Join me as I describe our journey and my thoughts on the Disney Cruise Line from the Micechat Disney Dream Cruise of 2011!!
Well the wife had really been wanting to do a Disney Cruise for a long long time, but I was a bit skeptical because we had done a cruise on our honeymoon and while it was nice.. it just really wasn’t my cup of tea. But in the modern era, I’ve been watching all the details about Disney’s latest ships and was intrigued a bit about the new ships. So roll back to the fall of 2010..
I had been considering a trip for me and my wife for an anniversary gift since we had a previous trip intended for our anniversary canceled due to things that just made it unpractical. When Dusty posted that Micechat was organizing a cruise on the new Disney Dream for a 4 night cruise next October.. it was a perfect storm converging. My curiosity about the new ships… my desire to give my wife the trip she’s been yearning for.. and of course meeting up with the Micechatters!
Without the family knowing, I contacted Teresa at Fairygodmother travel and said ‘sign me up!’. With the trip almost a year out, it gave me time to save up for the cost, and figure out WTH I was actually doing. Looking at the stateroom options, they had a room style that actually would hold my entire family in a single room – but it was the veranda rooms.. so big $$. But hey, it’s a gift right? So I said lets do it. Family Veranda for me! I planned on presenting the trip to my wife as a combined Christmas and anniversary gift at Christmas (Our anniversary is in early Jan). When Teresa heard it was going to be a xmas/anniversary gift.. she sent me a great personalized package about the cruise I could present to my wife as part of the gift. So I went ahead and paid a down payment, setting it up so I could pay off the rest of the cruise cost next year before the cruise.
When Christmas came, I had wrapped the cruise package up like a gift but in special paper and had stashed it far back in the gift pile; setting the stage so that the package would be the last or near last present to be opened of the morning. When it came to opening gifts.. the package went completely unnoticed! Recognize up to this point, I had kept the entire plan a secret, no one in the family knew of my plans at all! So I had to remind my wife of the package, and then recorded what happened as she opened it… (pardon the Christmas morning pajamas and no showers )
So obviously everyone is excited.. now they only have to wait 10 months for the date to come…
More to come..
---------- Post added 11-06-2011 at 07:58 PM ----------
Being my first Disney Cruise, I didn’t have much to go on. And with the hectic daily life, I did not really put in a lot of effort to track down other online sources to do study on the topic. The first milestone is paying off your cruise reservation balance, and after that, you can book your excursions and special dining reservations. Teresa did a good job of informing us of the key dates, and there was a Facebook group setup so everyone could interact with the others making the trip.
Now this is my first gripe with DCL. Excursions. I don’t feel I had good information from DCL ahead on excursions, what is available, cost projections, etc before you actually could book them. This meant for us, the key date of when you could start booking your reservations was a ‘blind date’. We knew when it was, and what the objective was, but we didn’t know who’d we meet, or what we could really do together.
In hindsight, I could have done more research outside of DCL’s own information, but honestly I found most cruise sites to be far less friendly and organized compared to WDW planning sites. Quick scans often lead to frustration and me ‘walking away’ rather than results.
End result of this, when it came to the date to pay off the cruise, I organized with Teresa to pay off my cruise balance on a future date, on the last day allowed. Then once I was paid off, I would be able to book my reservations online. But since I set this pay-off date for a day in the future, I had kind of gotten lazy for when it was paid off, to actually book my reservations. I had gotten ‘disconnected’ again in my focus on the trip.
When you can start your reservations is limited by if it’s your first cruise, or if you a returning cruiser with the different levels of the Castaway Club. But since I had setup the payment in advance, I basically forgot that when the day came, I could start doing my booking.
Tip for future cruisers… In response to some of my hotel questions, Teresa pointed me to the Passporter Guide - PassPorter.com: Disney Cruise Line travel guides, articles, tips, advice, photos, and help They offer print and electronic versions of their guide books and I ordered the PDF version of the book and it was the best thing I could have done. I wish I had it back when I first started this adventure! It would have helped sooo much. It’s cheap for what you get, and is EXTREMELY helpful. It would have helped me on all my excursion questions bar-none. But at this point in the story.. all I had was DCL’s info.
So fast forward to probably the start of Sept.. My payoff date was in early Aug. I finally went on the DCL booking website and tried to find what excursions we would do while in Nasaua. To my rookie eyes, I was surprised there were bookings for the private island, Castaway Cay as well.
So what to do? Well my youngest is an advertiser’s dream. Commercials work on her to perfection. And she can virtually recite them.. so awhile back she saw a commercial for Discovery Cove and the dolphin encounter they have.. and since then she could not stop talking about them. She wanted to goto Florida just to swim with the Dolphins! So when we saw the Dolphin activities in the excursions, even tho they were some of the most expensive, they were leading contenders. Hey, it’s a ‘vacation to remember..’ right? I was tempted by the Atlantis resort, but those were really big $$ and I was uncertain we could actually get enough time there to actually appreciate it. Atlantis is $295/$250 for dolphin+water park, while Blue Lagoon is only $199 for the dolphin swim+beach activities.
Since I just had back surgery this summer and still am having problems with my back, we were only going to have the rest of the family do the Dolphin Swim while I would do the Observer which gets you to the island, and lets you do the beach stuff, but no Dolphins for me. Because of the late booking we were not able to get the earlier booking, only the 12:45 one.. this is significant because it limits how much time you have on the island to enjoy the beach… and you must be at the boat at 12:45 to join your tour. More on this later..
Now here is where I screwed up.. when I first booked, I booked the Dolphin Swim for the other 4, but did not manage to book my observer excursion. The DCL website is fully self-service, and while at first looks pretty straight forward, it actually turned out to be slightly annoying to manage.
I got bitten when I was trying to REVIEW my existing booking, which is also the same action to EDIT your bookings. I was playing with the bookings trying to get the earlier time, but didn’t see it so I closed my browser without saving any changes. Well good thing I went back and checked afterwards, because just closing my browser like that.. SAVED MY CHANGES!! Meaning I had NO excursions!! Luckily I caught it and was able to rebook my same slots, but now I’m really pissed at the DCL site. Future tip, there is a CANCEL changes button on the site.. be sure to use it!
So after that.. all we had left to do was figure out travel arrangements…
(there will be pictures later.. I promise! )
Summary - buy the passporter guide.. buy it early... and be ready for your payoff date and first day you book reservations! Don't be flynn! hehe