When I decided on our Disney cruise vacation, I enlisted the services of a travel agent. I’m still not sure why I did this except that I had never cruised before and thought she would know the ins and out of what to do better than I.
We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on our flight, car rental, and hotel room in Cape Canaveral (all of which I could have easily done) and very little on the aspect I knew nothing about – the cruise. Specifically, I wanted her insight on the best time to eat, how the kid’s club worked on the ship, and what to do when we arrived in Nassau and Castaway Cay. For this, I was left to my own devices, and unfortunately, made some mistakes.
I picked the earliest time to eat (around 5:30, I think). Bad move on my part. One, we weren’t really hungry that early and two, we had to cut out on daylight activities to eat. My advice is if your kids can handle a later dinner time – go for it. The kid’s club I did better with, using it each day of the trip. The kids really loved it and had a blast. It’s incredibly easy to drop them off for an hour or even half a day.
Finally, the shore excursions. Because of the length of the trip, we only took one – in Nassau. And it was a total disaster. First off, my lovely travel agent didn’t tell me that it was up to me to make all the arrangements. I thought she was handling it (after letting her know what we wanted) and she never said otherwise. By the time I checked on our excursion status, it was too late to get what we wanted – a dolphin experience in the water. Grumbling, I got what I THOUGHT was the next best thing – dolphins with no water.
As with all things, READ THE FINE PRINT. The excursion promised a dolphin experience without getting wet. Good. Great. My kids would get to at least touch and pet dolphins if they couldn’t get in the water. But when we arrived in Nassau and got to the assigned meeting place, I noticed most people were in swimsuits (for the get-in-the-water-experience). Only one other family was in regular clothes like us.
Hmm, warning signal. Shouldn’t there be others, or did they all know something we didn’t??
Turns out, after a LOOOONG boat ride (with a stop at Atlantis to pick up more people) and a tedious video promotion at the Blue Lagoon dolphin sanctuary, the dolphin observers were then permitted to walk along wooden boardwalks and watch people frolic in the water with the dolphins.
Wait a sec, I know it’s an out-of-water experience, but shouldn’t my guys at least be able to PET the dolphins?
Uh-uh. No way. Not allowed.
OMG!!!! An entire morning wasted (not to mention money) and all my kids get to do is watch dolphins from a distance of about twenty feet??? Turns out, Disney changed the description of the experience after we had signed up for it and added the important point that you only get to observe the dolphins from a SAFE DISTANCE.
Still steaming, we dropped the kids at the kid’s club and explored downtown Nassau (since we had little time to do anything else). The area near the dock is touristy and filled with kitschy tee-shirt shops. Sadly, I really felt like I didn’t get to experience the real Nassau – only the touristy one. Returning to the ship, we sailed to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, hoping for a better time tomorrow.
When we arrived in the morning, all ready to improve on the less than stellar experience from the day before, M was sick. Sigh. M has a tendency to push too hard, overdo things and then puke his guts up as his body rebels. Hubby brought P ashore to the kid’s club (Scuttle’s Cove) and we waited for M to sleep it off.
Finally, by lunch, M was better and he wanted to join his brother at the club (where P had already participated in a pirate treasure hunt and played in the sand). Hubby and I (now childless) ambled around to figure out what to do. The beaches were incredibly crowded since we hadn’t gotten there early in the morning and there was a long line for the water activities. Recognizing that we might have a better chance with something further away from the central area, we walked to the Stingray Hut and signed up for a Stingray Adventure.
How incredibly cool!! We learned about stingrays and then got the opportunity to pet and feed them. And while it didn’t make up for missing out on the dolphins, it was pretty neat.
After returning to the ship, the kids weren’t hungry (darn that early seating), skipped the last meal, and returned to the Kid’s Club to get ready for their ‘graduation’. Hubby and I explored the ship, trying to get away from the hordes of people who seemed to be everywhere. At last we found a quiet bar (the Cadillac Lounge) on the lowest level of the ship. Ahh – peace, serenity and best of all, NO PEOPLE. A relaxing drink and we were ready to attend our kids’ ‘graduation’ from the Disney Kid’s Club.
The kids walked on stage in grey t-shirts and graduation caps with Mickey Mouse ears attached to them. Mickey and Minnie appeared, passed out certificates, and everyone sang and took pictures. Like I’ve said before, Disney knows kids. My guys had a great time and would eagerly go back.
“Cruising” was better than I expected. Yes, I felt the sway and motion of the ship, but it wasn’t horrendous. It’s incredibly convenient and the ease of everything coming with you to a new port of call is a wonderful aspect. For an area of the world where the easiest mode of travel is by sea, I would (and probably will) definitely cruise again – think Alaska or the Greek Islands.
Would I cruise with the Mouse again? Maybe yes, maybe no.
The level of crowds one gets on a Disney cruise is high. Sometimes the Disney experience is a little too much to handle. And a Disney cruise is definitely geared more for kids than to adults or even older kids/tweens. That said, I would highly recommend a Disney cruise for a first-timer or a family with kids who wants a worry-free vacation. Just make sure either you or your travel agent are on top of things.
Next: At the Mercy of a Killer Whale