I have a confession to make…there was once a time when I was not a Disney person. Shocking, I know. But, I had no desire to visit the parks or go on their cruises; I rarely even frequented their store.
We just didn’t have a lot of opportunities to become “Disneyfied” when we were growing up. We watched the movies, had our favorites, but that was the extent of it.
Then Steve and I had three girls and a mall just down the street with a Disney Store and inevitably we made a promise to visit Cinderella’s castle one day.
But the longer time went on the farther that possibility seemed to stretch out of reach. I didn’t want to disappoint our daughters or let them grow up before they got to experience some of the magic and wonder so many of my friends told me about.
So, I read a few Disney cruise reviews and thought it would be more manageable and possibly more affordable, until we could plan for the trip to Disney World. Best decision ever.
Now, I must be honest and confess that our Disney Cruise was the only cruise I had ever been on.
But, now that I have been on the best, I’m not sure I could bring myself to travel with anyone else. I will always be comparing and that just isn’t fair to the other cruise lines. Because let’s face it, Disney will always hold the gold standard in magical vacations.
However, for those who are skeptical or for those who have never had the privilege to travel the seas with Mickey but would like to, allow me to give some highlights of what I feel makes Disney the best cruise line out there. This is my Disney Cruise review of why I think you should consider it, at least once.
What Makes Disney Cruise Line Stand Out?
- Disney knows how to pump up the excitement.
- Disney makes you feel like the guest of honor.
- Disney knows how to serve you.
- Disney knows how to keep the magic going.
- Disney knows how to relate to kids.
- Disney has more character experiences than you can find elsewhere.
- Disney has Castaway Cay.
- Disney makes you want to stay.
Once you reserve your place on one of the ships, you have access to their Disney Cruise Line website and loads of information. If you are anything like me, someone who reads every single detail of every single thing, you will love this access. And you will read it all, every page, every link. Then you’ll feel fairly confident about your cruise and what to expect.
But you won’t even be close, let me tell you. Disney knows how to blow you away.
There are two fun features the website offers, which I loved. One is the countdown to your cruise. (The pic above shows the countdown screen on the morning of our cruise.) You are already pretty excited, but this little feature is a special touch that enhances that excitement.
The second was the phone call. Before your cruise, you can select either Mickey and Minnie, Donald Duck or Goofy to give your kids a call. (Or you, whatever floats your boat.) They will say how excited they are to see you and list some things to look forward to.
Even if you don’t have kids, this was fun.
See, this is how excited Disney makes you. 🙂
First, you step onto the boat to the sound of your family name being announced and instant applause from nearly a dozen cast members (they call all their employees this) lined up to welcome you on board.
I knew they would do this as I had read about it plus I watched them doing it for other families ahead of us, but when it was our turn, I couldn’t stop grinning. I felt like royalty.
And speaking of royalty, a cast member always greeted our girls (even in the halls) with a bow and a “hello, princess”. On more than one occasion the girls walked into a restaurant for dinner to cast member’s applause.
They never allowed our girls to do anything on their own; there was always someone there to pull out their chair, cut up their food, and make them feel honored. The girls loved it and Steve and I got a pleasant reprieve from parenting.
(This was a magical thing to experience until we got off the boat. Talk about walking straight into reality! Ha!)
Then there are the amenities. Yes, I know most cruise lines have them and leave schedules and goodies in your room, but Disney goes above and beyond to make sure you are completely taken care of.
If you have a problem or need anything, you can be sure they’re going the extra mile. You feel like an honored guest in every corner of the ship!
(I sometimes include affiliate links, which means I might make a small commission off any purchases you make, at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here or at the end of this post.)
And check out these goodies! This stuff is amazing; you just HAVE to buy the full-size bottles in the gift shops so that when you go home, you can instantly feel transported with a single whiff of the tropical goodness. (If you run out, there’s always more at Amazon! H2O Spa Products.
I just prefer mine with the Disney Cruise Line logo. :)) These in the picture are what you find in your room. I ration mine so they last long after the cruise is over. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!
EDIT: To cut back on waste, Disney has now moved from smaller bottles to larger, pump-style amenities that stay in your room. You can still buy personal bottles in the gift shop or through other retailers.
I would be remiss not to mention the all-inclusive amenities you get on a Disney Cruise, as well. For a budget-minded girl, this was a big selling point for me.
Once you pay for your cruise, the only things you will pay for onboard are alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, or pre-packaged items. You do have to pay for popcorn at the shows, even though it isn’t pre-packaged. But there are very few places onboard where you will pay for extras.
Covered amenities include everything on the menu. (Aside from alcohol.) Room service is free unless it is a packaged item. You can get food and drinks at the buffets all day long without swiping a card.
Let me also say, I’m a carbs girl and I love my fries so I know what I’m talking about when I say their buffets make the most amazing fries and incredible chicken strips! I ate a plateful every day. Sometimes, more than once; it’s a wonder I didn’t gain weight. (I recommend always taking the stairs!)
This might sound odd, but just look at these bathrooms!
You will be hard-pressed to find a dirty bathroom or a stall without ample toilet paper. Most bathrooms even have attendants to hand you paper towels after you have finished washing your hands. I loved visiting the bathrooms! And I hate public bathrooms.
The cast members in charge of cleaning were incredibly nice, and I never saw one disgruntled janitor. I thanked every single one I met, which often resulted in a brief chat.
Did you know the cast members are from the world over? Their name tags have their first name and the country they are from. It impressed me the number of countries represented.
Ah, then there are the servers! These guys become like family. I’m not even joking. Did you know they are your servers for the entire cruise? You rotate restaurants every night and they rotate with you. I loved that so much!
They never made the girls feel like they were a bother. They treated any need or request with the same respect they would show an adult.
And even though they were busy and never seemed to stop working, they always made time for the girls.
Did you notice the picture of little Dixie crying as she had to say goodbye to Jackie on our last day? We had Jason as our server and Jackie was the assistant server. These two were so special to us. But ask anyone who has ever been on a Disney cruise and they will tell you the same thing of their own servers. I still keep in contact with Jackie to this day. 🙂
What makes them so great?
First, they’re knowledgeable. If the head server recommends something, order it. My husband almost always ordered the suggested platter, and his meals were always better tasting than mine.
Second, they take your requests, likes and dislikes seriously. I mentioned once to Jason that I didn’t like spicy food and I never had to mention it again. Jason remembered. If I ordered a dish that was spicy he would recommend something else or altered the dish for me.
Third, they love to have fun with the kids.
If something was going on inside the restaurant during dinner, they would always come out to get in the spirit of the festivities with the kids. It was always a fun time at dinner.
We weren’t their only table (they waited on 3-4 depending on who came to dinner) but both Jason and Jackie took the time to play games with the kids and have fun with them. Every night they posed a crayon riddle for the kids to figure out. (These were good, Steve eventually solved all but one.)
They colored with us on the tablecloth and encouraged some fun creativity. They asked the girls about their day and really listened to their answers. All while carrying on with their duties flawlessly.
The kids could be themselves, and poor Jason usually got the brunt of it. 🙂
I could park here for a while.
To say the entire trip was magical would be an understatement.
I was very impressed with the amount of space and storage each room had, even the inside cabins. (We had a veranda room, which I HIGHLY recommend! It makes the room feel so much bigger and the time we spent on the veranda watching the scenery was by far some of my favorite moments.)
My mom went with us (SO nice to have Grandma along!) and this was her stateroom.
The magic porthole absolutely mesmerized the kids. (And Steve, apparently 🙂 ) If you were patient, you could see some familiar friends stopping by to say hello.
(The only downside was when my mom woke up in the middle of the night to Mr. Potato Head looking down at her! 🙂 Thankfully, there’s an option to turn it off.)
Then there are the shows which perform every day. Two words: Broadway caliber. These were so much fun and so professional, you did not feel you were watching a show on a cruise ship.
All the shows are performed by the cast members except for the guest performer show.
Charles Peachock, a juggler, who was also a finalist on America’s Got Talent, was our performer. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life! By far, one of the best performance shows I’ve ever attended.
I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but these are just a few of the things we loved most.
Throughout the entire cruise, there was never a shortage of activities. At the end of every day, we fell into bed exhausted. We didn’t want to miss a thing and tried to do as much as we could.
I know it’s a Disney cruise and all, but it actually surprised me how well they cater to the kids.
Take the Kid’s Clubs, for example:
Not only did I, as an adult, find these miniature-sized rooms fun, but the kids thought they were in Heaven. There was something to do for everyone.
They had a Pixie Hollow, an Andy’s Room from Toy Story, a craft room, a science corner and more. There are cast members throughout to play with your kids and oversee activities.
They even give you a phone for your child to call should they need you and a first-class check-in system that will put even the most anxiety-filled momma at ease. (That would be me.)
You can check your child in and enjoy some guilt-free adult time knowing your kids are having a blast and are well-taken care of.
Another perk is, if you are part of the last rotation of diners, cast members from the clubs will even come to the restaurants to see if your kids want to go to the clubs so you can finish your dinner without the kids getting bored.
Disney really thinks of everything.
I didn’t realize this when we went, but I have been told that you cannot hope to meet as many characters at the parks as you can find on the cruise.
Our girls met all but one or two of the ones on the ship with us. And every single one of them treated our girls like they were the only little girls on the cruise. They were in true Disney fashion.
The Princess Meet and Greet was a highlight for the girls and a time-saver for parents.
Chance meetings were our girl’s favorite ways to see their favorite characters. Several times they chanced upon one and got a few minutes all by themselves to chat.
The girls probably met close to 30 characters. They were everywhere. And you never knew when you would run into one.
This. This right here was worth it, even if Disney had nothing else to offer.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s own private island. This means that your ship is the only one on the island at a time.
It was so nice to get off the ship and not have to fight the crowds. As you can see from this picture below, we were the only ones in the water for the first hour. SO nice! (We were off the boat within an hour of docking and had the beach all to ourselves.)
There are hidden treasures in the water if you wish to snorkel and look for them. Dixie loved finding Minnie! (Snorkel before the crowds descend or the water will be too gritty to see much.)
There’s also an adult’s only beach called Serenity Bay. Grandma took the girls so we could visit the beach. (Castaway Cay also has a Kid’s Club on the island but our girls were having too much fun with Grandma to go.)
Serenity Bay was beautiful and peaceful.
The only downside to our visit to SB was the storm that rolled in just after we got there, forcing us to leave the water until it passed. But it made for some neat pictures.
We spent every minute on Castaway Cay and still wished we could stay longer.
The stunning water. The beautiful sandy beaches. The food. I’m so ready to go back!
(Check out my post 10 Things I Wish I knew Before Going on a Disney Cruise to get an important tip about sea lice!)
By the time our cruise ended, I was exhausted. The beds were super comfortable and all, but I was going, going, going so much on the cruise I was ready for life to slow down. That being said, it was definitely hard to leave.
And they didn’t make it easy to leave, either.
Everywhere you turned there were “farewells” and “see you laters” and even some tears. It’s amazing how, in just a brief time, you can connect with so many people and feel you’ve known them forever.
Now that I have been on a Disney Cruise, I can no longer say I am not a Disney person. It’s impossible. You became part of the Disney family the moment you stepped foot on one of their boats.
You will forever pass another person with “Disney Cruise” merchandise and feel the need to reach out to them and connect. And you will definitely want to return for another cruise.
I hope I have convinced you to try Disney when you’re ready to take a cruise. Maybe I’ll even see you there. 🙂
Are you planning a Disney Cruise of your own? I would love to hear which ship you’ll be on and where you plan to visit!
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About the author
Kimberly McGraw is the founder of Life Worth the Living, a blog focused on helping mothers live their best life. Her desire is to help moms find purpose in who they are as a person, not just as a mom. Life Worth the Living has been featured in Making Sense of Cents, Outwit Trade and Believe and Create.