Cruising… Disney style

It’s official.  The hubby and I have joined the ranks of parents who have survived a Disney cruise!  Not including the staff… the child to adult ratio must have been 3:1, but surprisingly it didn’t feel that way.  Having been to Disney World 2 years ago, my expectations were high that Disney would have their act together.  Not only did they meet my expectations… they exceeded them!  So, here’s the run down for any future cruisers out there.

Disney Magic

Disney Magic

Booking the cruise:
We booked the 7 day/6 night Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic that left out of Galveston, TX… airfare was much less than Florida, and the cruise was significantly less than a similar cruise leaving the same day from Port Canaveral.  Granted, we were not able to hit as many destinations and missed out on Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas), but this was definitely a great option for our 1st cruise!

After booking online, we were able to update our info and reservation as needed.  I highly recommend inputting all the kids’ info online and doing the online check-in process.  It made check-in at the port go so smoothly and getting the kids’ Mickey bands (aka ID bands for the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab) so fast!  We also took advantage of the character call feature you can request online.  The cruise was a complete surprise for the kids, so the look on their faces was priceless when Mickey called and said they were going on a Disney cruise!

Surprise... we're going on a cruise!

Surprise… we’re going on a cruise!

Port arrival/Day 1:  Click to see the day’s navigator/schedule
We arrived in Galveston a day early, so we took the hotel shuttle to the port.  We arrived just before our designated check-in time, breezed through the line to get our “Key to the World” cards, and got a quick picture with Minnie.  They had not started boarding yet, so we went over to the kids’ line to get their Mickey bands.  By the time we finished in that line (which took about 30 mins), our boarding group had been called.  The line to get on the boat moved quickly.  When we got to the boat, they asked our family name and then announced us as we entered the lobby!  It was great!  Definitely have your video camera ready to capture that moment.

Disney Magic Lobby

Disney Magic Lobby

We weren’t able to get into our stateroom until 1:30pm, so we went directly to put our names on a list for the early (5:45pm) dinner seating instead of the late seating (8:15pm) we had been assigned.  Our names were added to the waitlist to move to the earlier time, and we were on our way to grab lunch at Parrot Cay.  It was buffet style and the service was impeccable.  Once we finished, it was time to check out our stateroom.

We booked a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.  Having heard how cramped staterooms can be, I was pleasantly surprised that it was roomier than I anticipated.

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

It had a King bed, couch (which turned into a bed), pull down bunk from the ceiling, desk area with drawers (used as the kids’ dresser), refrigerator, cabinet with shelves, closet, and 2 bathrooms.  The bathroom set-up was ideal for kids… a bathroom with a sink and toilet and another bathroom with a sink and shower/tub.  It made getting ready throughout the day easy… and I loved that the shower had a detachable handheld wand which made washing the kids’ hair so much better!

Two bathrooms

Two bathrooms

We brought one small suitcase on board with us, since we’d heard sometimes it could take a few hours to have luggage delivered to your stateroom.  To see what I recommend packing, check out my packing list.  After unpacking our suitcase, the kids got changed and we all headed off to Mickey’s pool.  Other kids on the boat had the same idea, because the pool was packed!  After some swimming and dodging small children, we realized Pumpkin started a slight fever.  She still wanted to attend the “Adventures Away” party, so we went and had a great time.

Adventures Away Party

Adventures Away Party

We gave her some down time (and Motrin) after the party and rested before our first dinner at Animator’s Palette.  Dinner was so much fun and the servers did a fun little show after dessert was served!!  The girls’ really enjoyed it and were ready to crash after dinner was over!

Day 2 (at sea):  Click here to see the day’s navigator/schedule
We woke up on Day 2 to Pumpkin’s 103 fever (mommy instinct said it was a sinus infection).  Luckily she responded well to Motrin so we attended our scheduled Character Breakfast at Parrot Cay.  It definitely felt like an assembly line with the characters coming to the table, but I understood they needed to make sure to get to all the tables in a short amount of time.  After brunch, we headed towards the Princess Appearances… thank goodness I thought it started 30 mins earlier than it did otherwise we would have been far far far back in the line.  Instead, we waited about 45 mins before it started and then only had to wait 10 mins once the line started moving.  When I walked by 1 1/2 hours later, people were still in line… yikes!!!

After the princesses, we attempted to take Pumpkin to the Health Center, but they were closed until 4:30pm.  So, we took advantage of the extra time to go swimming and then see Brave in 3D.  Finally, we were able to get into the Health Center and they were wonderful!!

Kid friendly health center

Kid friendly health center

The nurses and doctors were so great with Pumpkin and agreed she definitely had all the indicators of a sinus infection.  We left 30 mins later with antibiotics and the all clear to put the girls in the Oceaneer’s Club & Lab the next day… woo hoo!

It was “dressy” dinner night and luckily our dinner time was moved to the early seating for the rest of the cruise… the only trade-off was that we would be sharing a table.  We were a little apprehensive but went off to dinner at Parrot Cay.  We could not have been happier with our tablemates.  They were a great family from Calgary and their little guy truly was a gentleman in the making!  Dinner was delicious!!  Since Pumpkin was still waiting for the antibiotics to kick in, we decided to call it an early night so everyone could get a little extra sleep.

Day 3 (at sea):  Click here to see the day’s navigator/schedule
Pumpkin’s fever was finally coming down without Motrin and her spirits were close to normal, so off to the Oceaneer’s Lab they went after breakfast.

Fun science time in the lab

Fun science time in the lab

Hallelujah… peace and quiet!  The hubby and I nearly sprinted to the Quiet Cove “no kids allowed” pool and laid there for almost 2 hours.  Since the kids were going to have lunch in the lab, we decided to grab a kids-free lunch before picking them up.  Well, I made the mistake of peeking in the lab to see if we could see them and make sure they were having fun.  They were together at the front area asking one of the counselors to call us.  They wanted to leave, so we checked them out, convinced them lunch with us would be boring, and promptly walked them down the hall and checked them into the Oceaneer’s Club.

Oceaneer's Club

Oceaneer’s Club

After a quiet lunch, we picked them up and went to see a comedian/juggler perform.  It was fun even though Curly kept asking when the show was going to start… I’m not quite sure what she was expecting but eventually she realized we were watching the show!

We bummed around the boat until it was time for dinner.  Dinner was at Lumiere’s, which I determined was my favorite restaurant on the ship.  We wandered around a little bit after dinner and then decided to call it an early night again, since the next day we’d be off the boat in Grand Cayman!

Day 4 (Grand Cayman):  Click here to see the day’s navigator/schedule
While we enjoyed the previous days on the boat, we were very excited for some old fashioned beach time!

Rum Point Beach

Rum Point Beach

The 7 Mile Beach excursion was sold out, so we picked the Rum Point Beach excursion.  Rum Point Beach was nice but the travel time there was more than anticipated.  Since the Magic couldn’t dock close to Grand Cayman, we were ferried to the dock.  Then, we were loaded on a van/bus for 15 mins and then put on a catamaran for approximately 30 mins more.  No complaints… just had to adjust my expectation that we would not be on the beach for 5 hours… more like 3 hours.  The girls ran into the ocean like mermaids returning home.  They loved loved loved being in the ocean and playing on the beach.  We enjoyed lunch while we were there and reluctantly boarded the catamaran back sooner than we wanted to end our beach day.  Apparently a high pressure system had settled over Grand Cayman, so they were having a difficult time loading the ferries to take everyone back to the boat.  We waited in line 1 1/2 hours to get to the ferry… and getting on was very difficult!  The waves were huge and the ferry was all over the place.  We were very happy to finally get back to the boat!

We got ready for dinner in record time and headed to Animator’s Palette for the pirate night themed dinner.  They put bandanas on us at dinner and even had the limbo before dessert.  Seeing the varying costumes and pirate themed outfits made for great people watching!  I knew the hubby wouldn’t be into dressing up in a full costume, so we went with themed outfits!

Pirate Night with Jack Sparrow

Pirate Night with Jack Sparrow

We visited a few of the characters after dinner before going to the pool deck for the pirate night party.  Normally, they would shoot fireworks off the boat on this night, but they were delayed due to the 49 knot winds.  The party still went on, though, despite the crazy wind and rocking of the boat… it made dancing extra challenging!  After a sun filled day, we were ready for bed when the party was over!

Day 5 (Cozumel): Click here to see the day’s navigator/schedule
We woke up to calm waters and the views of Cozumel off our balcony.  In the effort of full disclosure, I am not a fan of vacationing in Mexico… something about the instability of the drug wars just doesn’t make it appealing to me.  And I know, the resorts are safe and thousands of people visit a year with no incident… I just feel that something bad could happen anytime and don’t necessarily want to be there when it happens.  The hubby thinks I’m crazy!  Anyway, I digress.  Despite my hesitant feelings of Mexico, it was a beautiful sight outside… not only because of the blue skies and crystal clear waters, but I could see Starbucks!!  Mexico was looking a lot more inviting than I anticipated… ha,ha!

View of Cozumel

View of Cozumel

We had breakfast and then met for our excursion to the Dolphinaris.  Getting to the Dophinaris only required a short taxi ride and overall was a very well run excursion.  However, I will caution, it is definitely a business!  They direct the parents not in the water to an observation deck and make it difficult to take good pictures of your kids in the water with the dolphins.  Of course, they have a photographer taking pictures of everything up close!  All of the moms sitting on the deck figured this out fairly quickly and accepted that we would be purchasing pictures.  Augh… $140 later for 8 pictures and a DVD of the experience, we left.  I would do it all over again though.  Curly pets the dolphin statue every time she goes into swim lessons and says, “One day I’m going to kiss a dolphin!”  Seeing my baby realize a dream she has talked about for years definitely produced a couple mommy tears!

A dream come true

A dream come true

After the Dolphinaris, we decided to walk back to the port area.  Given my apprehension of Mexico, I was on edge, but all was fine and the hubby was excited he found free wi-fi passing by a hotel on the way.  We made it to the port shopping area just before the rain came, so we wandered around in search of touristy gifts.  Against my better judgement, I agreed to let the girls get these little wood recorder type instruments… a decision I regretted within 30 seconds after we walked out of the store.  Once the rain subsided, we made our way back to the boat and cleaned up before taking the girls to flubber making in the lab and storytime in the club.

Parrot Cay Restaurant

Parrot Cay Restaurant

Dinner was in Parrot Cay and then we had a little quiet time before going upstairs for the Party in the Sky… aka a dance party followed by fireworks.  It was lots of fun… although the fireworks were short, they were awesome!  Apparently, Disney is the only cruise line that has fireworks while at sea!

Party in the Sky

Party in the Sky

Day 6 (at sea):  Click here to see the day’s navigator/schedule
We took advantage of our last lazy day at sea to sleep late and grab a leisurely breakfast.  Then, we dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer’s Lab and went to the Cove Cafe (adults only coffee shop/area by the Quiet Cove pool).  We tried to catch a little sun while relaxing, but it was breezy and not warm enough for me when the sun wasn’t shining.  So, at the suggestion of our tablemates, we tried a little shuffleboard.  The hubby and I hadn’t played it before (or least it had been long enough neither of us remembered), so we spent some time getting the hang of it before some competitive games!

Shuffleboard

Shuffleboard

Finally, we wandered inside and heard music… there was a dance party in the lobby with the characters!  We hurried to check the girls out of the lab area and went down to enjoy the dance party complete with confetti at the end!  They loved it!!  After it was over, we had a late lunch/snack before going to the movie theater to see “Oz the Great and Powerful” in 3D.  Once it was over, it was time to get ready for our final dinner at Lumiere’s.  At the end of the meal when the server was taking our dessert orders, Curly said she was full and ordered nothing… so he brought her “Nada”.

For dessert... nada.

For dessert… nada.

We took in “Dreams”, a broadway style show, after dinner and then dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer’s Lab for the farewell party.  It was hard to believe our final night on the cruise had arrived… the week had flown by!!

Day 7 (disembarkation):  Click to see the Welcome Home letter
Since we had the early seating for dinner, we were assigned the early seating at breakfast… 7:15am.  This was not ideal after a late night, but nonetheless, we made it only 5 mins late.  We enjoyed one last meal with our new friends from Calgary before getting in line to disembark.  Wow… Disney has that process down to a science!  From the time we arrived at breakfast to when we got off the boat was exactly 1 hour!  We found our luggage in the port warehouse area, cleared customs, and boarded our bus for the airport.  This efficiency ended up not working in our favor, because we arrived at the airport 10 hours before our flight… 10 hours!!!!  We inquired about boarding an earlier flight, but it would have cost over $1,000!  So, we decided to wait it out.  The only problem was not being able to check our luggage for more than 4 hours before our flight time.  Yes, you did the math correctly… we had to sit outside security with our luggage for 6 hours.  Finally, the time came to check the luggage and we only had to kill 3 1/2 more hours until boarding our plane.  Pumpkin finally succumbed to sleep and got an hour nap in while Curly played a new game on the iPad.

Waiting to go home

Waiting to go home

The plane boarded on time and we were FINALLY on our way home.  Vacation was officially over.  I’m still in denial, but the 7 loads of laundry the next day had a way of reminding me that it was back to reality!  Will we go on another Disney cruise?  Most definitely!!!

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