Posted in Holiday Happiness

18 Things I Learnt by my Second Cruise

This is 18 things I learnt by my second cruise… because do you really learn everything from your first? I realise I am still at the beginning of my cruising life but none the less now I’ve done two cruises on two different lines I feel able to give you advice and good tips. I recently cruised on Royal Caribbeans Rhapsody of the seas and previously on the Disney Fantasy – which you can read all about here.

So if your yet to book or go on your first cruise then these 18 tips may help you ace it the first time instead of like me what will be my 3rd time (when I book again, not any time soon!)

1. Do your research… which cruise?

All ships are different, that’s in size, amenities, ports of call, on board entertainment programmes. What’s most important to you? I don’t think you will be disappointed on any cruise to be honest but choose your most important box and make sure that’s ticked first.

My choices!

The first time I cruised it was simple… I wanted to experience a Disney one. Second time I picked based on ports of call. Fairly well travelled in Europe I wanted to make sure I was hitting places I hadn’t yet been. Also for me I didn’t want a massive ship. Travelling with my tween I knew he would clear off… I wanted half a chance of finding him! I chose Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas – capacity 2000.

The Disney Fantasy cruise in Port
Disney fantasy in port

2. Embarkation day is busy

When we got on this recent cruise we were hungry and headed straight to the buffett restaurant, same as everyone else. It was pretty stressy finding a table etc and I was going mad! Not a fan of all inclusive at all (no judgement if you are) it had that feel to it. Please know it never felt like this again! Consider booking a speciality dining for when you board to avoid this rush… I did but missed it! Whoops! Which brings me to my next point…

3. Don’t underestimate boarding time…

This latest cruise took longer to board then the previous Disney one. The port felt huge, the queues were long (we didn’t queue thanks to some VIP thing I booked) it did take a while to actually get on the ship. Not stressful but we did think we would pretty much walk on and we didn’t hence missing our lunch. We had actually been exploring that morning but in hindsight maybe box off the first day to just get on board if you want to make the most of it.

4. Pack a day bag

Seriously… don’t get caught out without things you might need straight away in your case. Aside from obvious things I mean your swimwear, sunglasses etc. Your case can take a while to be delivered to your stateroom and the last thing you want is your kids going mental because they can’t get in the pool!

12. The pools are not big

Okay so I’ve only done two cruises but as far as I can see this is across the board. Think of them more as a quick dip to cool off not swim! The main one will be overrun with kids who don’t seem to notice they are sharing it with 50 other people ha ha! Most ships will also have an adult only pool which is great to escape. Some have water slides like the Disney fantasy, that actually had a water coaster running around the outside, it was so fun!

Chilling in a hot tub
We always favour the hot tubs!

5. Which Stateroom?

Another thing to think about here is how much your on the boat. I did a seven day cruise and was off the boat 4 days exploring, not utilising my drinks package. Funny story though… my son made lots of mates who had no package (so you just get water, orange, lemonade, tea and coffee) he spent all our cruise getting everybody’s drinks! Ha ha! So you could just make a friend with a package 😉

Both my cruises I’ve booked the cheapest state room with no window based on knowing I won’t be in it much. The only thing that’s tricky about them is the lack of space for all your stuff! You need to be highly organised to not end up getting frustrated keeping on top of things. Disney hace magic portholes in their cheapest rooms which give you a real time view of outside (off a camera) and you might just see a few of your favourite characters appear in it too – magical!

6. The initial cost is not all you will spend…

Cruises are masters at getting you to part with your cash or should I say credit card. That’s right… everything on board you pay for with your room key (which is linked to your onboard account and credit card), swipe here, swipe there, few cocktails later… erm how much am I up to!! Do I even care?! Ha ha!

Best way to keep the cost down is pre pay everything you can. We had a deluxe drinks package (£345 for me, £150 for the soda one for my son) we prebooked our two excursions that we chose. Also pre pay your tips!! This is huge, if you don’t you will end up with a bill in excess of £200 (in my experience) before disembarking. If your British and not use to compulsory tipping you probably won’t enjoy parting with it at the end. I didn’t pre pay on my first cruise and I racked up £1500 I think between tips, drinks, a special meal and a few souvenirs, yikes!!

7. Drinks packages…

Ahhh the dreaded drinks package! Do you want it? Is it worth the money? Okay I will let you into a secret… I didn’t pay those prices above, thank god! They were the prices but because I booked early I got my drinks packages included, winner! However I spoke to a couple who booked about six months in advance and they paid less than me but no drinks… maybe they just charge you and say it’s free?! Who knows… Consider booking early non the less.

Are they worth it?

If you don’t get a drinks package for free consider how much you actually drink!! If it’s 2-3 drinks a day it may be worth paying as you go. I think I worked out that to make it worth it in my cruise I would need to drink at least 5 cocktails a day! I drank seven cocktails when I first got on board and was giddy… let’s just say I don’t remember much of the speciality restaurant I dined in that night!

You won’t be drinking if your off the ship…

Only you can answer this. First off ask yourself how much time do you plan on spending in it? If you will be out and about maybe it’s not worth the extra cost? If you like your own space book one with a balcony where you can enjoy time out watching the ocean. The suites are utterly fabulous if you can stump up that kind of cash.

Cocktail drinking
Cheers to cruise life!

8. You will not be able to do everything

FACT! my first cruise I assumed after a manic week in Florida I would be nice and chilled on board, wrong! The ships have extensive entertainment programmes which are delivered to you each evening for the next day. You will want to do loads but don’t! Pick the things that jump out at you and don’t spend your time running round the ship (like I did!) trying to see and do everything. On my second cruise I accepted I would not be doing everything and felt more like I had relaxed – it is a holiday after all!

9. Dining in the restaurants every night is a mistake

Much like the above dining in the restaurants every night is hard work. Again all ships are different but your tied to a specific dining time. You might just be having a great time on deck and not feel like going and getting dressed for dinner again. Then don’t! Skip the restaurant and go to the buffet/more relaxed dining room a few evenings. They have no end of choice anyway!

10. Formal night is not as formal as you may think

Personally I loved formal night, all those tuxedos and beautiful dresses and the band playing. However if your not a dressy up person don’t sweat it. Many men are just in a shirt and long trousers, ladies in nice dresses – not full length ball gowns. Check what it says for your ship but it’s unlikely everyone will go all out, so don’t stress! My son and I were not dressed to the nines on our recent sailing and we fitted in fine.

11. Stay on board when in port to enjoy peace

This is not something I have done but other cruisers have told me it’s great. I’m a get off and see the world kinda girl but if your there for the cruise life and not too then stay on board and enjoy a chilled day with less people.

13. Bring clips for your towels

How did I miss this memo?! Your out at sea… of course it can get breezy!! Pack towel clips to ensure your towel stays put when you trot off to the bar.

14. Excursions with the cruise company or independent?

I’ve always booked through the cruise company through fear of not making it back to the ship. Bottom line… if your out with them they can’t leave you. However I won’t be doing it in the future. At some ports of call I felt our excursions were rushed. For example when we had a beach day they dropped us off at 10am and picked us up at 1:30, despite the ship not leaving until 4:30pm and it was only 20 minutes return journey. If you want to run to your own schedule make your own arrangements (which may also be cheaper) but don’t cut it fine getting back to the ship.

Cruise excursion to Dubrovnik
Wondering round Dubrovnik old walls

15. Kids club is a godsend

Let me repeat that… KIDS CLUB IS A GODSEND ha ha! They usually run 3 sessions a day, morning, afternoon and evening. They will keep your little treasures safe and amused when they have burnt you out. Nursery age kids? No problem… they have that covered as well. Teens, literally have a ball! They have a cool place to hang out rather than a supervised club. Activities are still put on and it’s there choice if they do them. You will find they make friends and hang round the ship together breezing in and out of the club.

You can dine in peace thanks to kids club… take the kids to the buffet and drop them off to kids club then head to your chosen restaurant, they will thank you for it and you won’t have indigestion! Disney go one step further and actually pick them up from the restaurant if you prefer. So once they’ve eaten they go… meaning no rushing out for you. Ahhh yes I will have a 3rd glass of wine!

16. Your kids won’t like getting off the ship

True story… no kids want to get off!! Why would they? They are having a ball and now you want to drag them round Rome or whatever… they will moan and you will here when are we going back to the ship?! My tip here is bribe them ha ha! If your good now you can stay up a bit later… or you could use ‘I swear to god if you don’t behave you will stay in the cabin!’ That worked for me! Try to pre-empt this and keep it interesting for them too.

17. Consider working out on board

Cruises are full of yummy food, tempting treats and sugary cocktails! Your on holiday so your going to indulge. On my first cruise I didn’t work out and put on half a stone! Ha ha! This time I was wise… I still indulged a bit but I headed to the gym 4 times onboard. Not into that? There were yoga classes, spinning and exercises classes on board. Why not simply take the stairs every time instead of the lift? Or some brisk walking laps round top deck whilst taking in the sea air.

18. You will want to book another cruise!

You agonised over booking the first… will I like cruising? Will it be too busy? Will my kids be bored? I’ve not met anyone yet who’s been on one and hated it. That’s not to say those people aren’t out there. But don’t be surprised if when you come off your already planning your next. You can actually book your next whilst on board ha ha! Very clever… get them whilst they are in the moment. My son BEGGED me to do this but I already have next years adventure planned.

Dressed nicely on formal night
Formal night

So there are my 18 things I learnt by my second cruise. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you are going on a cruise I hope I gave you some points to think about. Seasoned cruisers… is there anything else you would add here? Let me know!

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Holiday Happiness

20 Reasons You Should Book a Disney Cruise

Here I share 20 reasons why you should book a Disney cruise but really there are too many to truly mention… I mean anything Disney is always a good idea! In 2015 I was lucky enough to go on a Disney cruise. It was some time ago now but it is still embedded in my mind as one of my best trips ever. Disney cruise ships really are something special.

Disney Cruise Line We cruised on the Disney Fantasy for a week around the western Caribbean; stopping off in Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cozumel and Disney’s private island in the Bahamas – Castaway Cay. This is based on my experience on the Fantasy but I hear all the ships are out of this world.

1. You Will Feel Like Royalty on a Disney Cruise

From the moment you get on the ship you are treated like royalty. Waltzing down the red carpet to board whilst they announce you by name to a round of applause may not be everyone’s cup of tea but lets just say you definitely feel special. Your waiters get to know you and your preferences personally as they rotate restaurants with you each night. Your stateroom host quickly learns your names and greets you with a smile always asking if there is any more they can do for you.

2. The Interior is a Work of Art

I don’t even know where to start here but the attention to detail on a Disney cruise is something else. Right from when you step into the ship’s stunning three-story atrium, decked in regal shades of gold and blue with fine details adorning every element inside your know no expense has been spared. It’s an entrance one might expect in a grand hotel… as a first time cruiser I was in awe. From the intricate mosaics around the ship, the themed restaurants, to the beautiful theatre. There is too much to mention… its simply grand and exquisite through out.

Disney Cruise Interior

3. Door Decorating Fun

Yes this is a thing! Be sure to decorate your stateroom door Disney style. I read this before going so I was prepared. Disney don’t like you to use tape so be sure to use magnets, the doors are metal. You can make life easy by purchasing pre made designs on Etsy (just search Disney cruise door magnets) but I’ve always loved crafting so I had a go myself. It’s fun to explore the ship and look at all the designs.

4. Magic Portholes

So we had an interior stateroom but it was suffice. I mean are you really going to sit in your room on a Disney Cruise? It was a little tricky getting ready some nights with a hyperactive 7 year old though ha ha! I must mention here the magic porthole… a “window” to the world with a real-time view outside the ship. But that’s not all… Disney characters appear in the porthole too! Yes you might just see Tinkerbell fly across… I was freaking out spotting them all. Well done Disney, a great addition for those who can’t stretch the budget to an outside cabin ha ha! I would totally book an interior room again.

Disney Cruise Stateroom

5. Delicious Dining Experiences

Ohhh the restaurants… guests have many options to choose from when it comes to dining. You are given a dining rotation and depending on the length of your cruise you may visit some restaurants more than once. You can opt out on some nights like we did if you would prefer a more casual affair like Cabanas. It was nice to have a break from dressing for dinner plus whilst all the guests were dining we enjoyed numerous goes on the aquaduck without queuing. All the restaurants were amazing, not just the food but the decor too. None were quite as delightful as Animators palate though – you get to draw your own character and watch in delight as it comes alive as part of the show.

Disney Cruise Dining

6. Adult Only Dining

If you want to experience fine dining (I should say even finer dining really) head to one of the adult only restaurants – Palo or Remy. We dined in Palo on our last night and the food was divine… the service again was impeccable. The waiter was very patient explaining things on the menu to us. The setting was very serene and had we of made a reservation prior to getting on the cruise we could have enjoyed a view of the sunset out of the wall of windows (book in advance!) but none the less I fully recommend it anyway.

7. Deck 11 For Sun & Fun

I have to confess I had a slight love hate relationship with deck 11, ha ha! It’s mayhem for parents, heaven for kids! This is where to pool is, the aqua duck (water coaster) can be ridden, back to back Disney movies play on a huge screen. Little ones can splash about in Nemo’s reef and you can if your kid will let you… try and relax on the sunbeds. Also it is home to some of the more fast food options you may want in the day available from the likes of Flo’s cafe and Luigi’s pizza. Deck 11 is super fun but a few hours and you need some headspace! The aqua duck is awesome… be sure to ride it in the dark too as it is all lit up!

Disney Cruise Deck 11

8. Characters Galore on a Disney Cruise!

Love your Disney characters? (of course you do!) well I think I interacted more with characters on the cruise than I ever have. You never know when you might bump into them… which is super exciting! also there are plenty of opportunities for character meet and greets. My son met stitch his all time favourite on pirate night, he was so playful and funny, he still talks about it now. I was over the moon to have my photo with Mickey in his captains outfit too!

9. Pirate Night & Fireworks

Who doesn’t want to dress as a pirate really?! Well if you don’t you will stand out! Bandannas were even provided in our stateroom to wear for the occasion. We had taken our own costumes anyway as I am not one to miss out on a dressing up opportunity. As well as pirate themed dining that night there was a stage show where all your favourite Disney characters perform in a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ production. Not forgetting the spectacular fireworks as well! Followed by dancing the night away as a DJ blasted popular dance songs. Pirate night was a blast!

Disney Cruise Pirate Night

10. Disney Merchandise

Be sure to check out the Disney merchandise whilst on the ship… they are pros at making you get rid of your money and the cruise is no exception. Official cruise line clothes, souvenirs, pins, plush toys and more are on display in the stores. I bought a few things to remind me of my trip (yeah like I will ever forget!)

11. West End Worthy Shows

Disney doesn’t mess about when it comes to entertainment we all know that… It’s what Disney does best! But oh my gosh the shows… I LOVED Disney wishes… its encompasses everything Disney is about growing up but staying connected with your inner child. We also saw Aladdin and Disney dreams which were both fantastic.

Disney Cruise Stage Shows

12. You Can Chill Out

You may be reading all this thinking I don’t know if it’s too much! But fear not… you can escape the mayhem on the adults only deck and it was like a sun trap. I soaked up the rays with a cocktail whilst looking at the ocean. When I was too hot I took a dip in the Quiet Cove pool – pure bliss! where are the kids (if you have them) at this point? In kids club of course. Just to mention as well I met loads of adults on the cruise with no kids too!

13. Kids Club Heaven

I don’t think I have ever wished I was still a kid as much as when I clapped eyes on the Oceaneer club and lab aboard the Fantasy . I swear you will never get your child in a kids club on holiday again after experiencing this… it’s in a league of its own. Children 3-12yrs can immerse in a multi themed activity centre – there’s Andy’s Room, Pixie Hollow and Monsters Academy to name a few. A light up dance floor, computers, reading areas, televisions, video games, dressing up, a sound studio to create music, a craft area… the list goes on. Your favourite characters might just make an appearance too. Got a baby or a teen no problem… no one is left out on a Disney cruise, they cater for all.

Disney Cruise Oceaneer Club and Lab

14. Indulge in Pin Trading

If your a pin trading fan then you will be pleased to know this is a thing on the cruise to. For those who are unfamiliar with pin trading is buying, selling and trading collectable Disney pins that can be worn on a lanyard. You can trade pins with cast members (which is super fun) as well as other guests. On the last night of your cruise as well a pin trading event is held where you might just find some rare pins so be sure to check that out. Oh and pin trading is totally for adults as well as kids! I literally had as much fun as my son.

15. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Yes the royal salon where young guests can be magically transformed into princesses or knights is aboard the cruise too. You hear about the princess make overs lots but not as much the ones for boys. My son was seven at the time and loved the experience. They gelled his hair and put little silver Mickey confetti in it, he was given a sword and shield and declared a knight… we proceeded to then do the ships treasure hunt. This is where you look for clues around the ship (you realise its enormity at this point) and it’s simply magical… you will need a few hours but it’s good exercise and fun!

Disney Cruise Bibbidi Bobbdi Boutique

16. Rejuvenate in Senses Spa

I indulged in a massage and facial at the spa despite it being pretty pricey and it was worth every penny. I didn’t pre book this as the whole holiday was getting ridiculously expensive (did I tell you prior to this cruise I spent a week in Disney too?!) but as luck would have it they do offers once you are on the ship so that twisted my arm (like it was hard!) and I’m glad I treated myself. My advice would definitely wait till your onboard to book this… I can’t remember the price but it was quite a bit cheaper.

17. Visiting Castaway Cay

This deserves a post of its own really but Disney’s private island Castaway Cay is really something special. A tropical paradise in the Bahamas where the fun really doesn’t stop! Pristine beaches to soak up the rays, incredible snorkelling, slides in the sea, delicious barbecue food, bike rentals… just to name a few! You are not going to be bored on this island. Sadly a day there just didn’t feel enough but what an experience.

Disney Cruise Castaway Cay

18. Themed Sailings

Now I can only properly comment on the Halloween themed sailing really as that is what I was on. But if that is anything to go by then taking a Disney cruise over Thanksgiving, Christmas time and New Years Eve should only add to the experience. Halloween on the Fantasy was great, everyone dressed up, the ship was decked out – including the pumpkin tree and even the characters dressed up for Mickey’s Mouse-querade party. Who else can say they been in a dance freestyle circle with Goofy?!

19. Exciting Shore Excursions

If you do decide to get off the ship you can indulge in some shore excursions. Disney makes this super easy for you. You can browse the itineraries before you go and add them to your never ending bill ha ha! You could indeed arrange your own but I like the guarantee that I am not going to miss the boat (honestly my anxiety couldn’t take it!) My experience of shore excursions was unforgettable. In Grand Cayman we swam with sting rays (my son bailed much to my dismay) Jamaica we headed up Dunn River Falls, Mystic mountain and even on a bobsleigh tour (Cool Running’s eat your heart out!) In Cozumel we went on a submarine. Shore excursions enhance your visit when you dock so check out if any take your fancy but don’t be surprised if you struggle to choose!

Disney Cruise Jamaica

20. It’s the Holiday of a Lifetime

I hope you are reading this and have already drawn this conclusion… this is one trip you will never forget. Disney always provides ultimate in entertainment and the cruises are no exception. Word of warning though… you will come back slightly exhausted from the non stop fun and excitement but it was oh so worth it.

Disney Cruise Memories

Have you been on a Disney cruise? I would love to hear anything you would add to this list?

Oh yeah and guys… due to writing this blog post I’m now looking to book another Disney Cruise next year. I am dying to make some more magical memories with Mickey and friends on the high seas. Watch this space!

Rachael 🙂 x

Here’s the link if I have convinced you to take a look –