I am back!
Physically, anyway. I’ve been back at work since Monday and I am still struggling to get back into my normal work routine. I think perhaps I am just still tired from the vacation – while it was fun, trips with kids are a lot of work. And I need another admin day already.
But I also feel I owe all of you a report on this cruise, so here we are! Approximately 6 months ago, our very good friends tentatively asked us one night while out to dinner if we’d be interested in going on a Disney cruise together during the kids’ spring break. I was thrilled that they considered us appealing travel partners (seriously, what a compliment!) but also nervous. Would a toddler be a total pain on a boat? Would I be seasick? Would we all get norovirus? Would we feel trapped?
Josh and I decided we were game to try it (I think I was more excited but also more anxious than he was about it) and we booked it in November. Being a family of 5, we elected to get two adjoining rooms rather than the pricier suite option. Total cost (including add-ons during the cruise such as massages, wine at dinner, our fancy meal at Palo, tips, and 9 hours of nursery childcare) ended up being something like $6500 total for 5 people on a 4-night cruise. Not cheap. But, as a vacation with no rental car or airfare needed (we just drove the ~40 min to Port of Miami) it wasn’t necessarily that much more expensive than some of our other travels. Notably, I tend to want to splurge on vacations. Also, traveling with 5 people tends to get expensive quickly! Even if one of them is a toddler.
You will all be relieved to know that I brought my planner and took copious notes on the journey so I can recount all of the details. Kidding, but I did kind of keep a journal of sorts, and I’m glad I have those pages! Here’s essentially each day’s highlights, in case you’d like to know what people (with kids) actually DO on cruises.
Wednesday (embarkation): we drove to the port and parked. I waited with the kids & luggage while Josh walked from the lots – much quicker than waiting for him to get a rental car, which is our typical airport torture. We were screened quickly and headed straight up to the deck with pool for a sailaway celebration. We immediately became overwhelmed by crowds (turned out we just picked a way-too-popular place to sit!) and Josh and I started to doubt ourselves when everyone seemed to sort of know what to do and we felt lost. Then we had beers, hung out with our friends, let the kids play on the water slide (mini splash pad for G) and started breathing a little easier. I was thrilled to find out that even when moving the boat did not sway or induce nausea 🙂
We had dinner (they have 3 main dining rooms, and you rotate) at Rapunzel’s Palace and the food was better than I expected — I had read some negative reviews right before leaving and was bracing myself for some very basic food, but honestly it was all decent and I’m fairly picky. We put G to bed at 9:30 pm (muuuuch later than her usual) and the big kids stayed up even later watching Tangled in our stateroom.
Thursday (Key West): We woke up in Key West! The weather was pretty much gorgeous the entire trip during the day, which was really lucky. I got up at around 6:30 and went to the gym (30 min run / 15 min of weights), returning before anyone else was up. We did breakfast at the main buffet (again, decent food – not earthshattering, but fine – tons of options, which is nice).
We wandered around Key West (our friend had heard about a great cuban coffee place, so we went on an adventure to find it), eventually landing at Blue Heaven, a famous brunch place that Josh and I had gone to about a million years ago. I had a lobster omelet that was a culinary highlight of the trip and the kids loved there banana bread! There was about an hour wait, during which the kids attempted to play ping pong and my friend and I took the babies to a cute boutique next door. We were back on the boat at 3 (boarding deadline 3:30) and Genevieve transferred from stroller to crib for a late nap.
We woke up basically in time for dinner at 5:45 (we had the ‘early seating’ – 8:15 definitely would not have been ideal for the kids!) – we were at Lumiere’s dining room which is French-inspired and the highlight of my meal was definitely the strawberry sundae I had for dessert. We had booked the nursery for G and let the kids run around the kids club for a while (open to all children 3-12 with supervised play, including a lot of video games which pleased C to no end). Annabel was less into the kids club, though she tolerated it. I picked her up at 8pm to take her to a live show (Tangled, the Musical).
On the up-side, the entertainment was high quality. On the down, it was windy and the boat was rather rocky that evening. Sitting and watching a show while you feel lurching from side to side . . . not my favorite. Annabel got tired and asked to leave about 10 minutes before the end, and I was happy to get out of there! We picked up C and G I did bedtime that night — Josh went solo to a showing of Captain Marvel and met us back in the room after the kids were in bed. (Putting all 3 to bed alone on a boat – not the most fun activity. But Josh REALLY wanted to see that movie!).
Friday (Nassau): We had decided this would be our day to stay on the boat, hoping to enjoy the offerings when things weren’t so crowded. After breakfast and some random shuffleboard fun on the deck, we dropped the kids and G off (kids club & nursery, respectively) for massages. Josh and I had a relaxing couples massage — my favorite vacation treat! G had nursery time reserved until 2, so I also snuck in a workout, doing laps alternating with strength exercises on the boat deck. The weather was great and the 1/3-mile track wasn’t unpleasant to run on.
We picked up the kids around 2 and headed to the pool/water slide. It was indeed less crowded than the first night, and the big kids had fun going down several times. G hung out in the baby water play zone and ate ice cream (which I also had for lunch). She ended up taking a very late nap again (3:30 – 5:30), and I slept for some of this time as well.
We woke up in time for Pirate Night – a tradition on all Disney Cruises where the staff and most of the guests dress in pirate costume. We came only marginally prepared (I had bought T-shirts!) but it was fine 🙂 G got to meet Minnie which was adorable and C asked to go to the kids club while we took A to the boat shop and bought her a Minnie necklace which broke approximately 24 hours later. G got a Minnie doll, her reward for learning to say “Minnie” in the cutest tone of voice imaginable!
Dinner was at Lumiere’s again and the kids were getting a bit antsy at the longer dinners by that point. My ‘pirate’ dinner was a random mix of a samosa, shrimp/scallop pasta, and chianti. It was better than it sounds.
We all ended up hanging out in the toddler zone until 10 pm. We didn’t quite make it to the fireworks/pirate party (it started at 10!) because G was acting tired, but our friends went and said it was fun. This night was also mildly rocky due to winds. I wasn’t sick exactly but neither Josh nor I loved the feeling.
Saturday (Castaway Cay): Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island, and it was really lovely. We were again very lucky to have great weather (lows in 60s, high of 80 or so, lots of sun). The big kids slept late and I took G to breakfast myself. By 9:30, we were headed onto the island. There were TONS of activity options, but having a toddler was somewhat limiting. We ended up playing at another splash pad and then spending some time on a beautiful but crowded beach, building sand castles and splashing in shallow water. In retrospect, I think renting a cabana might have been nice for some more space on the beach. Josh and I wanted to do a family bike ride but A&C didn’t seem to have enough energy and we didn’t want to push it too hard. We had lunch on the island (again, decent) and then decided to head back to the boat for afternoon rest time. G slept from something like 1:30 – 4, and I read and relaxed while the big kids watched a movie.
That night, we had reservations at Palo, the ‘fancy’ restaurant on board. G went to the nursery at 7 (she was not entirely happy about this) and A&C to the kids club (they did not mind though again C was more excited than A). Since our trip was with friends, this ended up feeling like a fun double date. Palo was indeed very elegant and the service was very very nice. The food was pretty good — we did joke that the famous gnocchi tasted like a mix between baby food pasta and Chef Boyardee, but the chocolate soufflé was delicious as promised and the scallops were also great. And we drank some Tattinger champagne (upcharge) which was delightful. So no complaints there. I did get one text from the nursery that “Viva is upset and we are trying to calm her down”, but I called down and all was well and she ended up falling asleep 10 minutes later. Whew.
Sunday (back to Miami): This last day mostly consisted of getting off the boat, which would have been straightforward except both big kids were overtired and cranky. A even lost one of her shoes (don’t ask). I did love arriving home mid-morning – there was plenty of time to do unpacking/laundry/groceries and settle back in. In retrospect I should have taken Monday off too (to ease re-entry!) but A’s birthday is Friday so that was my selected day off for the week.
We were ready to be done when it was over, so I think the cruise was the right length for our kids’ ages. I definitely would consider another one in the future, especially once all are old enough for the kids’ club 🙂 There are itineraries from Disney in both Europe and Alaska and this is something I’d think about, or even another spring break Caribbean trip. I felt like the overall ‘package’ was well done and was happy with te service and array of activities. I would have loved a few more play areas/activities for toddlers, and a bigger pool! Maybe they have that on some of their other boats.
SO – there you go! Our cruise experience. WHEW, this took a long time to write and I have more I want to post about other things, but I think this is more than enough for one day!
Have you ever gone on a cruise? What were your experiences like? Any other questions about our Disney cruise experience? Let me know!
(PS I’m sure it’s pretty obvious but this is not in any way a sponsored post. They probably wouldn’t have liked my Chef Boyardee comment if it was 🙂 )