Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Disney Cruise out of San Pedro
We arrived at the port early and everything could not have gone more smoothly. The minute you drive up they have porters there waiting to take your luggage for you and they take it to your stateroom. Then you go into the departure area. If you pre-registered you go to a separate area to check in and get your key card. Once you have checked in, you go to another area to wait. It is a nice area with live music to get the party started. While in this area you can pre-register your kids for the kids' camp (and get your pager) and also for any shore excursions you want to do. Once we were finished with these two things it was time to board the ship. As you walk onto the ship in the main area they have the staff lined up and they announce your name as you walk in and all of the staff start clapping.... "Disney welcomes The Perry Family." My kids loved it. You board the ship around 1:00 but the rooms are not available until 2:00. We came prepared with our swimsuits on so after walking around the ship a bit the kids went swimming. There are 3 pools. One is the fun kids' pool with a water slide. The middle pool is a deeper pool. And the third pool is for adults only.
The first thing we did was to go to Guest Services to get our spot for the tea with Alice. This is complimentary but it goes fast. Then we went to the Parrot Cay for lunch. It is a buffet. They have a children's section with spaghetti, mac and cheese, and corn dogs and then of course all of the adult food as well.
After eating lunch, it was time to walk off our lunch so we took a tour of the ship to get a better feel for where everything is and then we came to our room to unpack everything. Your luggage is left outside your room. Thanks to a number of great tips I got, I brought an over the door shoe holder to hold items. I also bought suction hooks for the shower to hang wet bathing suits. The doors to the room are made of metal so we brought magnets to decorate our door and a whiteboard so that people could leave messages for us. I also brought little Dixie cups for the bathroom so that we didn't have to waste shelf space on glasses. Although the rooms are small there was room to put all of our stuff. I also brought a power surge because there are not many electrical outlets. We brought walkie talkies but they did not work very well and I just found out that using your cell phone on the ship is a different rate than at home or when you are in Mexico. I set up my phone for international calling but had no idea there was a different rate for using a cell phone "at sea" so just be aware of the additional charges.
After we finished unpacking it was time for the safety drill. We put on our life jackets and met in a room downstairs. It was very organized. By this time it was 4:00 and time for the Bon Voyage party on the deck. All of the characters come out and dance on stage. There is a live band playing and everyone is having a great time....and then the boat starts to move...how exciting.
There is wireless internet throughout the ship so you can bring your own laptop or use the computers in the Internet Café, Cove Café, or the Stack. You buy a plan with so many minutes. I think the plan I purchased was 500 minutes for $150.00.
For breakfast we usually went to Topsiders. It is a buffet but what I love is when you order an omelette they bring it to your table so that you don't have to wait there for it. All the bread is already toasted but they will retoast it if you like it crispier or warmer. There are usually 2 buffets set up on the morning (Topsiders and Parrot Cay), as well as Lumiere's, where you can order off the menu. There are also 3 restaurants on the deck where you can eat lunch as well: Pinocchio's Pizzeria, Pluto's Dog House, and Goofy's Galley.
For dinners you get a ticket that lists what nights you will be eating in which restaurants, as well as your dining time. The early seating is 5:30 and the late seating is 8:00. You need to request your preference ahead of time. Your waiters follow you every night so they know your likes and dislikes. Every dinner was incredible. The kids have a kids' menu they can order off of or they can order off of the adult menu. The biggest surprise came when Amber's steak arrived; I told Amber I would cut it for her and Paola (our server) offered to do it for me...now that is what I call a vacation. They continued to cut my kids' dinner every night. The restaurant Animator's Palate starts out in black and white (including the servers wearing black and white vests); as the night progresses the room gets more colorful until all of the pictures on the wall are now colored and the servers are wearing colorful vests. Lumiere's restaurant is a French themed restaurant with a nice ambiance. No matter what we asked for they always accommodated us. My girls love chocolate and Palo's (the adult only restaurant) has a chocolate soufflé. I asked if they could bring us the soufflés and they happily obliged and boy, were they good. Another night on the menu they had scallops which Jasmine loves, but they were already in the sauce they were being served with. Edward, our server, said he would surprise Jasmine the next night, and sure enough, he served up a plate of scallops that Jasmine could not get enough of. Now for an exceptional dinner or brunch, you need to make a reservation at Palo's in advance. There is an additional charge of $15.00 per person but so worth it. Everything was amazing. The cheese table, the hors d'oeuvre, the pizzas (especially the grape and cheese one)--fine dining at its best. There is a private room in the back that seats around 14 people so if you are going with a group, you should try to get the private room. Make sure you order the chocolate soufflé for dessert.
The camps are great and are separated by age level. The kids love them. They have activities planned throughout the day and night for kids of all ages, including the teens. They have a bunch of games as well as computer stuff, books, and climbing structures (depending on the camp). Throughout the day they have a number of different kids' activities including comedy shows, playhouse Disney party, mini soccer on the sports deck (they also have basketball up there as well), family dance and more. There is also a video game room where you can purchase a game card and your kids can play there as much as you want.
There are two theatres on the ship. The Buena Vista theatre shows movies. On this trip they were showing College Road Trip, Camp Rock, Narnia Prince Caspian and others. There is also the Walt Disney Theatre where they showed the premiere of Camp Rock before it appeared on TV (boy, were my kids psyched). Every night they have a great show in the Walt Disney Theatre....a Broadway production that is first rate. They also had comedians who entertained the families, and they were great. One night they had the show The Golden Mickeys. Someone told me to have my girls wait outside the theatre and they could get interviewed on the red carpet. I waited inside the theatre and next thing you know I see my kids being interviewed as if they were celebrities on the big screen in the theatre ....luckily I was ready with my video camera to capture it. All of the shows are fantastic. They are usually shown twice a day, an earlier show and then the 8:30 show. Finally, there is a large screen out by Goofy's Pool Stage where they showed kids' movies as well as sports. They had the Lakers playing on the large screen, until they finally lost... After the shows the kids usually went to bed and I went out for some adult entertainment. They have a nice piano bar, Diversions, where they make this amazing chocolate wrap martini. Then I would go into Rockin Bar D to hear the comedian or whatever entertainment they had going on that night. There is a sports bar as well as and another lounge where they have singers performing.
They offer many classes and seminars throughout the day. I took a napkin folding class to learn how to make cute designs out of napkins for the table. I wasn't very good at it but had fun trying. Later on I took a martini tasting class...you know I loved this one (cost $15.00, they also have beer, wine and Tequila tastings). We tasted 4 different types of martinis and became educated on the history of martinis. They also had a singles mingle for those who are single, single parent, or just traveling alone.
Another fun event I took the girls to was the tea party with Alice. It is complimentary but you need to reserve your space ahead of time and get tickets. They picked Jasmine to sit at the head table with them and she was thrilled.
I attempted to go to the gym everyday (except the days we went to ports because we had to get too early of a start). The cardio machines have tvs attached to them and the gym provides headphones and ipods if needed. They also offer classes. They have showers in the women's locker room that are nice so if your stateroom is a little crowded and you all need to get ready at the same time, you can use the shower in the locker room. There is also a room called the Rainforest Thermal Suite. It costs $15.00/day to use it but I loved it. They have 2 steam rooms and a sauna. They also have these heated beds that you lay in that are so relaxing with the heat. It is a co-ed room so you must wear a bathing suit.
When we arrived in Cabo we took a tender (a boat that takes you from the ship to the dock) to the port. We did not have any excursions planned and because we have been to Cabo numerous times, we only went for 30 minutes (shopped and came back). The Ship was very quiet which was nice. Amber and Jasmine played in the pools while I hung out and relaxed at the adults only pool. The next day we arrived in Mazatlan. Thanks to a Peachheader's recommendation, I booked a horseback ride with Randi's Happy Horses http://www.randishappyhorses.com/. (The Disney Cruise excursions that had horseback riding require the kids be at least 12; Randi did not have any requirements). We took a shuttle to the terminal from the boat. Randi was there to greet us. We then took a taxi to a little boat, a boat ride to the other side of the water and then a taxi to the beach. The water was incredible...so warm. We went horseback riding for over an hour. Amber and Jasmine loved it. The horses galloped and they were laughing the entire time....it was a beautiful ride along the beach. It cost $45.00 per person. After riding we had lunch on the beach at Victors. We ordered before the ride so it was ready when we returned. The shrimp dish was really good.
The next day we docked in Puerto Vallarta. I signed up for the Paradise Beach Adventure. They take you to Paradise Village Beach Resort. What a great place to spend the day. They have 2 large pools with big slides. They also loan out boogie boards and they have a buffet lunch. There is a mini zoo in front of the hotel. The kids enjoyed watching the spider monkeys and taking pictures with the parrots. The beach is beautiful and the water was so nice and warm. They have comfortable lounge chairs on the beach and they provide the towels. The day went by way too fast.
That night was Pirate Night on the ship so everyone was dressed up in their pirate costumes, including the waiters. Luckily a friend told me to bring pirate costumes on the trip so we were all set for the big party up on the deck. All of the characters came out dressed as pirates. They had dance music and everyone was dancing. And the grand finale was fireworks over the water. The fireworks did not go off until 10:30 and Amber and Jasmine were so tired, but after the fireworks Amber said, "That was awesome".... she was glad we stayed up for the show.
The next night was the midnight dessert buffet at Lumiere's. It begins at 11:30 and what an incredible spread...you have to see it to believe it. Ice sculptures and chocolate sculptures, chocolate fountain, and just about every type of cake and dessert you can think of. There was a long line to get in because as you walk in you walk down the long dessert table and take what you want; however, it moved pretty quickly. If you don't want to wait in a long line, get there early.
Our last day at sea was cloudy so I figured this would be a good time to explore all of the extra activities going on on the ship that I had not had time for. The morning started out with the character breakfast. Each character stops by the table for a quick photo op and an autograph. (My kids forgot about the character breakfast and went to breakfast while I was at the gym so they got to enjoy the characters without having to worry about eating). Tip: Bring an autograph book; the character will stay at your table a little longer signing the books. Later on that morning, I went to my first art auction. It was very interesting and they explained the art so it was quite fascinating as well. I played Bingo with the girls (for money); we didn't win but it was great energy and we all got really into it. Because no one won the grand jackpot we played again later in the afternoon for the last chance to win the big money. Someone actually won $13,000.00. Wish it was me.....oh well. There was also a speaker on ABC talking about the TV shows and how they market them. It was interesting as well. In the afternoon they had a comedy show for the family. The comedian was a juggler as well and was hysterical. He performed at the evening show in the Walt Disney theatre as well.
Even departing was as simple as can be. We had to be at breakfast at 7:00 AM. Luggage was left outside our room the night before with a special tag (note, pay attention to the character on the luggage tag as your luggage will be grouped by the character on the tag). After breakfast, around 7:45, we were told we could leave the ship. It took 18 minutes from the time I got in line to get off the boat until we cleared customs and I was waiting outside with my luggage....what a perfect ending to a perfect trip.
I have to tell you the service on this trip was exceptional. Everyone working there is incredibly happy and really seems to enjoy their job. We became friends with our servers, Edward and Paola, as well as Mario, who took care of our room. They are there to make your trip as enjoyable as possible and they really go out of there way to accomplish this. Every night Mario made the greatest towel animals...every night my girls would race to the room to see what Mario left for us. He even gave them lessons on how to make them.
Disney Cruise leaves out of Los Angeles only during the summer. If you are in LA, it is very convenient to just drive there and not have to deal with flying. They still have openings during this summer so if you are interested in trying it out, throw out some dates and see if you get lucky. The last time Disney left out of Los Angeles was in 2005 and there are no plans to bring it back to Los Angeles as of right now so this summer could be your only chance out of Los Angeles for awhile.
I posted pictures from my trip in the Peachhead2 yahoo group under Disney Cruise. Wait till you see the midnight dessert buffet pictures.
I received a lot of tips since this was my first cruise so I am going to list them here:
Set a wake up call and have your kids answer the phone. Mickey calls with a little message.
Bring a hairdryer; the one in the room is not powerful and the handle gets very hot. If you forget your hairdryer call guest services and ask if they have an extra one (I got lucky).
Bring a shoe holder to hang over the door. It is great to keep your shoes organized, as well as hold little knick knacks and toiletries.
Bring suction hooks to stick on the wall in the shower to hang your bathing suits to dry. One night I left mine on my veranda and then got worried that they may blow away while we were moving (luckily they didn't but these are the things you learn the first time on a ship).
The doors to the room are made of metal so we brought magnets to decorate our door and a whiteboard so that people could leave messages for us. It made it easier to find our room but also gave our room a happier feeling when we walked in.
I also brought little Dixie cups for the bathroom so that we didn't have to waste shelf space on glasses.
Bring a power surge. There are not a lot of electrical outlets in the room so if you need to charge your electronics it really helps.
We brought walkie talkies but they did not work very well; however, other people were using theirs and they worked so just make sure you have good ones.
I just found out that using your cell phone on the ship is a different rate than at home or when you are in Mexico. I set up my phone for international calling but had no idea there was a different rate for using a cell phone "at sea" so just be aware of the additional charges.
Make reservations at Palo for dinner and brunch.
Get your tickets for the Alice Tea Party right when you get on the ship.
There are laundry rooms. You can buy detergent for $1.00 (or bring your own). The washers and dryers cost $1.00 each.
Have them show you how to open the veranda...it is a little confusing the first time.
Try to bring luggage that you can nest within each other. If they are not as big as mine were they will fit under your bed.
Bring a green apple and one of the table knives to your room after you eat lunch the first afternoon. Then if you or anyone starts feeling sick, you can slice it up and eat it. This is what I was told the crew does. Also, guest services has free chewable tables if you feel seasick.
We brought a nighlight but I just left the light on in the closet which worked great.
We brought a pirate costume and glow in the dark necklaces for the pirate party.
Bring a sweater or jacket; the last few days all of the restaurants were very cold.
Bring a few different color highlighters (one for each person in your family) so you can highlight the navigator with each event that everyone in your family wants to participate in. There are so many things going on it is hard to keep track of everything so this helps to stay organized.
You can bring clothes pins to keep the drapes closed if you don't want any sunlight coming in the room in the morning.
Your room is not ready until around 2:00 so wear your swimsuits and bring a day bag so you can hang out at the pool until your room is ready.
You can bring a case of water on board with you. Just put one of your luggage tag stickers on the case of water....or you can purchase a case of water for your room when you get onboard.
Check out Disboards.com and meet people who will be on the same cruise as you.
You pay for alcoholic beverages and sodas at the bars and lounges onboard. Free sodas are available at the beverage station on Deck 9 and at the restaurants when you dine.
If you are going on an excursion offered through Disney, they will provide you with towels. If you are going on your own excursion, you can bring towels from your room or the pool deck.
Check in registration begins at 10:30. They don't start boarding the ship until around 12:30 or 1:00.
Book your spa treatments in advance; they fill up quickly.