Disney Cruises for Families | An Inside Look Part III

By Jamie Garrett, Freelance Writer

Part III of a 3-part-series packed with cruise ship tips and tricks from my family’s own Disney Magic voyage.

Read Part IRead Part II

Day 4 – Castaway Cay, Bahamas, and Pirate Night

If you’ve ever dreamed of lying on a Bahamian beach, surrounded by crystal-blue waters, with a drink in your hand, and a gentle breeze wafting over you, this day will probably be your favorite of the entire Disney cruise. You spend all day at Castaway Cay (pronounced ‘key’), Disney’s own private island.

I’m an early riser, so I’d already eaten breakfast and was standing on the deck watching the Magic dock at around 7:30 am, anxious to set foot on the island. On last year’s cruise, we also stopped at a private island, Royal Caribbean’s Cocoa Cay, but were unable to disembark due to high winds. Because of our Coco Cay disappointment, this was the most exciting day for all of us.

RC has no dock on their island, so they transport guests by small boats, something we couldn’t do because of the winds. Seeing the island, but not being able to get to it was the most disappointing part of that 2017 cruise. However, Disney’s island has a dock for cruise ships, so regardless of the wind, the ships stop.

Upon arrival, the skies were overcast with the sun peeking out. By the time were left the ship at around 8:30 am, the skies were mostly sunny. The clouds soon cleared away completely giving us quite literally the perfect day – 75 degrees, bright, and sunny with a light breeze.

Day 5 – At Sea

Our last full day on the ship was spent at sea doing all sorts of activities. After breakfast, we took our girls to two ticketed meet-and-greets. At the first one, they met Ana, Elsa, and Olaf from Frozen. At the second, they met Princesses Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, and Rapunzel.

Some of my wife’s fellow agents were also on this cruise, so she had a brunch date with them after the meets and greets. So after meeting characters, my daughters and I played some all-ages trivia then another game patterned after Wheel of Fortune.

In the afternoon, my wife and kids hung out in the pool areas. For those who enjoy playing in the water or simply laying by the pool, the Magic has pools, slides and more on Decks 9 and 10:

  • At the rear of the ship, near Cabana’s and the drink station is the AquaLab, a splash zone for younger kids.
  • The Twist n’ Spout, a decent-sized water slide, is entered on Deck 10 and spits you out next to the AquaLab.
  • Mid-ship is the regular pool and hot tubs for everyone.
  • Also mid-ship on Deck 10 is the entry for the Aqua Dunk, a speedy water slide that drops you two-stories straight down, then out over the edge of the ship before circling back onto Deck 10.
  • At the front of the ship is the adults-only pool which is adjacent to the adults-only Cove Cafe where grownups can lounge in tranquility.

I’m not much of a pool person, so I opted for an adult-only animation class at O’Gills Pub. It was my kind of class—I had a beer while learning how to draw Queen Elsa and Sorcerer Mickey.

That evening, we once again dined at Carioca’s where I had tuna sashimi, lobster bisque, chicken schnitzel, and a dessert called chocolate lover’s dream. Dinner was followed by the show Disney Dreams. The show features characters and songs from a variety of Disney films including Peter Pan, Aladdin, The Lion King, Frozen, and others. According to the cruise director, this production was previously voted the top-rated show on any cruise ship in the world.

Rebooking Onboard

One of the highlights of our day at sea was planning our next cruise. Many cruise guests rebook their next cruise while still onboard. If you’ve ever cruised before, you probably know how this works. With a captive audience that is hopefully having loads of fun, cruise lines offer incentives like price discounts and onboard credit to entice passengers to book their next cruise.

Disney Cruise Line offers few discounts, so for guests who are even remotely considering another sailing, rebooking saves money. Instead of selecting a specific sailing or dates, we did a Placeholder booking—you reserve a spot for yourself on a future cruise then decide later which specific sailing you want.

When we rebooked, Disney Cruise Line was offering $250 placeholder bookings with 10% off the cost of the cruise, $50 to $200 in onboard credit (depending on the sailing), as well as a 10% deposit when you decide on a sailing. There are certain blackout dates (mainly around holidays and spring break) and the trip must be taken within two years/ 24 months. If you change your mind before your final payment and decide not to cruise, you can get a refund.

We haven’t decided what our next Disney cruise will be, but we’re thinking of somewhere other than the Bahamas, most likely a Western Caribbean cruise from Puerto Rico or a Canadian cruise from NYC.

Day 6 – Return to Miami

Waking up on the last morning, I looked out of our stateroom window to see that we had already arrived in Miami. All we had left to finish our cruise was breakfast and disembarking.

Disney Cruise Line handles breakfast and disembarkation slightly differently than Royal Caribbean. On the Magic, the restaurant where you eat your last evening is where you have breakfast the last morning at one of three assigned breakfast times, 6:45, 7:00 or 7:15 am (we had a 7:00 am breakfast at Carioca’s).

On the disembarkation day, getting off the ship is simple. Some people choose to carry their own luggage off the ship. We did this on our first cruise, but were not allowed to use the elevators and ended up dragging our suitcases all over the ship then up and down several flights of stairs. Deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble, we didn’t do this on the Magic but opted for the easier alternative

Tip: If you leave your bags outside your stateroom door by 10:30 the night before, the crew offloads them. You then pick them up in the baggage claim area after passing through customs and passport control. The night before, our room steward left luggage tags with a Disney character (Daisy Duck) which we placed on our bags. The tags indicate the order in which you get off the ship as well as the area where you claim your baggage.

If you take your own luggage, you don’t need tags, but you must wait for the announcement clearing you to leave the ship. However, you still need to roll or carry all your luggage, possibly up and down several flights of stairs, before exiting the ship and taking your bags through the arrivals hall, customs, and passport control.

While we were eating breakfast, announcements were made inviting the first two tags off the ship, neither of which was ours. After we finished breakfast, we decided to hang out in a lounge to wait for our tag to be called. But literally, as soon as we sat down, Daisy Duck was called and we left the ship.

The Benefits of a Disney Cruise for Families

Walt Disney once said:

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”

Disney Cruise Line has done that for the cruise industry—improving where it can, especially with families in mind.

Compared to our Royal Caribbean cruise, our Disney Magic cruise was much more enjoyable for the entire family. Royal Caribbean is a great cruise line and it has bigger ships with many more activities, like the largest ship, the Harmony of the Seas (a ship we plan to sail on someday).

However, in a side-by-side comparison of our two cruises and the ships (both are similar in size and the smaller ships in their fleets), the Disney Magic wins, hands down. As is the case with all things Disney, the cruises focus on the family experience.

To review, below is are some highlights:

  • Exceptional service – From bus drivers to busboys, Disney has a high standard of superior service and hospitality. This extends to Disney Cruise Line. Rest assured, from check in, to disembarkation, you will be well taken care of.
  • Dining – Every cruise line feeds you, but Disney Cruise Line offers food as good as you’ll get anywhere in the world, on or off a ship. Plus Disney’s unique dining rotation with wait staff that moves with you offers a full dining experience on every ship and every cruise.
  • Recreation, entertainment, and activities – With literally something for every traveler of every age, Disney offers some of the highest quality entertainment and activities in the cruise industry. The Magic offers fabulous Broadway-style shows, incredible activities, movies, three pools, a basketball court on Deck 10 and more.
  • Multiple inclusives – Unlike some cruise lines, Disney doesn’t nickel and dime you for every little thing. You can opt for onboard splurges, but many things, like a 24-hour drink station on Deck 9 (sodas, coffee, tea, hot chocolate), 24-hour room service, poolside grills (burgers, pizza, and snacks) as well as soft serve ice cream on Deck 9 during most of the daytime hours are included.

This is only a snapshot of our cruise and there are many other things that we experienced which aren’t recorded here. If you have considered traveling with kids on a cruise ship, Disney Cruise Line offers fabulous family-friendly voyages. If you have any questions about Disney cruises, Disneyland, or Walt Disney World, please comment below.

Jamie Garrett

Jamie Garrett

Freelance Writer

Jamie has been writing professionally for five years. He has lived in China, France, and Morocco. He has also traveled to 47 of the 50 US states and has visited over 25 countries. Jamie loves going to new places and revisiting favorite ones. When at home, he loves being with his wife and two daughters, reading, watching movies and watching soccer.

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