Earlier this week, I officially stepped off the Disney Dream after my first Disney Cruise. To say the experience will last a lifetime is an understatement. What I experienced for 4 days and 3 nights was some of the best service, entertainment, food and fellowship you could cram into that amount of time. When you add that there were 11 of us in our party sharing 3 staterooms, we will be able to look at this past weekend as a “dream” for our family. So did the cruise answer my questions from last week’s post? Were my predictions correct? Only one way to find out…
Welcome to Believe Vacations Top 10 where today, I am going to ANSWER the 10 questions about my first Disney Cruise. For this list, I will refer back to THIS ARTICLE FROM LAST WEEK and the 10 basic questions about a typical Disney Cruise. I will repost the question, answer it and then check in on my predictions. So all ashore mateys as we set sail into this week’s post!
10) How was the food? – As expected, there was a ton to eat and everywhere you looked, something edible was near. Our first meal for lunch on sail day was at Cabanas. We had the basic buffet food staples such as pizza, chicken, salmon and carved beef.
Then we ate there for breakfast and of course, I had to get Mickey Waffles! Don’t ask me why but the hash browns were unbelievably good!
Funny enough, we never sampled the pizza/hamburger/wrap stations at all during the cruise. We only ordered room service once and even that was mostly snacks.
On Castaway Cay, we settled in front of Cookie’s Too and it had a wonderful selection of ribs, cajun chicken, hamburgers and hotdogs. It wasn’t a homerun but man did those ribs fall off the bone.
Of course, we can’t forget about the rotating dining locations for our dinner. Our rotation went Royal Palace, Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden. A brief description for each:
Enchanted Garden – Fantastic setting and server costumes/Least appealing menu
Animator’s Palate – Very hectic and felt crammed/Fun atmosphere, menu and best dessert (Cookies and Cream Milkshake)
Royal Palace – THE BEST!
Prediction Result: While Cookie’s Too was fine, Royal Palace was the best overall dining experience, and that includes food. For the first time in my life (and thus my daughter’s), we had Escargot and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. For the main course, I enjoyed the wonderful Oven-Baked Salmon Royale (pictured) and then finished my wife’s Chateaubriand-Roasted Filet Steak. And because I could, I finished with a Grand Marnier Souffle. All were recommended by our server Alexa (more on her later) and she knew exactly what she was doing recommending those!
How did the kids answer this question: Macaroni and Cheese
9) What character was our favorite? – On a Disney Cruise, the characters are not as spread out like the parks. Every night, Mickey and Minnie were on the balcony. There were constant Disney Jr. character interactions and we did special ticketed events to meet Anna and Elsa and the Princesses (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Belle, Tiana.) Sometimes we randomly bumped into characters – Like when we turned the corner and suddenly there’s Stitch. Or when we open the door of our stateroom and there is Pluto randomly in the halls.
Prediction Result: I knew it’d be a Pirate. I knew it would be a Captain. While Jake was a hit, we never got a chance to see Captain Hook. But we did see Captain Jack Sparrow and he was amazing. The mannerisms, voice, look and quick wit really had my kids wanting to watch the movie franchise the minute we got home. As you may have expected, he gave my wife the eye. Even dismissed the rest of our family to get another picture (or two) with her. Classic stuff from the good captain!
How did the kids answer this question: Captain Jack Sparrow
8) Were lines for the Aquaduck ridiculous? – There are times when I feel like I did a good job planning this trip and there are times I get lucky and blast one out of the park. Getting my family on the ship within the first 5 boarding groups was amazing. And because of that, we took the group of 11 right up to the Aquaduck. My brother and his son were first to ride for the entire cruise; I was on the second raft. We rode it again before the line started. We rode a final time on the last night and that was our experience with the water coaster.
Prediction Result: As expected, the kids tall enough to ride loved it. And yes, the wait time did eventually get up to 60 minutes. And it was truly a fun ride. The 2 dips and raises are pretty solid and the rest of the ride is a nice cruising pace through the tube. We’ll call this prediction correct! 1 out of 3 so far
7) What will be our favorite off-shore activity? As much as I wanted to enjoy Nassau, it’s very stressful taking your children by the hand and parading them through the border market/straw market. Unfamiliar with the native art of haggling and pushy sales, we only stayed on the island for an hour. Too many more fun things to do on the ship!
Castaway Cay was different though. A perfect day at the beach was what we needed to stretch out a little after 2 days of sailing. My kids immediately swam out to the slides on Pelican’s Plunge and then the lines got a little too long. It was fun to see the looks on the kids’ faces when they had to swim to the slide and that meant swimming with tropical fish!
But the 2 big activities are broken down by age group. For the kids, Scuttle’s Cove, the off-shore version of the Oceaneer’s Club, was the big highlight. They had a blast playing in the sand, making sand castles, playing soccer/tetherball/tag, etc. For the adults, snorkeling was the highlight. You do not realize how hard it is to snorkel long distances until you try to see every special item in the designated snorkeling section. But it was worth it for me when I actually got to witness 4 sea turtles in a migrating swimming pattern only a few feet away from me. Just a beautiful sight!
Prediction Result: Castaway Cay was definitely the better of the 2 stops for my family. But by that time in the cruise, my kids were learning that it was okay to be dropped off with fun counselors and make new friends. So they WANTED to go to Scuttle’s Cove. As for the adults, it truly was hard to leave the island behind!
6) Was Fish Extender worth the effort? To recap, my family of 5 and 9 other staterooms exchanged room numbers, names of the people in that stateroom and information like “Favorite Character.” Then, we created a fun door catcher that hung from the fish plaque (thus, fish extender). The others on our list dropped off small trinkets and prizes they brought for you and your family.
Prediction Result: Probably the thing my children will remember most from the trip. Every time you got back to your room, it was like Christmas. “What did we get? What did we get?” And we got some great stuff that filled an entire suitcase to take home. Personally, I received a pair of Star Wars Socks, a Haunted Mansion lanyard, a miniature (or 2), and other really fun and creative items. Definitely worth the effort and I will recommend this to any family! We’ll call this prediction correct. 2 out of 5 predictions correct!
5) What was our favorite on-board activity? Let’s just get to the list:
Dining – Exceptional quality, presentation and service
Pools – A little overcrowded but very enjoyable when we actually thought about swimming.
Movies – We actually never made it to the movie theater and it was more than okay that we did not.
Movies at the pool – Fun concept but we never just sat still to watch one.
Entertainment – 6 trivia games later and I still want to play more (more on that below).
Broadway-style shows – Even my children were able to sit still for 45 minutes and sing and clap along. Laughed, cried, clapped and sang.
Games on the decks – One round of Goofy Golf the first night at sunset couldn’t be topped
Games in the halls – The Kid’s Detective Agency game was a ton of fun and a great opportunity for me and my kids to get away and do our own thing.
Dancing – We had some pirates shaking their booties on the poop deck the night of the Pirates IN the Caribbean Party!
Prediction Result: Had to be pirate night! Our kids and family looked great and the kids enjoyed the dancing and the fireworks. Some folks went all out in their costumes, some did more cosplaying while others just threw on some dark eye shadow and tied on a bandana. Regardless of level of costuming, the fun for all was amped up tremendously for one night!
4) Favorite entertainment for Kids? Disney Cruises are built with families in mind. That means activities for kids and their parents and also some activities just for kids. And we tried our best to find every single one of those. As I mentioned before, the Midship Detective Agency was a great chance for my kids to solve a puzzle while having a ton of fun with Dad. The shows kept them engaged, laughing and singing along. And of course, the pools and slides resulted with smiles 10 feet wide.
Prediction Result: For the kids, of course it was The Oceaneer’s Club. Hesitant at first to be left alone with strangers and new friends, my boys were very upset every night we picked them up. It was always the first choice for my kids when giving them options and it did give the adults some time to themselves. Bonus points to the counselors of the club who would come to dinner and round up any kids that wanted to leave dinner early for fun and let the adults enjoy a meal without children.
3) Favorite entertainment for Adults? And when the kids were doing their thing (or napping), the adults would enjoy the little things on the ship. Sitting in a chair watching the sunrise, dangling your feet in the adult-only pool drinking an alcoholic Dole Whip(!!!), or simply just having fun conversations at dinner once the kids left. There was plenty to do that the cruise line did not have to promote.
Prediction Result: For the adults, would you believe trivia? To set the stage, the adult entertainment director, Chris, could have been my vote for Best Character. A quick-witted, sharp and sassy young man from the UK, he had all of us in tears anytime he emceed a game show or trivia show. He humorously yelled at my brother for daring to argue the answer to a music trivia question and told me I made him “uncomfortable” when I put my arm around him to sing a few bars of “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. Even with Chris’s antics, you are looking at a 2-time Disney Cruise winner! My family was a team and won 70’s Music Trivia and, hard to believe, I won Disney Expert Trivia. Whopping score of 9 out of 25 but that doesn’t matter now does it?!
2) Best part about the staterooms? The room was a perfect size for us. The closet space was ample, the room under the bed was a wonderful storage location for suitcases and there were plenty of shelves and counters and desks to rest stuff on. I loved the double bathroom design where the shower and a sink was in one and the toilet and another sink were in another. Made getting ready for dinner very efficient and effective. And of course that large porthole! We never really sat in it like I thought we would but we spent a good bit of time looking out it to see the world go by every night!
Prediction Result: While it was fun to see my children wake up, look out the porthole and see a new location out the window, the pull down bunk and murphy bed were the highlights. I’m serious! Our stateroom had a queen bed (very comfortable), a pull down couch (which I tried to turn down myself and got my leg caught!), and the 2 pull-downs from the ceiling and wall. My 3 kids rotated between those 3 beds every night and after long days, they crashed hard in their respective places and slept through the night each night. Thank you Disney indeed!
1) Did the service compare to Disney World? Yes, Yes, Yes and that really is all!
Prediction Result: Disney is the best when it comes to customer service. Disney Parks have a reputation for going above and beyond for guests who visit their home. But the Disney Cruise Line Crew Members are the best of the best. On a ship, it’s difficult not to see familiar faces as the week goes by. And if you are a Cast Member assigned to staterooms, tables, or anything else that relates to the guests, a face will quickly become a name, and a name will quickly become a friendship. Please let me share just a couple quick hitters about a few people that I think fondly of now when it comes to customer service:
Chris : I already mentioned him in our adult entertainment section but I’ll always remember him for how he engaged everyone into having fun, remembering names, using humor (and a bit of sass) to work a room and totally making us feel like we were a part OF the show instead of seeing the show.
Canas: Our stateroom attendant who remembered my name within the first 5 minutes of meeting him. He always had high fives and handshakes for my family and was someone I could joke around with anytime I passed him in the hallways.
Jeuron: We only met Jeuron once as he was our waiter for lunch one day in the Royal Palace. But the next day, I saw him pushing a cart of plates in Cabanas and he totally remembered my name and our conversation from the other day. I thought that was impressive.
Nory: Nory was the bartender at Currents up in the adult area. We passed on drinks and normally, a server would then move on to the next family. Not Nory. He engaged our family in conversation, learned about us, told us stories of the business he left in the Philippines, how he used to work security and now works the bar, gave advice about going to Nassau and Castaway Cay and was just an overall friendly guy. H showed me that there is a way to be engaging without being pushy and we could’ve listened to his stories all day.
Piero: Our assistant server all 3 nights at dinner, this young man has a bright future. He took a personal liking to the 4 boys and 1 girl in our group and by the end of the trip, was joking around with them and even becoming like a parent to them (“Hey, don’t hit your brother, okay?”). My favorite moment was looking over at my son, just beaming because Piero was hunched over him, cutting his steak into perfect pieces that would fit into his mouth. Just amazing service.
Alexa: I always say that part of the price for any Disney trip is the service. With that being said, I am convinced a good portion of the total expense went towards the service we received from our waitress, Alexa. Our Romanian friend never missed a beat with drinks, getting orders out, making recommendations or demanding we tell her what else she and Piero could do better. By the second meal, she knew what the kids wanted and never asked the parents to order for them. She got eye level with our kids and would speak to them directly. When my nephew fell asleep at the table, she grabbed napkins and made a pillow and a tablecloth for a blanket. When my kids needed an extra surprise little treat, she brought cookies and Mickey ice cream bars without asking. For a little extra pixie dust, she made origami fish for the boys and a butterfly for my daughter. And when the kids left for the Oceaneer’s Club, she was very funny and entertained the adults with brain puzzles and critical thinking games using crayons and a fantastic sense of humor.
One thing I want to say about this staff you may not know: They do consecutive trip for months at a time. Alexa was telling us how she is doing this through the week of Christmas, finally going home to see her family (she’s an only child) for 7 weeks, and then getting back on another cruise. But she and the others had attitudes like it was their first Disney Cruise and boy did it show. I know i’m forgetting the Oceaneer’s Club counselors that helped my kids all week and also forgetting the cleaning guys I saw at 5:00 am polishing the rails and even cleaning the rescue boats because every little detail matters. But the service you receive from a Disney Cruise Line staff is worth the price alone! And with that, I finished 4 out of 10 in my predictions. Just goes to show you’ll find new things to love and enjoy during any Disney vacation you’ll ever take!
Hope you enjoyed my trip recap. Next week, we’ll start a series of posts that will reveal the results of our team voting on various topics regarding attractions. Ultimately, it’ll build up to what we voted as THE #1 DISNEY ATTRACTION so stay tuned. As for the cruise, while I always say there’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, I kind of wish I could go back a few yesterdays!