Friday, April 5, 2013

Disney Cruise (Part 3)

This week has been a little hectic for us, since the girls had an extra week of Spring Break and we were getting back to work and all, but I'm finally back to finish my Disney Cruise review. 
This third and final part will focus on special details and final features about the cruise, including logistics and other things that might be important for anyone considering doing this at some point...

 Shopping: Everyone knows Disney has tons of merchandise to offer and the ship wasn't the exception.  Although there aren't many stores inside the ship, there are a couple of good ones that offer the typical Disney stuff along with other Disney Cruise Line exclusive merchandise that is cute as ever.  Prices and selection are decent and of course we didn't escape it. The girls got a couple of plush animals and Iggy even got some shorts.  Shopping wasn't the main focus, but it's still worth mentioning since we did spend a couple of hours browsing through the goodies and the stores were quite nice..

The tipping process: Tips are not included in the total price of the cruise and it is a very important topic considering the service was so amazing.  I was worried about this since I hadn't cruised before and I didn't want to find myself calculating how much to tip when it came down to it.  I was surprised to see that the Disney cruise had a great system in which to charge and collect tips from the patrons.  It turns out, tips are conveniently calculated for you (although you're free to modify this amount, of course) and billed directly to your credit card on file.  But how do you give these tips to the servers and such?  Well, the tips are given to the staff on the last night of the cruise on little envelopes provided to you by Disney.  You get special "receipts" with the amount of the tip and name of the staff member written on it and they can then cash it once the cruise is over.  I thought this was great since you can make sure the right tip amount is given and you don't have to be searching for cash at the last minute.  I also liked the fact that all tips are calculated based on the length of the cruise and amount of guests per cabin.

Farewell party: the last character spotting event takes place on the last night of the cruise and it is called "Until We Meet Again".  It is quite the display of Disney characters and a great way to end the cruise; during this "party" all characters dance in the main lobby and then there's opportunity for more picture taking with each of them.  They then sing and dance to the "Mickey" song and wave good bye to everyone on the ship. I must say I almost cried when the dance was over and I was very happy for that one last chance to see all the characters together.  The outfits are so beautiful and the characters are so cute!

Debarkation process: I will admit that I was very anxious about the debarking the ship.  I wondered if my amazing experience would be ruined the last minute by the time everyone tried heading out.. Boy was I wrong! Of course, Disney also has this process figured out! On the last night of the cruise, all guests get specially color coded luggage tags (ex. Blue Mickey, Orange Goofy, etc) that are to be used for all suitcases. All suitcases need to be put outside each stateroom by 10pm on that last night and they are taken by the staff (there's always the option of express check out, where you keep your luggage and just walk off the ship with it). In the morning, after breakfast (yes, you do get one last breakfast), every group is called off depending on your color coded tag and that's how you retrieve your suitcases and end your cruise.  
The check-out process was just as smooth as the check-in and I was happy to see our cruise ended on a good, hassle-free note... Way to go, Disney!

..and last but not least, I will talk about a couple of important things in the Disney Cruise
* Personal Navigator: this is a very handy guide that includes all scheduled events, character spotting, restaurant times, etc.  It is provided for guests on a daily basis and it is intended so that everyone is aware of everything that goes on in the ship.  I really enjoyed having this navigator delivered to my room every night..such a handy thing to have!
* Key to the World Card: this card is probably your most important possession during the cruise.  It serves as your room key, your in-cruise credit card, onboard account and such.  The "Key to the World" card stores all your personal information, including who is authorized to purchase things from your account on file, who can claim your children, the professional pictures taken on the ship, etc.  I though this was a great way to keep everything organized as well as simplifying our stay in the ship.
* Wave phones: every room is equipped with two "wave phones" that are special cell phones that work on the ship.  These were great considering our cell phones didn't work at sea (of course!); they are a great way to communicate with other members of your party.  We used the wave phones every time Iggy went split up for whatever reason and it was awesome to be able to keep in touch at all times!
* "Shutters": this is the onboard photo service, which I thought was quite interesting.  Just like in all cruises, guests have the options of professional portraits (in this case character pictures and such).  All images are associated to your account and they're displayed on a special area in the ship and they are for sale.  I do think the photos were pricey and I didn't buy any, but it's a great option to have (although I still prefer my own photos).
* Future Cruise Sales: ..and of course Disney is in the business of selling...and selling they do! When you're onboard, you have the option of booking your next cruise, with several incentives including a special discount, reduced down payment and onboard credit for your next stay.  They have a great sales staff that is available throughout the cruise to help you plan your next vacation!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I think the Disney Cruise was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and it goes down as the best vacation we've ever had.  We have already booked our next cruise and the date can't come soon enough.  It has been great to review this trip and talk about all the ins and outs.  I certainly hope all my friends have the opportunity to experience a Disney cruise in the future and that my kids and I remember all the wonderful memories we made. 
Here are some of my favorite pictures from our cruise!

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