Disney Cruising – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

everything you need to know abut a disney cruise family vacation

I hope you’ve enjoyed following our daily adventures on our Disney Cruise! I wanted to go ahead and do a recap, with a few overarching topics that may or may not have come up in the other posts… essentially, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Disney Cruising.

I’m going to go ahead and start with The Ugly. I really want to end on a high note, so this seems like the best plan. Okay, here it is… LATE DINING SUCKS (and so does seasickness). That’s really all I’ve got for The Ugly. I originally booked our cruise for January 2nd last spring. Midway through the year, we booked a New Year’s Eve wedding. So, our plans of driving to LA were out the window. Once I started trying to book airfare, I realized how crazy expensive it was going to be to fly on January 1st. So, long story short (or more like long story long), I changed the date of our cruise to January 29th.

When you book your cruise determines whether you get main dining or not. By the time I booked Jan. 29th, main dining was full, so we got stuck with late dining, which starts with 8:15 pm. I called before the cruise and requested a change. I also requested a change when we boarded the ship. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to get switched to main dining. Couple that with a two hour time difference that I had failed to take into consideration, and you had a recipe for disaster. Well, not a disaster, but a less-than-ideal situation.

Seasickness was another issue we faced. (Please don’t think I’m blaming this on Disney! I’m just trying to give you a heads up on what you could expect.) We did not expect Josh to get seasick and we certainly didn’t expect him to be as sick as he was. It really put a damper on the trip. I had purchased over-the-counter medicine before we left, as I figured I would get seasick. He took the medicine, but it wasn’t strong enough to really help. Next time we cruise, we’ll opt for the prescription next time. (I highly recommend considering prescription seasickness medication just in case!)

If I had to do it all over again, I would have booked a cruise out of Florida and made certain that we were able to get on main dining. I think those two things right there contributed to our lack of extreme enjoyment (which is what I expected). Now, this is not to say we didn’t have fun. We did! But, our fun was definitely overshadowed by LATE LATE nights and 2-3 hour naptimes every afternoon.

Now, moving on to The Bad. There are several things I would throw in this category, though please understand I am using the term ‘The Bad’ very loosely. My definition would be more like “not ideal”. In The Bad category, we have food, swimming pools, and the kids clubs.

Now, don’t go freaking out on me about the food. Let me explain. The breakfast and lunch buffets are open for about a two hour window every day. The timing of the buffets did not work out too well for us due to the fact that we were eating dinner so late. We weren’t really hungry for lunch at 1 pm. And, the buffet food was so-so. It wasn’t awful, but certainly not anything to get excited about. One day for lunch, I tried the sit-down restaurant. The menu was very limited and the only thing that sounded good was a cheeseburger. Again, it was okay, but not fabulous.

If you miss the buffet, your only options are room service or one of the ‘fast food’ places on deck 9 (pizza, burgers, chicken strips). We ordered from room service a few times, but most of the food was mediocre. (I did enjoy the cheese plate though!) The kids loved the pizza, but I didn’t really enjoy it (sidenote: I love pizza normally!). I’m totally not complaining. I think I had too high of expectations because when you tell people you’re going on a cruise, all you hear about it is how awesome the food is. I’m just warning you that the food on the cruise (with the exception of dinner) was okay, but nothing to get super excited about.

Another thing I wasn’t fond of concerning the food was the lack of kid-friendly options. Maybe my kids are just SUPER picky (this is probably true), but I was shocked by the lack of kid foods. There was macaroni and cheese available at every meal and through room service. But there was never any plain chicken, chicken nuggets, fish nuggets, spaghetti and noodles, or any other kid favorites. Our kids lived on mac n cheese and pizza for the entire week. And vegetables were practically non-existent! I had to request peas every night for the kids at dinner because the options they had available typically involved broccoli and cauliflower.

Now, on to the swimming pools. As you could probably tell from my previous posts, I think the pools are WAY too small. The adults only pool was pretty much always empty and was bigger than (or it least it seemed that way) the Goofy pool (4 ft pool). The Mickey pool was great, but was closed several times. I totally understand that it’s not Disney’s fault that the pool was closed for cleaning due to accidents and kids throwing up. Either way, it was disappointing.

Now, the kids clubs. Don’t get me wrong, Disney made their kids club programs SO awesome! There was always something exciting happening AND they have adjusted the program so that all kids 3-11 (maybe 12, not exactly sure) can be in the Oceaneer’s Club or Oceaneer’s Lab together. The times that Max and Ava were in the clubs, they had an absolute blast. My only disappointment stems from being misinformed early on. I was under the impression that we would be able to hang out WITH the kids in the club for the activities.

For us, we really wanted to maximize family time on the cruise. Once we arrived on the ship, we were informed that we could only stay in the club with the kids during open house hours (typically a 3 hour time window each day which did not work well with our late dining schedule). The rest of the time was what they called a secured program, meaning kids and counselor ONLY, no parents. I totally understand why they do it that way, and I’m probably in the minority for wishing they had more open house hours. Either way, that’s my reasoning for being disappointed in the program. We wanted to be able to do more of the activities they were offering with the kids and not have to just drop them off.

Okay, now it’s time for The Good! This section is going to have lots of things! Included in this category are food, service, entertainment, wave phones, port adventures, and character meetings.

I’m going to start off with food since I’m sure you already noticed I included it in The Bad and The Good. The food every night at dinner was OUTSTANDING. I think they spent the majority of the food budget making sure dinner would rock your world. It sure did! Every night, we had fish and seafood options on the menu, as well as steak most nights (and I believe there was a vegetarian option as well). There were several choices for appetizers, soups, salads, and of course, dessert! We were allowed to order anything we wanted and we both got multiple desserts on more than one occasion ;).

The service on the cruise was simply above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Our stateroom host was Sam, who was friendly and kept our rooms SPOTLESS (that’s kinda hard to do with our family too!). He left towel animals on our bed nightly, as well as Disney chocolates (yum!).

Our servers were Carlo and Andre and they were just amazing! They both went out of their way to get meals and drinks the kids wanted and Carlo spent a good deal of time entertaining our little ones every evening with tricks. Several days into the cruise, we walked into the lunch buffet and Ava started squealing like she’d just seen Mickey Mouse. Nope, it was Carlo! I hope that gives you an idea of how awesome they were… Ava especially is extremely shy, but all of the kids really opened up to both Carlo and Andre by the end of the cruise.

Carlo and Andre also went out of their way to take care of the grown ups. Every night, Carlo would have recommendations for the best items on the menu. I was never disappointed when I took his advice! He often brought me out extra shrimp (mmm… I love shrimp!) and one night he brought me three desserts when I was struggling to decide exactly what I wanted! He also special ordered Indian food for our whole table on two different nights.

In addition to our personal servers and host on the cruise, I have to say, every single crew member we encountered was just awesome! They were always smiling, happy, helpful, polite, and genuinely excited about their job. It was really magical! Sidenote: We’ve been told (not 100% certain if it’s true) that the stateroom hosts and servers only get paid 100% in tips. That would definitely explain their desire to provide top-notch service. (So keep that in mind when it comes time to tip!)

I’m going to talk just briefly about the entertainment. I have rambled on in every post it seems about just how great the entertainment is. It really is! If you enjoy Disney movies (I hope you do if you’re going on this cruise!), you will just LOVE all the shows! The kids really enjoyed them, and I just loved them! In addition to the live musical Disney performances, they brought in several other entertainers, a magician, a juggler, a hypnotist, and a ventriloquist. I could not believe just how much the kids loved the shows. (Sidenote: it kind of reminded me of going to Disney World. Before we went, I thought, why would we pay all that money to get in the park, and then go watch an hour long show? Now I realize that is a HUGE part of the experience.)

The wave phones are something I touched on briefly in one of my posts, but never really explained too much. They were AWESOME! One of the hardest things about being at sea is being disconnected. Josh and I usually have our iPhones with us at all times and we can easily communicate via text message or a quick call. We knew that wouldn’t be feasible on the ship. We were pleasantly surprised to find the wave phones in our rooms. They are like small cordless phones that work only on the ship. You can call between the phones and also send text messages. (Note: the text messaging was very hard for me… I think my iPhone has spoiled me!) These phones were invaluable during our cruise as they allowed us to stay connected to each other even when we were apart.

Next up, Port Adventures. When I first started looking into the Port Adventures, I was pretty bummed. They have SO many awesome choices, but our kids are too small for almost every one. We ended up booking the Las Caletas Hideaway excursion and we were thoroughly pleased with it! It was kinda pricey, but in the end, worth every penny. After visiting Cabo with no Port Adventures booked, I definitely see the benefits of booking directly through the cruise line. Trying to do anything through local vendors was stressful and chaotic to say the least!

The last thing I want to mention is the characters. Before leaving on the cruise, I was very unsure about whether there would be any princesses on board. There was no need to worry! All our favorite princesses were there (except Rapunzel, who I think is just too new). There were many many opportunities to meet and take photos with all the characters they had on the ship. We also got to have a character breakfast (very similar to the character meals at Disney World) one morning and the kids thoroughly enjoyed that. If your kids are prime age, the character meetings will be a huge part of their enjoyment of the cruise!

Okay, so this was LONG! Sorry about that… I hope you find it helpful if you are planning a Disney Cruise. Overall, we had a good time. I think the late dining coupled with the two hour time change put a damper on our fun. BUT, that being said, we will likely do it again in a few years. Next time, I’ll make sure we take a cruise out of Florida (one hour time difference the other direction!) and that we get main dining. And I will head into the cruise with proper expectations. To be honest, I read a guide book about the Disney Cruise and the authors’ enthusiasm led me to set too high of expectations. I don’t think any vacation could have lived up to my expectations. So take my advice, go with proper expectations, get main dining, and pay attention to time changes. If you do, you’re on your way to an awesome family vacation!

Jenny (343 Posts)

Jenny Solar is the co-founder of The Happy Family Movement and Phone Monsters, Inc. She's a wife to Josh and mama to three kiddos: Max, Ava, and Lia. She's passionate about creating memorable experiences for her family and inspiring others to do the same.


7 comments
LisaWeir
LisaWeir

Did you ask for a kid's menu?

happyfammvmt
happyfammvmt moderator

We did get kids menus. There just wasn't much variety if options on the kids menu :)

Jennifer Clack
Jennifer Clack

I got seasick too on my Disney cruise. My sister went to the ship's doctor and he gave us some great seasickness pills. They were much better than the regular Dramamine I brought with me. I felt much better after that. : )

Iva @ This Side of Perfect
Iva @ This Side of Perfect

You obviously have younger children. Based on what you've experienced, how do you feel the Disney cruise would be for those with younger teens?

AP Mommy
AP Mommy

Thanks for the great review of the cruise! My kids are still pretty little so a cruise is a few years away, but I've got my eye on the Disney cruise so all information is good. I LOVE the idea of the Wave phones. I did some digging on the paying of the Stateroom Hosts - and I can't find anything specific about what they are paid (or not) However, I did find a gratuity guideline: Disney recommends tipping them $12 per person in a stateroom on three-night cruises, $16 on four-day cruises and $28 on seven-night cruises. I'd find it very hard to believe though that they are not paid employees though. Again thanks for all the great info and glad you had a great time!

Disney Vacation Enthusiast
Disney Vacation Enthusiast

Wow! I am so surprised and sad to hear about your Disney Cruise experience! I have been on 3 cruises, and NEVER experienced those problems. In fact, my kids LOVE the food! And we were able to get spaghetti at dinner in the Animator's Palette. Please feel free to read our story: http://disneyvacationenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/cruise-tips-disney-cruise-ship-food-part-ii/ I do hope you try another cruise. And have a better experience next time. Best, Disney Vacation Enthusiast

Megan Clouse
Megan Clouse

It's been really fun to follow along each day! I'd like to add that I've had motion sickness problems my whole life until a recent holy-wonderful fix. Everyone has something different for them, but this is mine. Prescription Scopolomine patch (goes behind the ear). It has literally changed my life. (and I have literally tried every remedy known to mankind.) Something to consider for your next excursion or seaward photoshoot.