Our First Disney Cruise Recap: What we loved (+ what we didn't!)
There is nothing like Disney Magic to just make you feel like you've been transported to a different world... and going on a Disney cruise was truly a magical experience!
We went on a 4-night disney cruise aboard the "Disney Wish" out of Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, Bahamas at the end of February 2023.
The weather could not have been more perfect the entire vacation, never feeling overly warm or cold. We had 1-2 foot waves the first night, so the boat very gently rocked, but nothing drastic and I barely felt I was on a boat for majority of the vacation.
Why We Really Loved on the Cruise:
Price. We definitely would have spent way more (like 3-4x more) at the parks, especially if we stayed at a Disney resort.
Entertainment. We did not do any excursions off the boat, and we didn't need to at this age! In fact, C and I didn't even get off the boat in Nassau, we stayed on to utilize the kids area (and I got to go to the adult only deck to read for a bit :) and the boat pools which were less crowded this day. Also, the nightly shows were AMAZING. I mean better than what I've seen on Broadway. They were either 30 mins or 1 hour, fantastic length for kiddos. Our boat had the Little Mermaid and Aladdin, both adapted a bit, plus two Disney specials. We sacrificed dinner to go to the show for my daughter (in my cons), so she missed the amazing Frozen/Arendelle dinner show because she was asleep on my lap... that would have been a huge hit for her.
Characters. Charlotte is not a character girl. She enjoys seeing them from afar, but really doesn't want to get up close and get a picture - which is kinda awesome for us, no waiting in long lines. However, I would think the character experience is much better on a boat vs the parks… they are just walking around sometimes, they have meet and greets you can find on the app, and the lines are not super long because there are ample opportunities. Also, they did special character events IN the kids club (Charlotte got to write a story with Belle - this would have been my dream come true as a kid!!!)
Castaway Cay. This is Disney's private island that we also stopped at and it was gorgeous. I loved that it didn't feel crowded, I actually thought the BBQ food was some of my favorite for the whole week. Of course, the beach toys there were overpriced and limited options, but we had a great time just playing on the beach with some friends we met on the boat and going in the jungle gym in the water. Apparently, there was actually a lot more we could have done (bike rides around the island, kid's club on the island, adult only beach area, etc). If we ever do another, I'll be excited to go back to the island.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. This was a HUGE hit. I barely got a reservation for her to get a makeover, but goodness, it MADE her entire cruise! She truly believes she was changed into a princess, and literally wore her mermaid costume for the rest of the entire trip - seriously, she had on a bathing suit, pjs, or her mermaid costume. It was the best money I ever spent <3 and I would not hesitate to do it again when we visit the park. PLUS they gave her the cutest backpack full of supplies (makeup, "pixie dust" nail polish, a necklace and ring, etc). I really felt this was worth the money and we did not have this outfit at home.
The Kids Club. My daughter can be reserved around big groups and in foreign scenarios. In truth, I gave her a 3% chance of going to the kid's club before we arrived. When you first get to the boat, after they announce "A warm welcome to the The Markovitz Family!" while walking on - how fun!, and you can explore the kid's club WITH your kid as an "open house." Since I had to go to guest services, my mom took her around when we first arrived and it helped her feel comfortable. She then asked to go to the club the next day and met "her twin" there (a friend I hope she will remain pen pals with for a long while!) and spent lots of time at the club throughout the vacation!!! It was AMAZING.
Everyone is SO NICE! This had to come next because I believe she felt comfortable because everyone working on the boat was incredibly kind and "in costume." They referred to C as "Princess" and commented on how beautiful she looked (also why I think she wore her dress the entire time). Our room service crew was the nicest gentlemen and we loved our servers, etc. 5 stars for the crew, truly!
The Details. If you took your time to really pay attention, the details on this boat (The Wish) were incredible. I'm a sucker for themes and details and I was really blown away, I loved every part!
Additional Comments or Things I Didn't Love:
Finangling dinner/show with an early sleeper. I'm not sure this is a Disney thing that could ever really be fixed, but there were 2 dinner times: 5:45pm and 8:30pm with shows being at the opposite times. C cannot hang late, esp after being in the sun all day, so she missed pretty much every single dinner (and thus an adult missed every dinner to stay back with her). I honestly would have been game for a 4pm dinner option lol.
Drinks - water!!! We stayed on the floor with the food/drinks (I highly recommend this!!) however, there was really only ONE location that I knew of on the boat to get free beverages, including water, and the cups were not big. None of us brought water bottles, and I just found myself saying "I'm so thirsty" several times on the boat and not being near the drink station and/or having anything with me. Definitely bring a water bottle or shell out like $3-4 for water off of that main floor... side note: I think this is really dangerous. I ended up severely dehydrated by the time we got back home (flying, sun, limited drinks on boat, a massage, etc). I take responsibility as I didn't pay attention to myself well enough, but I do think Disney should add drink stations in other locations on the boat.
Limited space for special character events on the boat. There were two events we would have liked to attend - namely Royal Gathering (meet & greet all the Disney princesses at once) and Olaf's Frozen Picnic - but they were both sold out. We learned from our server that the boat was only about 3/4 full the week we went - I really can't imagine another 1,000 people on the boat. So while I can say I thought the boat did not feel overcrowded, with that many more people, it definitely would have been.
Shopping options were meh. (Is this really a con?! lol) I wasn't impressed with the memorabilia or shopping options on board... but then we didn't spend more than a $30 stuffy as a souvenir, so is that really a bad thing?!
Professional Photos. Now, I had not been on a cruise in 2 decades - yes, 20 years - so I don't know if as a kid, I just remember a different experience, but I remembered professional photographers just being EVERYWHERE on the cruises. This may be true on the Disney boat, BUT I think they were mostly with characters and since that wasn't our jam, we only had like 4 professional photos. I woulda been super annoyed if I got the photo package. If you are getting character photos, I imagine the package is way worth it!
Maps/Better App. I am a map girl - like just let me see a map! There were maps right by the elevators that I was constantly referring too. The app was a BIG deal, I don't know how people did or knew anything without it - however, it was glitchy and some of the information was difficult to find. IT has a messaging feature, which would have been super awesome except not all of our messages were sending in a timely fashion. I should have stopped at guest services to see if they had hard copy maps.
Hope this was helpful, especially if you are deciding about a Disney cruise. Book it, you'll have a great time!