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Making your Disney Cruise a bit More Magical

There is only one thing my family loves as much as Walt Disney World vacations, and that’s cruise vacations.  When we can combine both of those loves by doing a Disney Cruise, which we’ve done now nine times, we know it’s gonna be one awesome trip.

Over the years, we’ve tried some things that have always given us even more amazing memories of our cruise vacations.  If you are new to Disney cruising, you might want to think about trying some of them, too!

1 – Board Ready for Your Close-Up!

After you’ve checked in, you will at some point be ushered through to your adoring fans – we call them “Photographers”.  They will take your family’s embarkation photo, the first of many you might have taken during your cruise.  I like to try and have the family dressed similarly – and if I can get away with it, the kids all dressed alike.  You don’t get many chances at home to have the whole family posing together, so take advantage!


2- Have your bathing suit ready when you board!  Most guests tend to follow the crowd when they get on the ship, and that usually means heading to grab some lunch before you can gain access to your stateroom.  Most guests will have their bathing suits packed away in their luggage, so this is a great time to hit the pool.  My girls have had the whole pool to themselves on a cruise or two in the past, and the shortest wait you’ll have the whole time you’re on the ship for the AquaDuck is just after embarkation.

3 – Door Magnets!! – You will find this is unique to the Disney cruises, where the metal doors make the perfect canvas to express your inner vacation artist.  You’ll find people bring everything from just a few magnets to a whole door full, decorating the “porthole”, changing magnets to reflect the port, or even using magnetic dry erase boards to communicate with travel companions in other cabins.  It’s always fun for the kids to the see different magnets, and a unique way to show your Disney Side!


4 – Ahoy, Me Hearties!  On most Disney cruises, you’ll get to experience the Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party.  Complete with fireworks and turkey legs, this is a fun night, where you’ll see lots of your shipmates decked out in their Scurvy best.  Pack your eye patches and be ready to party, but in case you forget, you’ll find the finest pirate couture collection at the gift shop on the ship.


5- Dine and Play for the Kid that wants to Dine and Dash – Not every guest on a Disney cruise can score early dinner seating.  For our family, that works out just fine.  I can usually convince my kids that they need an afternoon nap, especially if we’ve been busy on Castaway Cay or touring another exotic destination, so we always request late dinner seating.  We can be seated at our table around 8:15 in the evening, and the kids have the option to order their meal from the kids menu right away, and by about 8:45 – 9:00, a cast member from the Kids Clubs will come gather up the interested children and escort them back to the club.  The service allows the grown ups to linger a bit longer, enjoy a leisurely dessert and coffee.  You could even go snag a nightcap at one of the adult only hot spots before snagging the kids to head to bed.

6- Castaway Cay 5K – Have you ever wanted to attempt a 5K, but were afraid of being swept up at the end for coming in last?  Neither had I.  But on a recent cruise, when a group of friends wanted me to walk the 5K, I realized it was unlikely that I would spontaneously combust and get out of it, so I embraced it.  It was FUN!  The event is free, but the number of guests permitted to register is limited.  Head to Guest Services on your embarkation day to get your number, and get ready to enjoy an early morning stroll (or sprint) around the beautiful private island.  There is no time limit, so it’s a great first experience, and the “medal” is cool, too.  They also have t-shirts you can buy when you’re done!


7- A Vacation With Character – One of the biggest differences on a Disney cruise is, of course, Disney characters!  Not only will you find meet and greets scheduled throughout the day, longer cruises also have a character breakfast you can attend.  Characters may also pop into the kids club, on the beach when you dock at Castaway Cay, and even at the Sail Away Party as your ship gets underway.  Keep a camera at the ready!

8- Don’t Miss the Shows!  Entertainment is what Disney does best, so why would you want to miss a great show?  You’ll find a different stage show each night of your cruise, and some of the performances are really Broadway quality.  The shows are kid friendly, and they’ll love seeing some of their favorite characters on stage.

9- Fish Extenders – Fish what?  Is that on the menu?  No!  Outside each stateroom door, you’ll find some variety of sea creature that acts as your “mailbox” during your cruise.  You’ll get invitations to various events or find your final bill tucked behind the fish mail holder.  Well, a group of incredibly creative people decided to start a bit of a Pollyanna type of thing.  You join a Fish Extender group on the DisBoards at http://www.disboards.com/ or find a group on Facebook, and you sign up agreeing to deliver some little gift to your fellow cruisers.  In return, you hang your Fish Extender on your fish mailbox, and the other cruisers who are participating will bring you little surprises as well.  Kids love getting the little surprises, and even grown ups will enjoy seeing what little treats have been left while they were gone.  It’s a must do for my girls.

Fish Extener

10- Milk and Cookies at Bedtime – You will not go to bed hungry on a Disney cruise, but as an extra little treat, we have gotten into the habit of ordering cookies and milk from room service for the girls.  There is no extra charge for the midnight delivery, and we often sit on our balcony, enjoying a recap of the day or watching our favorite Disney movie on TV.  The cookies are delicious and home-made tasting, and the memories we create in those waning minutes of a day on vacation – pure magic!

When the Stuff Hits the Fan, We’re Family

We are not, by nature, a warm and fuzzy nation.  There are many of us who can say honestly that we don’t really know our next door neighbors, don’t talk much to the people down the block, and  have little to do with the guy who lives on the third floor.  We spend more time on the computer than we do on the front porch, laughing and sharing stories, the way people did when I grew up.

As a country, we could not be more farther apart from each other.  We let ourselves be divided by issues involving race, gender, sexual orientation, and whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi.  You would think many times that instead of one United States, we are instead 313.9 million tiny countries unto ourselves.

And then the shit hits the fan.

Time and again, this country and its beautiful people restore your faith in humanity.  When one is hurt, we all feel the pain, and this could not be more evident than in the way the people of the south rallied around their neighbors – strangers – at a time of great need.

Of course there were the police, the firefighters, the EMTs, even the National Guard.  But there were the teachers, worried about their own children getting home, who stayed put with their students, many of whom would be there overnight, making sure they were calm, fed, and entertained when their parents were stranded and couldn’t reach them.  There were the Churches that opened their doors to people who could get there from the highway, providing hot coffee, a warm place to rest cold and weary bones.  Chef and Restaurant owner Hans Rueffert of the Woodbridge Inn in Jasper, GA offered free lunch to first responders, so the men and women working so hard to get others home to their families could enjoy a hot, home cooked meal themselves, since it will likely be many hours before they get to return to their own warm kitchens.

Hans and Amy Rueffert, owners of the Woodbridge Inn, offer free hot meals to first responders
Hans and Amy Rueffert, owners of the Woodbridge Inn, offer free hot meals to first responders

People ventured out into a serious storm, putting themselves in danger, to offer food, drinks, or a warm place to rest to motorists stranded for hours on southern highways.  Parents ventured out to offer comfort and sustenance to a school bus driver, refusing to leave his bus until someone could come and rescue it – and there weren’t even kids on the bus!  Target stores sent volunteers out to bring bottled water, food, and blankets.  There was even a Facebook page set up (did you think there wouldn’t be??), reaching more than 42,000 members in one day, where people could post offers of a warm bed, a hot meal, or even to report they were making trips to various mileposts on local highways with food and water for motorists who could get to them.

Photo courtesy of SnowedOutAtlanta
Photo courtesy of SnowedOutAtlanta

Yes, we are the United States.  From the true southern hospitality to the unifying Boston Strong, when we all felt for just a little while like we belonged to the people of Boston, we’re good people.  We care about each other, and if you cut one of us, we all bleed a little.  We’re family.  And I’m so proud to be a member of this crazy, diverse clan.