Disney Cruise Recap: Part 1

Here we go with the Disney Cruise recap! Eeeeeks! I’m so excited to share all of the pics with you.

And I mean AAALLL of the pictures.

Seriously…apologies in advance. There’s really so much to share from this little adventure of ours, and I just want to remember as many little details as possible, so I’m going to share a ton. (That, and my sister keeps asking me to spam her with photos of her nephews, so I’m going to oblige. Sorry, y’all. If you don’t want to see 10,000 photos of my boys on a ship, feel free to just skip over these posts.)

Here’s the other reason I’m going to share a ton of details: when I was booking this trip for our family, there were so many things to research and learn. It was our first Disney Cruise (actually, our first cruise EVER!) and I had a trillion questions. And I honestly just wanted to read some blog post recaps from other families who have taken these cruises…but literally every website on the first few pages of google is a Disney travel blogger or a travel agency or some sort of official Disney-affiliated website.

So of course they share ALLLL the amazing things and give the most detailed, corporate-sounding answers and then try to get you to book your vacation with them. And there are so many great travel agencies out there who do this, and I appreciate them! (Our travel agency was soooo helpful. I’ll 100% use Tink’s Magical Vacations again.)

But I also just wanted to be able to read a non-affiliated/not-sponsored recap of one of these cruises. You know, just a girlfriend sharing her experience and photos and a thorough review of a fun family vacation. So…that’s what I’m going to do for you! What you’ll read in the next few blog post recaps is exactly what I’d tell my neighbor friends or my sisters or anyone else who asks me for my honest opinion about doing a Disney Cruise.

How/why we chose Disney Cruise Line

I’m not a cruiser. And I’m not a Disney person. Totally open to both of them! I just didn’t grow up with Disney World/Disney characters as a huge part of my life. I went to Disney World once when I was 10 and had a magical time, but it’s not a thing that we did every year or anything like that.

About a year ago, Nate’s parents went on a cruise and were telling us aaaaall about the cruise culture and the restaurants and the all-you-can-eat ice cream, and I was just thinking, “oh my gosh, my dad would LOVE a cruise.” He is, hands-down, the biggest eater I’ve ever met. (Yet somehow doesn’t gain a pound??) All-you-can-eat buffets are his love language. I want both sets of grandparents to have lots of 1-on-1 memories with these sweet babies, and I started thinking of how much fun it would be to coordinate a trip with my parents.

And now that the boys are both out of the baby stage (breastfeeding and two-naps-a-day and requiring a Snoo, etc.), it’s starting to get a bit easier to travel with them.

A friend of mine (hi Emily!) went on a Disney Cruise with her two young sons (hers were 1 and 3 at the time) and she was telling me how absolutely phenomenal it was. She and her husband are similar “travel personalities” to me and Nate (total foodies and ready to geek out over great craft beer, unique specialty coffee shops, obscure restaurants that aren’t on the mainstream travel route) and she told me that the idea of cruises never appealed to them…until they had two young kids. And having a resort that basically moves around with you (so every night your stuff is still all set up in the room and you don’t have to check in/check out and repack all the kids’ stuff) is just soooo convenient. She also told me all about Remy, a fine dining restaurant on a couple of the Disney ships…I’ll get to that later.

So I started looking into the idea, and I was intrigued. I called my mom and asked if she’d be up for blocking off a few days in January 2023 to do a Disney Cruise with her grandsons, and she happily obliged!

A shout out to my Disney travel agent

I did a few google searches and decided I would use a travel agency to book this for me instead of trying to figure it all out on my own. I went with Tink’s Magical Vacations, and they were phenomenal! I know there are so many great Disney agencies out there. They work on commission, so it’s no extra cost for the client. My agent (Allyson) did all of the official booking for me, including a hotel the night before the cruise and transfers to/from the airport. It cost me nothing and saved me many hours of time, and I wholeheartedly recommend working with her if you decide to book a Disney vacation.

I’m not getting any sort of kickback from this, fyi! I just really liked working with her. She was so helpful, kind, prompt, and a perfect communicator. Here are a few of the things she helped me with:

She saved me $900+! Ok, this is one of the biggest ones and totally worth mentioning. We booked this cruise back in January 2022. In summer 2022, Disney made an announcement that all Disney+ subscribers who want to book a Disney Cruise can get a free cruise ticket for an accompanying child. And I kind of skimmed over that email and figured it was too late for us since we already booked our cruise…

But then, within a few hours, Allyson calls me directly on my cell and tells me she’s going to try to basically un-book and then re-book our rooms for us. She woke up really early the next day (she knew the system would be really crowded with agents trying to book), waited on hold, somehow managed to get us in the exact same two side-by-side rooms, and got the base fares for both of the boys waved. So she put $900+ in my pocket, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

Selecting the right ship/destination/itinerary. We talked through what I wanted from this vacation and the pros/cons of each ship, and we eventually settled on a Disney Dream 4-night cruise from Miami. There are sooo many options, and she helped me rule out some of them and find the one I wanted. For instance: the ship that leaves from Galveston, which is a lot closer to us here in Austin, doesn’t offer the fine dining restaurant, Remy. And Nate and I really wanted to have one nice date night on the ship, so we decided to get on the Disney Dream or the Disney Fantasy, which are the only two ships that offer that restaurant. And the brand new Disney Wish just set sail in summer 2022, so we could have booked a room on that giant shiny new option! But since it was slightly more expensive (it’s so new!) and this was our first cruise and I honestly didn’t know if we’re “cruise people,” Allyson helped guide me toward the Disney Dream for our first trip. And if we loved it (we did!) we could splurge on the Wish next time.

Selecting a stateroom. As a first time cruiser, I had no clue which room to choose. Allyson shared a few helpful tidbits for me that I never would have guessed if I was just booking my own room. (For instance, she suggested we don’t get rooms on the deck that’s directly under the pool, because in the morning the staff will be up there dragging chairs around and it might wake us up.) She did all the digging around to find two of the family-sized rooms, no verandas, that are side-by-side with a connecting door near the front of the ship. It seriously would have taken me soooo long to figure out all of that out on my own. I literally just told her what I wanted, gave her my credit card info, and she took care of everything.

One more thing about traveling with two toddlers…

Y’all, this trip was SO much fun. We had a blast and I can’t wait to do another Disney Cruise!

However…traveling with kids is the same as daily life with kids: half amazing, half challenging. There are soooo many memories and giggles and adventures and all sorts of magic and beauty. There are also tantrums and yelling and a normal amount of travel frustration and stress and chaos. It’s all there! Haha. It was definitely all there for us on this Disney Cruise.

But I really want to remember the fun memories! I mean…I could totally find things to complain about and commiserate with y’all about the challenges of flying with a baby on my lap, or packing/organizing a fam of four, or Milo’s toddler tantrum(s!) in the middle of our seated dinner.

But really? We got to take a CRUISE! It was incredible! Of course there are challenges in traveling with kids, but I’m not going to spend a ton of time talking about those here. If you’re a parent, just assume this: the normal parts of life at home (convincing the 3-year-old to put on his underwear…trying to keep the 18-month-old from throwing every spoon and plate and salt shaker and plate on the floor during dinner…getting two sleepy toddlers through the bath/brush teeth/pjs/bed routine every night when you yourself are totally exhausted…) are still a part of a vacation. Duh.

But you know what’s not a part of a vacation? Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning up from said cooking. Unloading the dishwasher every morning. Work.

Plus (and one more BIG reason why we chose Disney Cruise Line), the ship had built-in childcare! So we got a few little pockets of time to relax on this vacation.

Ok, that was quite the prelude. Let’s get to Part 1 of our Disney Cruise!

We flew out of Austin non-stop to Miami. Our flight was delayed about 30 minutes (plus I always plan a bunch of extra time for getting to the gate when I’m traveling with my boys) so we had a bit of time to kill. (Good thing there’s a bunch of great food at the Austin airport!)

Best way to spend time while you’re waiting for a flight? Riding the elevator. 800 times. It’s a blast. You should try it sometime.

The elevator (and a big bag of snacks that I packed) helped keep these boys happy before we boarded our flight!

Rule #34 for parenting: however many snacks you think you might need to pack, quadruple it.

Oh my gosh, this is SO funny…we boarded our Southwest flight with family boarding (right after all of the “A” guests board.) But this flight was bonkers, and it was already SO full by the time we got on. I made the mistake of trying to put Dayton in the baby carrier (hoping he might sleep!! but he HATED it) and Nate had trouble folding up the stroller, so I was alone with Dayton (who was SCREAMING and writhing his body around to get out of that damn baby Bjorn) and Milo was just strolling around and swinging his backpack around and who knows what else…and there are no sets of 3-seats together except at the veryveryvery back of the plane.

So I found two on the left and one on the right, and I’m like “Milo, sit here sit here!” (Dayton is seriously about to kill me with his screaming and squirming while he’s strapped to my body, haha.) So Milo sits down, I grab the two seats on the left for Nate and myself. Nate eventually makes his way down the aisle and finds us, and I get Dayton out of the carrier…

…and I lean over to that boy sitting on my right and say “sorry you got stuck next to the screaming baby!” and he’s like “eh, all good.” And then I say “hey, my toddler is in the aisle seat right there…are you willing to switch with him so my family can sit together?” and he’s like “eh, all good, all good.” And I say, “actually, it would really help us out if the 3-year-old could sit with us instead of sitting over there.” And he’s like, “it’s ok, I’m good here.”

Bahahah. Later on the whole plane sang happy 21st birthday to someone one the plane, and it happened to be this kid sitting next to me. He smelled like weed and ordered a tequila and sprite (proudly showing his still-vertical drivers license) and was scrolling through a note on his phone that said MIAMI BIRTHDAY TRIP. Bless him. He was just there for a good time!

BAHHHAA! I had no idea Nate snapped this pic, but it’s so funny. Dayton passed out on me and slept for an hour, Milo was across the aisle watching his iPad, and that boy was just tooootally out of it and ready for his 21st birthday in Miami.

We made it to Miami! The Disney transportation was really easy (they had a representative waiting for us at the baggage claim). Since our flight was late, there were only two families to transport to the hotel…so we got the PARTY BUS!

Dayton was clearly ready to party hard.

Ama and Grandpa were waiting for us at the hotel! We stayed at the Hyatt Brickell Miami. My parents had arrived earlier that day and spent the afternoon swimming in the rooftop pool and walking around Miami. My mom picked up a few pizzas so that we could eat right when we arrived.

Pizza party in Ama and Grandpa’s room!

Yay! Matching mickey jammies for the boys!

Most photo shoots end up in some sort of wrestling match…

…and lots of tickling.

These boys are so silly. I finally got them calmed down and into bed while Nate went out to buy some beer to bring on the ship. (Every guest is allowed to bring a 6-pack on board, and Nate was worried there wouldn’t be any good craft beer options on the ship.)

Once the boys were down, Nate and I snuck out to the veranda to split a beer and chat a bit before bed…and look who joined us and asked for a bedtime story! 😉

We were just so excited to be in Miami!

Milo narrated everything he saw down below while Nate and I enjoyed a beer. Milo told me, “mommy, when you go to bed, I will go to bed.” Fair, kiddo.

We woke up the next morning bright and early to a beautiful, sunny day in Miami! Dayton enjoyed his breakfast with a view.

About to board the bus that takes us to the ship.

There ended up being a bit of confusion during the boarding process, so they put us on the second bus…which was totally empty except for us. (The first one was packed.)

Dayton and Grandpa enjoyed some quality time together on the ride. It was only about 15 minutes to get from the hotel to the port.

Doing some coloring and just SOO excited to get to that ship!

The customs/security process was very quick. They (obviously) have it down to a science and the lines moves pretty fast. We had to wait in the terminal for about 30 minutes before our 11 am boarding time. Both boys snacked on some Monster Cookies that Ama had brought along for the trip.

And then it was time to get on the ship!  Dayton is sooo very lucky to have these grandparents!

Honestly I’m probably more excited than the boys. 😉 I’ve been soooo eager to try out cruising! I seriously never thought I’d want to do a cruise, but ever since having kids and trying out a trip or two with babies, I’m all about convenience. Yep. I am officially that person. If there’s a travel option that makes my life easier, I’m totally up for trying it. Cruising seems like it might be a good thing for us during this stage of life.

(And I’m also just excited to be in the sunshine of course!)

My sweet sweet little Dayton boy. He’s still a baby in my mind, but then I look at pictures and he’s such a toddler now!

Look how pretty! This is Deck 12, which is where we spent a lot of our time on the ship. There were two kids pools (the deeper 5-foot Goofy Pool, and the shallow 2.5-foot Mickey Pool), as well as a smaller yellow slide, the giant AquaDuck slide that goes over the top of the ship, a Nemo splash pad for babies, a few hot tubs, and a bunch of restaurants (the Cabanas buffet, a few grills where you could get brats/pizza/burgers/chicken tenders), and the ice cream booth. We became veeeeerrry familiar with that soft serve machine over the next 4 days.

Luggage is delivered to the rooms later in the day, so we all boarded with our swimsuits on. Milo was like, “byeeeeee mom, I’m going to swim.”

My dad found the soft serve right away!

I snapped this pic right when we boarded (while it was fairly empty up there…it got much more crowded later in the day!). But I will say that they did a phenomenal job of keeping everything clean and tidy, even when it was packed. They had so many staff members cleaning up food, squeegee-ing excess water off the deck, getting rid of old towels, and lifeguarding.

Milo went down that yellow slide! He was just a few inches too short for the big AquaDuck ride.

The pools are only for ages 3+, so Dayton couldn’t swim on the cruise. But they had a splash pad for ages 3 and under, and it was located right next to the pool (but located in the shade – genius.) Oddly, Dayton wasn’t a huge fan of the splash pad. He mostly preferred to run around the deck and pull towels off the chairs…haha.

We got lunch while we swam! My body was craving some greens + protein…haha. (Don’t worry – plenty of ice cream and fried food to come during the remainder of this vacation.)

Packing the boys sippy cups was one of the best decisions I made on this trip. They have paper cups (12 oz?) available by the drink stations, but I know the boys wouldn’t have consumed enough water from those.

Milo and Ama soaking up the sun in the Mickey Pool. At this point the ship hasn’t started moving at all (we’re still at the port in Miami), but vacation has officially begun!

It was a beautiful, warm, bright sunny day!

Dayton kept trying out his new skill on this ship.

He’s doing so great with that fork!

It reeeaaally helps when there’s delicious mac n cheese on it.

Awww, look at these two!

And these two! Milo has started doing this thing where he flashes a big, cheesy grin when I tell him to smile for a photo. It cracks me up.

Lunch time for Milo!

And yes, he’s already on his second (third?) soft serve cone of the trip. It’s vacation time, baby!

Chocolate for Milo, vanilla for me.

We had to go down to Deck 4 for the mandatory lifeboat drill (it took about 15 minutes) and then we went right back up to Deck 12 for sailing away party !

Mickey and the whole gang were up on stage dancing, music was playing, and the deck was packed! I think Milo was kind of overwhelmed by it all…but he wanted me to hold him up so he could see everything.

Dayton still loved the towels the best. (Dear Disney Cruise staff: so so sorry for all of the extra towel washing/folding due to my baby. He was living his best life and I couldn’t stop him.)

They always had a Disney movie playing on the big screen over the pool, so Milo sat down for a few minutes to watch The Emperor’s New Groove. Which made me sooo happy because I’ve seen that movie approximately 4,000 times and I think it’s one of the best Disney movies.

“Yzma, put your hands in the air!!”

Dinner time! They have 3 dining rooms (Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Palace) and each night you’re assigned to a different restaurant. Your wait staff moves with you, so you get the same 2 servers each night who greet you by name, remember any requests (we always had a high chair for Dayton), and get to know your orders. For instance: Milo loves drinking warm milk in his sippy cup, so the server would have a cup of steamed milk waiting for us at the table when we arrived.

See that mischievous look at Dayton’s face? That’s him saying, “I’m about to destroy the entire dinner table…just wait!” Um, for real. I’m not sure how it happened, but every night when we got up from our table I’d look down at the destruction and just wonder how a 1-year-old can create so much chaos in so little time. And I also felt reeeaally happy I wasn’t the person responsible for cleaning the table.

Milo and Ama doing some coloring together.

Milo then ran around the table and confiscated all of the silverware and put it in a big pile in front of his chair. A truly helpful child.

And now for my honest thoughts about the food on a Disney cruise:

Each ticket on the cruise includes all the food you could possibly want for no additional cost. There are seated meals available 3X day (we only did this at dinner) and a few other all-you-can-eat, grab-it-when-you-want options throughout the rest of the day, plus beverage stations with unlimited soda/coffee/tea. And then, of course, there are other paid options, like some upscale dining restaurants, lots of bars, specialty coffee shops, and a dessert/ice cream parlor.

The quality of the food was good! There was a good variety of options, everything was prepared well and plated beautifully. And, of course, the staff was perfect (because this is Disney and hospitality is what they pride themselves on.)

Now, the food wasn’t something that I would seek out on its own. I was trying to think of how I would describe it to someone, and the example I can think of is a nice catered sit-down meal at a wedding. You know? White tablecloths, an interesting (but not entirely unexpected) appetizer, a cream of something soup and an arugula and walnut salad, and then a pork entree, a beef entree, a seafood entree or a chicken entree…again, all prepared nicely and really good, but not something that I eat and think, “I was so surprised and amazed by that dish!!” It was all good. But not something that I’d crave again and again. And then dessert was a triple fudge cake with raspberry drizzle, or a lemon icebox dessert, or a macadamia nut tart. Sooo delicious, and pretty incredible quality. But also…it’s not the same amount of delight as I would get from eating at a fun restaurant in a new city I’m visiting. You know? Just different!

Oh, one more thing: the nightly seated dinner had a different menu every night. There were wayyy more options than I thought there would be. I was expecting a standard appetizer and then maybe two or three entrees to choose between, but there were four or five options in every category (appetizers, soups/salads, entrees, healthier options, vegetarian, and desserts.)

Dayton looks so much like 18-month-old Milo in this picture!

I chose scallops and asparagus for my first dinner. Delish!

Dayton baby doesn’t like to sit still for an hour-and-a-half dinner (big surprise!) so we’d take 10 minute shifts running around with him. The Royal Palace had a fountain in the middle and Dayton loved it!

Chocolate cake with coffee cream for dessert.

After dinner the boys were soooo wiped out from the day! We went back to the rooms and got them bathed and in bed pretty fast. My dad and I headed back out to see the 8:30 pm show (it was incredible! I was wildly impressed with the quality of the nightly productions) and then I crashed hard that night and slept soooo well.

^ Here’s our room! We booked one without the veranda because it has extra square footage (the veranda basically takes up the last 3 feet or so of space in the back where that hide-a-bed is inside the wall, and we liked the extra space instead.) They had a pack-n-play in the back for Dayton, and the sofa was transformed into a bed every night.

Every evening we’d come back from dinner, and our host had gotten Milo’s bed ready for him, including a bed rail. And see that tent behind Milo’s bed? It’s a Slumber Pod, and I’ve borrowed it from my friend Kathleen for several trips! Basically whenever we’re all in the same room, I use it over the pack-n-play. It’s a blackout tent but it’s ventilated so the baby can breathe well in there. It’s soooo nice for babies who go to bed earlier than everyone else so that we don’t have to worry about waking him up while we’re getting ourselves ready for bed. Seriously love that thing!

Ok, that was DAY 1 of our Disney Cruise. (Kylee, did I share enough pictures for you?) I’ll be back here tomorrow to share day 2!

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1 year ago

Glad yall had so much fun! I have been on four Disney cruises but haven’t been with kiddos yet (one on the way) so can’t wait to experience our first cruise with kids!

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