I recently took the trip of a lifetime with my family. After years of planning we finally took the ultimate Disney vacation to celebrate my parent’s 40th anniversary. While planning, we went back and forth on where and how to take this trip: we looked at renting a house and visiting Disney World for a week or Sailing with Disney Cruise Line. In the end, we decided to do both! In January 2020, we took a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy and a 3 day stay in Disney Springs with a park day to Magic Kingdom.
I should note that this was not our first time cruising and that Disney Cruise Line is actually the 4th cruise line I have traveled with. My overall experience was good but not great. Please allow me to explain…
Cruising is my favorite way to travel and I have taken many trips to the Eastern Caribbean. I have sailed with Princess, Norwegian and Carnival Cruise Lines in the past. The things that are most important to me would be good food, entertainment and space to relax. I want to note that my season of life plays a huge part in my review. I am a single, 20something girl with no children who traveled on a trip with 3 children under 5. I was, in many ways, a solo passenger on a family vacation. I am well aware that this trip was not catered to me and am aware that Disney fosters an inclusive, family life atmosphere.
The ship itself was a sight to see. A someone who appreciates the 1920’s vibe, the art deco motif created a swanky sort of feel. There were designated areas throughout the ship for everyone: kids only, adults only and plenty of space for family fun. Prior to the trip, I had imagined I would spend most of my time in the adult’s only spots. I literally spent no time here. These spaces include a gym, spa and adult only pool/ bar area. Each time I made my way to the pool, all the day beds were full and the idea of awkwardly laying next to a stranger was unappealing. The family areas up on deck were constantly packed. The big mickey shaped pools were a hot spot for overcrowding.
I’ve have decided to break down the details to my trip into bite size pieces. Below you’ll find the details of what I packed, what I loved and what I didn’t. Please note that my perspective is unique for who I am and where I am at in life. If you were to ask my sister, a mom of 2 under 5, her review would be more different. From her point of view, she could not give this trip enough gold stars. From allergy concerns, friendly wait staff to endless memories made with her kids- her review would be entirely different.
Products I packed:
I was glad that I brought my normal hair care products along with me. My go -to shampoos and conditioner were perfectly packed into silicone travel sized bottles. I brought my Trader Joes Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner, my Fanola Purple Shampoo and my Dr. Browns Peppermint body wash. I was sure to include my Ponds Cold Cream Cleaner, Skin Authority Eye Brightener and Eucerin face cream. Disney provided products from H2O+ which I tried a few times. I liked the body lotion for after my showers the most.
My most worn accessories:
I was so excited to wear my hair scarves! I brought them in multiple colors and patterns and they were an easy way to dress up and accessorize any outfit. I also packed my go-to bracelets for stacking too!
Inside my makeup bag:
I packed my NYX Cosmetics Bare with Me skin veil, Covergirl blush, Catrice Contour kit, Tarte In Bloom eyeshadow palette, NYX Cosmetics Lip Lingerie and Essense Princess False Lash Mascara (waterproof). I had also purchased a small travel size makeup brush kit for this trip. I loved using the brushes and found a great amount of variety in this set. Along with my makeup, I was sure to pack sun lotions and hair products for styling. I stuck with Australian Gold sun products because I have used them for years and they smell amazing! My favorite product of the three pictures in the SPF 50 tinted face cream. For styling, I brought my Hot Tools extra long barreled iron and travel sized CHI styling products. The product that saved me the most: The OGX miracle coconut mist. I actually stopped in Sn Juan, Puerto Rico to pick up a bottle mid trip because my hair was desperate for fizz control and moisture.
What I packed for clothes:
Because we spent so much time up on desk during the days, I often only changed for dinner at night. Each night I wore a different fit and flair dress with heeled sandals. During the days we got off the boat, I opted for a bodysuit, high-waisted shorts and sandals.
Things I overpacked:
I probably could have packed less shoes. I did use each pair at least once but looking back- one pair of flip flops, a pair of dressy sandals and sneakers would have been more than sufficient. I also packed MANY swimsuit options. I ended up getting use out of my J.Crew suits the most. They fit the best and I felt most comfortable and confident in them. I packed WAY more workout gear than I ended up using. I I packed a ton of statement jewelry but opted for classic pieces instead.
The things I brought that I loved most:
My own robe! I was surprised how much I used this when getting ready for dinner each night. It was a simple comfort of home that seriously made the trip. My J. Crew swim suits were by far my most worn items on this trip. Because we spent so much time in the sun, having a swimsuit that fit and that i felt comfortable in was an absolute must! My packing bags made finding things so much easier. I found a set of 4 LV dupe make up bags that helped me organized my sun lotion, hair accessories, jewelry and nail polish.
What I wish I made more time for:
Honestly, the Aquaduck water slide. This thing was AMAZING! It is a tube water slide that is suspended above the ship. Early on in the trip I had let my fear of heights keep me from the fun but once I did it- I kept going back. I wish I would have taken more pictures to look back on. Though I have memories to last a life time- I am a huge fan of pictures.
There was plenty of time to catch a show after dinner and before bed each night. We got to see Frozen II in theaters, a live action show of Aladdin and Frozen, Marcus Monroe- a professional juggler and America’s Got Talent star Eric Jones, professional magician. There were also dance parties, firework shows and themed parties for all ages to enjoy. One night, everyone dressed up in pirate costumes and headed up to the top deck for a show and fireworks. I was pulled on stage just to prove that even pirates can wear pearls!
Things I loved:
The whole point of this trip was to spend time with my family. Getting see and experience all of the Disney magic through the eyes of my nieces and nephew was incredible. Seeing their faces light up on the ship and at the park was worth every penny. Our room location was pretty amazing. My sister and I had inside cabins off the main hall. This location created a quiet place to rest and recharge. We were also centrally located which made getting around a breeze. The attention to detail was impeccable through out the ship. Each place was perfect curated as only Disney can do.
What I didn’t like:
This too is probably obvious but, there were a ton of other families and children on this ship along with us. One thing I noticed often were too many kids with parents who have poor parenting skills. Listen, I totally respect that your child is bound to have a fit and act poorly- I get it. In a lot of the tantrums I witnessed- it was less about the children and more about the poorly behaved adults involved. During one of the shows we saw, the family behind us had many overly tired children in tow. Instead of excusing themselves they continued to make everyone around them miserable. The parents fed into this and made the night pretty uncomfortable. I wish those parents had been more mindful and remembered that this wasn’t just about their vacation but also about the people around them who wanted to enjoy the show. When their children began being violent and aggressively kicking the chairs around them, the parents and grandparents did not take any responsibility for the children and instead chalked it up to “kids being kids”. I guess what I am trying to say is things happen but when the night is over, please be mindful of everyone else around you. With tantrums comes a lot of screaming. It often felt like I was in a sea of napless children. It was overwhelming. Towards the end of our trip there was a Star Wars Day at Sea. This didn’t interest anyone in our group and many of the activities and shows during this day catered to those guests who were interested. This by no means ruined our fun but felt like we were on the outside of all the fun.
Things that surprised me:
The food wasn’t great. The food was very similar if not the same as the food we had during our park day. I will admit that I can be a bit of a picky eater but even things like the pizza and cheeseburgers were unappealing. By mid week, the kids refused to eat their dinners because they were sick of the same 3-4 options on the menu ( chicken fingers, mac & cheese, pizza or pasta). I often found myself just choosing a Caesar salad- which wasn’t actually on the menu. The alcohol carry on rule. In my experience aboard cruise ships, most allow you to bring your own alcohol onboard. Disney’s process for this is different than other ships in that you need to physically bring the bottles in hand when you get on the ship. Because I was traveling with 3 young children, I thought it would be safe to pack it in a bag to be sent to my room. This caused me to lose two bottles of wine with no way to get them until the end of the trip. Customer service was unable to assist which I totally respect but it wasn’t a great way to start a trip. I was able to purchase alcohol once we docked in the ports we visited and purchase more for the rest of the trip. Lastly, I was surprised to see how much St. Thomas has changed over the years. It used to be one of my favorite places to shop but I found that their markets have changes quite a bit.
Other things about our trip:
We chose to visit the Eastern Caribbean which included ports of call: Tortola and St Thomas. Before boarding the ship we were told we would not be able to make it to Tortola due to speed issues. Disney gave each stateroom $150 shipboard credit and we visited San Juan Puerto Rico instead. I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed to not visit Tortola because it was the only port I hadn’t visited yet in the list of other we had planned. The exchange of ports actually worked out nicely as my family and I did a little shopping in San Juan and then spent the rest of the day on deck enjoying the ship.
My favorite things from our park day:
We ended our trip with a few days in Disney Springs and visited Magic Kingdom for the kids first visit to Disney World. We had the perfect day weather wise ( 63 degrees!) but this drove a big crowd even on Super Bowl Sunday. The kids loved being there which made the visit so much more magical.
The Dole Whip! I loved that this was dairy free so that everyone in our group could enjoy it. Below, my goddaughter and I are sharing this sweet treat. I loved Ariel’s Journey ride and Aladdin’s Flying Carpets. I also enjoyed a couple of quiet moments with my brother’s girlfriend when we got to stroll mainstream with our Starbucks while popping in and out of shops.
Overall, this truly was the trip of a lifetime and most importantly- I have some of the most amazing memories to look back on. Since getting home we have already started to plan for the next big trip and I am pretty confident it will include a beautiful boat in the big blue ocean- even if it isn’t with Disney.
Now it’s your turn:
where is your next big destination vacation? I’ll meet you in the comments and cannot wait to see all the amazing places we will go!
Until next time,