When you check in, you are given your Keys to the World Card. This card is your room key and method of payment for everything on the ship. You have to use cash to tip room service or to mail a post card from Castaway Cay but everything else is charged to your KTTW card. The only exception is using a Disney Gift Card. These cards can be applied to your onboard account OR used in the gift shops on board. The shops are very similar to what you would see on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. ALL. THINGS. DISNEY. These shops allow you to use a Disney Gift Card. This is great because it's an easy way to budget spending money for your kids. The boys got a gift card from Granny and Granddaddy before we left so they were excited to do a little shopping.
Disney cruise has a big sail away party on departure day. They really hype this up and it is fun...unless you are Jonah. This takes place right after the required Muster drill. This includes characters, music, dancing and lots of noise. As you can see, Micah and Miller enjoyed themselves.
We stayed on the boat on the Nassau port day. If you chose to stay on board when the ship is in port, you will find way less people and less lines.
Castaway Cay is the highly touted gem of DCL. I think our experience would have been much better had it been a little later in the year. The water was SO cold. It was definitely cooler than 60 and our Florida bodies couldn't handle it. The kids got in but the adults just couldn't. F-R-I-G-I-D.
If you have any interest at all in running, the 5K is a must do. There is no charge to participate but you have to register to do it. And, you get a medal. The only negative is that you have to get up so early in the morning on vacation. :-)
Only Dan got to run with Jonah because Micah was too young (and way too whiny!) to participate. That meant I had to stay with him and couldn't run. Well, after we got there and I was in flip flops, I found out Micah could have gone to Scuttles Cove while we all ran. I'll know that for next time.
Regarding the clubs for kids, I heard a few people (including our across the hall neighbors) say they wouldn't let their kids go in because they don't let their kids stay with anyone. In my opinion, if your kids don't get to participate in the activities for kids, paying for a Disney cruise is really a waste of money. The things they offer in the club and lab are what you are paying for compared to the other cruise lines. Our kids would have stayed in there from sun up to sun down had we let them. They loved it that much.
Nothing is hidden from parents. The drop off and pick up points are wide open so you can see whatever is going on. Their monitoring system is amazing. The counselors were super fun and engaging. There were a lot of kids but it was super controlled. Honestly, there are so many different areas that the kids seemed to be spread out pretty well. It didn't seem overwhelming in there at all.
The food on DCL was ehhhh. It wasn't horrible but it definitely wasn't the best I've had on a cruise. That didn't stop Jonah from eating 4 desserts at this particular lunch.
Along the lines of food, I'll talk about service. Our dining team was the worst I've experienced in our 6 cruises. Disney is highly touted for their level of service but this did not come close to what we have seen on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. On other cruise lines, we have given our drink choice on the first night and it was waiting each night when we arrived. If they knew our kids liked something special, they had it waiting. If we asked for something not on the menu, they got it with delight. This was not like that. I don't know if we had a new team or if our team was just not as with it but this was definitely the low point of DCL for all of us.
I took my camera so we didn't have to buy any of the expensive Disney pictures. But, there were about 20 we loved. So, we settled on the 10 photo digital package so we could have these.
I will say the absolute best part of this cruise was sharing it with friends. This was our first time to vacation with friends and I was a bit skeptical. I worried that they/we would feel obligated to do everything together or that they/we wouldn't have any family time. None of that was true. I think some of that comes from the fact that we are all secure enough in ourselves to just say "this is what we are doing" and the other family could join or not. There was none of the "what do you want to do? I don't care, what do you want to do?" and then we stand there scared to make a decision.
It also helped that our kids are really good friends. They really like each other and really like hanging out. We both gave permission to each other to be an authorized adult for the kids. So, any of the 4 of us could pick up/drop off. This allowed the parents a little bit of break because we all took turns checking in and out and taking kids to do things.
Someone asked me last night if vacation with a church member was really a vacation. I'll say this and to the best of my memory, this is the truth. We didn't mention church one time. If we did, it was so minor or quick that I don't recall it. Aja may read this and remember something but I don't. Also, we didn't mention Dave's job either. It was just a vacation with friends. No talk about church or church business. No talk about things we left behind or things that were coming up. (Except my whining about all the school work Jonah needed to make up!!!)
We did laugh about the fact that we had more dinners together on this cruise than we have in the 7 years we've lived here. And, that's not all the laughing we did. We literally laughed until we cried several times. I'm so grateful we got to share this experience with the West family. I encourage you to find good friends to cruise with. I think it made our experience even more fun. And, if you're really lucky, your men will look this good in a fake mustache!