second Disney Cruise on the Fantasy.
Last Spring, my family and I took our very first family Disney cruise. In fact, it was our first cruise ever AND our first trip outside of the country. Although we were full of excitement about this new travel journey, we were also a bit nervous, too.
My biggest worry was that one of us would get seasick. My husband was concerned that he would run out of things to do and then be stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean. My kids didn’t have a worry or care in the world.
BUT, to play it safe, we booked a short, 4-night cruise on the Dream to the Bahamas. That way, if we just absolutely disliked the experience or someone became sick, we wouldn’t be on the boat for too long. We weren’t trying to be pessimists, just careful.
I planned diligently before the cruise by promptly ordering the family’s passports, scheduling flu shots and making a detailed packing list that included various nausea medications, snacks for the kids and more. In fact, I wrote a post all about it. (make sure you check out the nifty over-the-door shoe organizer tip!) Needless to say, we were thoroughly prepared when we arrived at Port Canaveral, but we were still nervous!
I remember slowly moving through the long line onto the Dream, wondering what we were about to discover. Our first magical moment began right as we stepped on the ship when we heard “Everyone, welcome the Bellgardt family!” That, my friends was awesome. It only went up from there.
No nausea. No boredom. No fear. In fact, we were sad that our cruise was so short. We were just getting comfortable when it was time to disembark!
So, since our first cruise wasn’t quite long enough, we have decided to book another Disney Cruise, this time on the Fantasy to the Western Caribbean for seven nights! If you are unfamiliar with the Disney Cruise Ships, the Fantasy is the newest of the ships and resembles the Dream greatly, but with an art nouveau interior verses the art deco decor of the Dream. Differences are very slight and mostly stylistic.
photo credit: Disney
With the trip coming up in March, I have already started planning our activities, what to pack and how this may vary from our first cruise. We learned a great deal on our first cruise, both before, during and after, so I will be sharing these with you today.
WHAT WE WILL DO DIFFERENTLY
- Worry less. Seriously, I worried too much the first time around. Most of this was due to the fear of the unknown, so I am hoping that we will all be much more comfortable this time around. Don’t get me wrong, the Disney Cruise Line staff makes you feel VERY COMFORTABLE AND WELCOME, especially your room host, but there is still a slight learning curve to navigating your way around the ship, etc.
- Avoid Cocoa Beach. Since there is a bit of a drive from the Orlando airport to Port Canaveral (roughly an hour), we felt more comfortable flying in the day before our departure. We didn’t know the Cape Canaveral/Port Canaveral area very well, but wanted to stay that night before on a hotel/resort right on the beach, so we went with the Cocoa Beach area. We booked a night at a hotel right on the beach that also included a great pool for the kids to enjoy. Upon entering Cocoa Beach, we soon discovered that it was a bit of a ghost town. The hotels were more like motels and it was very, very dated. Restaurants were sparse and only included a few chain restaurants – Denny’s and Pizza Hut were among the few. The hotel we booked was extremely rundown, dirty and there was nowhere to eat on property. The beach was not pleasant, either. Although the kids didn’t seem to mind that were were eating at Pizza Hut and playing in the pool, we would have liked a better experience. Needless to say, we nearly kissed the floor once we boarded the Disney Dream the next day! This year, we will be staying one night (yes, I say one night!) at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort!
- Book less excursions. We went a little crazy with booking excursions on our first cruise vacation. What we found, though, was that about 50% of what we booked was not worth the price we paid for it. This will vary among families, of course, but I will suggest that you not book too much at each port because there is always a ton to do on the ship itself. Also, the ship is much less crowded on port stops, so it may be the perfect time to swim onboard or take a slide down the Aquaduck! Specific excursions that we will avoid this time around include glass-bottom boat tours (this made my husband nauseated and we really didn’t see anything exciting), submarine tours, snorkeling (this is a family preference and not the norm, I’m sure, but we just don’t enjoy snorkeling) or any tours that are just too long. For our upcoming trip to the Western Caribbean, we will be visiting Mayan ruins, having a beach day and renting bicycles. That is it!
- Pack more nice outfits. We did not pack enough nice outfits last time around, so I plan on packing more this time. Also, since we will be taking a 7-night cruise, we have more “cruise casual” nights, as well as a formal and semi-formal night. Here is a breakdown of a 7-night cruise from Disney’s website:
- First night: cruise casual—no shorts, swimwear or tank tops
- Three additional “cruise casual” nights—no shorts, swimwear or tank tops
- One pirate or tropical night (deck party)
- One formal and one semi-formal night—formal wear for men: tuxedo or suit; for women: gown or dress; semi-formal wear for men: suit/jacket; for women: dress or pantsuit
- Pack more snacks for the backpack/beach bag. Although there is no lack of food available while cruising, there are still moments when you are standing in a line or riding on a bus while off-shore when your kids may get impatient. We like to pack plenty of packaged peanut butter crackers since it contains protein and seems to help with immediate hunger best. I didn’t pack enough last year, so I plan on doubling up this time around.
- Enjoy more of the onboard activities! It took us awhile to get into our groove regarding onboard amenities and activities that the Disney Dream offered last time around, like the Oceaneer Club (Disney Cruise Line’s onboard kid’s club), family bingo, live shows and movies. This time, we are diving right in! I plan on enjoying the drink-tasting classes, cooking lessons, craft making and more! Also, WE NEVER RODE THE AQUADUCK! Can you believe that? Gotta do that.
- Take more photos. With all of my planning and preparing, guess what I forgot the first time? Nope, not my camera, but my camera battery charger! So, of course, my camera died almost immediately, so I had to make due with my iPhone camera for most of the trip. I am not making this mistake again!
- New stateroom magnet! Since last year’s stateroom door magnet said “Dream” on it, we had to order a new one. (if you are wondering what a stateroom door magnet is, visit my post) I found this adorable Mickey magnet on etsy and had to have it! I’m still on the lookout for a “Bellgardt” magnet, so stay tuned! I love having our door decorated because it makes it much easier to find when returning to the room. It’s also super cute.
WHAT WE WILL DO THE SAME
- Plan ahead. I am a huge advocate of planning ahead when it comes to travel. It just makes me more comfortable going in being a bit over-prepared. We will get flu shots well beforehand, like before, and I will again stock up on Bonine and ginger gum to take with us. (see everything I recommend you pack HERE)
- Fly in the night before. Although I am sure it is quite possible to fly in the day of the cruise embarkment with time to spare, I’m not taking any chances. I have traveled enough to familiarize myself with flight delays and cancellations, and I do not want any such thing jeopardizing my family’s cruise. This year, we will be staying at Disney’s Art of Animation in Orlando the night before the cruise! What better way to start off the Disney magic!
- Take anti-nausea meds daily. Our system of taking Bonine daily and ginger gum when needed worked for us the first time, so we’re sticking with it again.
- Pre-book excursions. I like pre-booking offshore excursions to ensure that we have our spots confirmed and so I can create an agenda ahead of time.
- Create an agenda. Disney Cruise Line does a fabulous job of keeping you organized and reminding you of upcoming activities, but I also like to keep a personal agenda in my backpack/beach bag to refer to. I admit to being an organizational junkie.
- Book a room with a veranda. This is a personal choice for our family and may not warrant the upgrade costs for other families. We really like having the option to sit on our own personal veranda, away from the crowds, and just enjoy the calm sounds of the sea. It also opens the small staterooms up significantly, which makes the space seem much bigger.
So, with just a little over 70 days away from the big day, I better get started with my planning! Disney Cruise Line has offered to provide my family with 100 minutes of internet time (yay!) and passes to the Rainforest Room during our vacation, so a big THANK YOU to DCL for that. All other expenses and travel costs will be covered by my family, I just wanted to share these experiences with you.
Have questions about an upcoming Disney Cruise or have feedback? Leave a comment below!