Wednesday, July 13, 2016

5 Tips I Learned on My First Disney Cruise

Ya'll may or may not know this, but I research EVERYTHING when I go on vacation. Like, it's a bit ridiculous how many hours my husband and I spend researching restaurants, hotels, where we can get a good deal, the best travel route, the most effective way to pack, and so on. So, it's no surprise that when preparing for our biggest vacation of the year, a Disney cruise, I put in a lot of time researching all aspects of the cruise. And, I learned ALOT. Like, had to read multiple blogs and websites a few times over to take in all of the information. I felt very confident as we made our way to the airport that I was super prepared, although I couldn't shake that feeling that I was forgetting something important at home. The good news: I didn't forget anything (i.e. a passport!) at home....but the bad news: I didn't know everything! (Which is not really bad news...I'm always up for learning something new!)

I hope to create a few more posts based on the cruise, but I guess you could say this is the first installment. :) So, without further ado, here are 5 things I learned on my very first Disney cruise (that I never read about in my hours upon hours of research!) I actually learned alot more...but I found these rather important, so that's where we'll begin!

1) Over pack! 

I know, this goes against everything I read. But, when you have kids, and lots of options for things to do....you want to make sure you have enough clothes for it all! I did over pack for the kids, but in an effort to save myself from lugging around heavy luggage, I under packed for myself, and ended up having to re-wear some outfits more than once to dinner, and buying an extra t-shirt in Cozumel! I kept reading I'd spend alot more time at the pool and in a bathing suit, and the rest of my wardrobe would be useless--ummmm, no. This may be the case for some, but it definitely was not for our family. Sure, we spent time at the pool, but when your 1.5 year old can only use the baby splash pad, and your 4 year old cannot swim by himself, you can't spend a whole day swimming. So, you're looking at swimsuits for the morning, cover ups for meals, a change of clothes for nap, and probably another change of clothes for dinner (depending on your dining rotation, theme night, etc.)
Also, we checked our luggage (which we never do, because $25 per bag on BOTH flights just infuriates me...but we really had little choice for this trip), so it's not like we had to deal with it for long. I had plenty of room in my bag, so I should've packed more to make the expense worth it.

Side note: we brought disposable swim diapers thinking our re-usable one might not be dry when we needed it again. That was never an issue as we would just hang it on a hanger and put in on the back of a chair to dry on the veranda (which I know not everybody will have, but it came in handy!). Just make sure it's attached to something so it doesn't fly away!

2) No food allowed in the Oceaneer Club.

The idea of the Oceaneer Club is a great concept. They have a replica of Andy's room (from Toy Story) with a Rex, Hamm, and slinky dog. They also have lots of computers to play games, places to color or do arts and crafts, an entertainment center and more. My child is a bit shy so we only coaxed him into the Club one time...and while he had a great time, he didn't want mama to leave him there alone. I wish he had been slightly older and more comfortable with being left alone, but oh well...
We had packed him a bag with snacks, knowing we'd be off ship on an excursion, and not sure when he'd be picked up by other members of the family that were staying on ship. They do feed kids during meal times, but we were trying to be prepared. Apparently, due to allergies, they are very careful about allowing food (which is a good thing!) in, but I kept thinking, surely I'm not the first to bring this up--they acted like nobody had every requested a bag be left with food! It was all pre-packaged, so nothing like a homemade sandwich being taken in. They made a big deal about labeling it and putting it in the manager's office, and while I have no problem with that, when family members picked up my son, the second shift of workers didn't know where the bag had been put as there was a mis-communication somewhere along the way. It was no big deal, but next time I just won't bother! They feed them plenty of food, and the kids are so busy, most don't even realize they are hungry. :) (As an aside...the nursery is very different, but they ask you to fill out some paperwork concerning feeding schedules/bottle feedings for infants.)

3) Surge protector/extension cords not needed.

I read many times over about how cruises never have enough outlets....I'm not sure if it was the type of room we had, but I found the extra surge protector and extension cords we brought completely unnecessary. Now, I will say...we did not plug in as much as we thought we would. We didn't bring our DSLR (see next lesson learned!), and we didn't re-charge the waterproof camera we brought since we only used it once. I rarely used my phone so it didn't need charging much, and you must use a designated outlet for the hairdryer provided. I only used my curling iron once, and there was plenty of space to plug it in, both in the bathroom and in front of a mirror outside of the bathroom. Irons are not allowed, and we didn't really have much else that needed to be plugged in! It was nice to "unplug" for a week, in all reality! Many sites I read said surge protectors were not allowed, but my in laws had a huge one sitting on their counter, and it was never put away. I'm not even sure what all they plugged into theirs....but all that to say, there were outlets all over the place. Maybe this is because the Fantasy is a newer ship, and Disney seems to anticipate every little need, but this was an issue we anticipated that ended being a complete non-issue!

4) Bring my DSLR!

After much debate, I decided not to take my DSLR and pre-purchase the Disney photo package. Now, pre-purchasing did save me a good hunk of change, but my kids refused to take pictures. Like, at all. Every time a photographer pointed a camera at them, they both turned on their blank stares or just didn't look at the camera at all. The characters sent my 1.5 year old screaming, so we learned early on to stay away from the characters (a HUGE part of a Disney cruise!) and even if we tried to get a family picture, it turned out like this:
We almost cancelled the order and got our money refunded, but by the end of the week, there were maybe 4-5 decent shots (mostly of just James and me!) but to buy a single picture was an absurd price, so we just let it go and got as many pictures of us (after the kids went to bed, thanks to grandparent supervision), as possible.
Most of the pictures we have where the boys look happy to be on the cruise were taken on our phones and were very candid shots...and while the cameras on smart phones are really good, the DSLR still takes a better pictures and allows for more zooming. So, I totally regret not taking it...I had plenty of room (as noted above!) to pack it. Definitely a hard lesson to learn...it was one I thought about all week!

5) Let kids (and adults!) rest.

We knew this going in....we really did. And we knew there would still need to be naps every afternoon. My 4 year old doesn't usually nap at daycare, but does have a rest time. So, we didn't think he'd sleep every day, but knew he needed some down time. This is hard when there is so much to do on the ship and you know your time is limited! Even with naps, we dealt with alot of meltdowns on a daily basis, and if things didn't fall apart before dinner, they definitely fell apart during dinner. It is such a long process (and while we loved out servers and they did everything possible to keep the kids happy), a 2 hour dinner just doesn't work with kids as young as ours.

We let the boys stay up late one night to see Aladdin, and we were prepared to take the infant to bed fairly soon after it began, but he was very entranced by it all. The show is only an hour, but doesn't start until 8:30, an hour after bed time for them. So, by the time we actually got them in bed, they were bouncing off the walls with delirium.

My in laws were not as interested in the shows (although I think they were one of the best parts of the cruise!) so they went to bed not too long after our boys each night, and since our rooms had a connecting door, they were able to listed out for them. This was huge for us, as it allowed us to stay up later and go to some of the adult locations and see additional magic shows, have a drink, etc. One night we went up to the pool and watched whatever movie was playing on the deck until the pool closed at 10, and then we hit the hot tub (which my husband is usually very against, but everything was spotless on the ship, so we assumed the hot tubs were no exception) until 11. Needless to say, we were exhausted the next morning, but I don't regret it for a second. I wanted to watch the premier release of BFG but on the next to the last night, I just couldn't stay up until 1am (it began at 11pm).

We are all still recovering, and as soon as we arrived home we were hit with a stomach bug and serious colds...whether we picked them up on the ship, I don't know, but I appreciate them not happening while we were cruising and slowing us down! The boys were exhausted, as were the parents. So...don't feel bad taking some down time each day...enjoy the on demand list of Disney movies onboard!
So, for the next time I go on a Disney cruise (which won't be for a longggggg time!), I won't make these mistakes again! But, make no mistake...we will go on another one....some day. The cost blows my mind (and this one was paid for by my grandmother in law to celebrate her 90th birthday....she is an amazing lady!) but it was worth every penny!
 
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