Disclosure: This post is not sponsored by Disney or any affiliate with Disney. Disney doesn’t even know my name. I paid for this entire trip myself. I am also not personally affiliated with any of the people or links that are provided in this post.
Note: Don’t want to read all about my Disney trip? Just scroll to the bottom to grab the recipe. 🙂
During spring break, my family and I went on our very first cruise. We decided on a Disney Cruise and booked a trip on the Disney Dream. In this post I am gonna give y’all my full and honest opinion of the cruise and our experience. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the cruise. There is just so much to take in and experience. I will break up this post into two since I have a couple recipes I would like to share and I don’t want to overwhelm you. So just think of this as part one. Update: Check out PART TWO HERE. This recipe for Coconut Rice Pudding was a highlight for me on the cruise! If you don’t want cruise deets, just scroll down for the recipe. 🙂
Booking our cruise
So, to start, we booked the cruise on our own through Disney’s website. We booked a 4-night (5 day) cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida. It included a couple days at sea, a day in Nassau, Bahamas and a day on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. For the most part, the booking was very easy to do on our own. We only had a couple of small issues setting up an excursion activity for when we landed in Nassau but we called Disney directly and they were able to help us figure it out. If you are not very tech savvy, there are lots of Disney-authorized travel agents who can do it for you and most don’t charge a fee as they are paid by Disney to book your trip.
Disney Dream at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas)
Think about booking a stateroom in the middle of the ship (midship) and about halfway up. You’ll have the least amount of movement in that area. Too close to the front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship and you’ll definitely feel more movement. If you are prone to motion sickness then chances are you may possibly experience sea sickness. However, my son has motion sickness and was just fine. If you think this might be a possibility for you, then ask your doctor to prescribe you a motion sickness patch (called Scopolamine) before you go. That way you’ll have it if you need it! It works way better than Dramamine and you will see a lot of folks wearing them during the cruise.
First things first, a lot of people do these cruises regularly so things like special excursion trips when you get into port can sell out quickly. This was our first cruise so we had no idea. For example, not long after we booked the trip, we got an email saying we could start booking our ‘Port Adventures’ – which is basically everything from renting a private cabana while in Castaway Cay to a dolphin experience in the Bahamas. When we logged on that night to book our Port Adventures, half of them were already sold out! It was crazy. We really wanted one of those private family cabanas – but no luck! What was strange was when we got to Castaway Cay, there was only one family in the private cabanas and the rest were empty so not sure why it said they were fully booked every time we continued to check before our trip.
Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas)
Grab your passport
You’ll need a passport. It can take 4 weeks to 3 months to get your passport so plan ahead accordingly. You will need them. You will also get your luggage tags in advance. Going on a cruise is just like air travel these days. Everything has to be checked by security and the screening process means you have to leave your bags into the hands of the Disney cruise line staff and your bags will be returned to your stateroom later that evening. So, the lesson there is to make sure you pack any essentials into a carry-on bag: baby food, diapers, medications, etc. Your carry-on will be screened just like at the airport and you can carry it around with you. The downside is, you’ll have to carry it all around with you until your room is ready. Chances are, when you first board (you will be assigned a boarding time) your stateroom will not be ready yet. So anything you carry on board, you’ll have to carry around until your room is ready later that day.
Key to the World
You’ll get your boarding card (Disney calls it your ‘Key to the World’ card) when you check in just before your boarding time. Children will get a wristband that will allow them to be checked into the variety of kids clubs and activities on board the ship (don’t lose the kiddos wristbands – you’ll need to turn them in before disembarking the ship or you’ll be charged a fee of $12.95 each) You won’t need to carry any cash or credit cards around with you while on the ship. You will pay for any extras (alcoholic drinks, spa services, shopping, etc.) using that card. You can attach a credit card (electronically) to it for charges or you can settle your bill before leaving the ship (at Guest Services). You’ll need to make sure you always have that card with you. You’ll even need it to turn on the electricity in your stateroom.
There are only 3 restaurants on the Disney Dream (included with your cruise) so you can see we went to one of those restaurants twice because we were on a 4-night cruise.
Permission to come aboard
When you first board, the Disney crew greets everyone by announcing your family’s name and there are additional cruise staff there to clap for you as you board (you can see my video clip below). Honestly, I think the kids really love it (and maybe I did a bit too – ha!) but it does slow down the boarding process and the smaller kiddos tend to have a meltdown from waiting to be announced and there really is no way around it. You just have to wait. They do their best to keep it moving quickly but it’s just something you need to be prepared for.
Buffet, here I come!
After boarding, you are encouraged to head to the buffet (on the Disney Dream, the buffet area is called ‘Cabanas’) to grab something to eat and to tour the ship since your stateroom will most likely not be ready. Also, you can board the ship while wearing your bathing suits and swimming trunks and you can head to the pools too while you wait. When you initially check-in and get your ‘Key to the World’ card, they will let you know what time your stateroom will be ready and you’ll also get a sheet called ‘The Navigator’. This sheet will tell you everything that is going on in the ship for that day and at what times. You’ll get a new one everyday that will be delivered into your room by your stateroom host/hostess. See tweet below to see an example of ‘The Navigator.’ You can also download a Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on your phone that will also give you details. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t tell you all the activities for the following days, only the current day (just like the paper Navigator.) I hope Disney gives complete schedules for the entire cruise in the future. It would help in planning out your days ahead of time.
— Scott Sanders (@TheDCLBlog) March 18, 2018
Scott at The Disney Cruise Line Blog is an amazing resource for first time cruisers and experienced cruisers alike. I definitely recommend following him!
Take the ship tour
There are several ship tours you can take that first day and so we attended that tour and were glad we did! We had a lovely young British gal named Simone as our tour guide and she really gave us all so many little tips and tricks and we were fortunate enough to keep bumping into her throughout the cruise and she continued to provide us with helpful tips! If you’d like, you can check your kids into the ‘It’s a Small World Nursery’ or the Oceaneer Club and/or the Oceaneer Lab (ages 3-12), the ‘Edge’ (ages 11-14) or the ‘Vibe” (ages 13-17) and you can take the tour with just the adults to make it easier (but not necessary.)
I ordered birthday decorations and a birthday cake ahead of our cruise (for my husband’s birthday – at an additional charge.) When we arrived, our stateroom was already decorated! Behind me, but not pictured, is the sliding glass doors to our outdoor balcony.
There is a lot of room to move around on the ship and it’s very open and airy but the staterooms are small. There is just no way around it. I am a little claustrophobic so we got a stateroom with a balcony (veranda.) It really helped to be able to open the curtains and step outside. It gives the room a feeling of being larger than it is. Also, I highly recommend bringing along some sort of white noise to help everyone sleep. The staterooms are quiet but you will hear the occasional running up and down the halls and people chatting loudly. So if you have an app on your phone or a white noise machine, definitely bring it. We ended up purchasing a fan in the Bahamas because we had a hard time sleeping (see my photo below!) Everyone laughed as we brought it on board and they all wanted one too! Hilarious! But it totally helped us sleep much better!
Last note: the rotational dining is included as part of your cruise package. You’ll be assigned first-seat dining (5:45 pm) or second-seat dining (8:15 pm). You can usually request a seating time change if you are not happy with the one you were assigned after you board the ship. The ship also has some fancier dining options for adults that you can pay for. I didn’t try those restaurants (one is called Palo and the other is Remy – on board the Disney Dream) but I am told the food is amazing. The food at the rotational dining is good and they have kid-friendly food as well. Pro tip: go with the food options that your server suggests. It makes a difference – trust me! And be sure to tell your server of any food allergies or preferences. They will remember and honor these requests each evening to make sure you’re happy and cared for because they will be your servers throughout the entire cruise!
To be continued…
I will continue with our Disney cruise adventure in another post so this one doesn’t drag on! This first recipe I am sharing was a dessert from our first night on board. This Coconut Rice Pudding was on our first night at ‘The Animator’s Palate’. I love a good rice pudding and this was probably one of my favorite desserts at all the places we ate.
Crock Pot Coconut Rice Pudding
Let’s get to this recipe! This is my own version of it. I might be tooting my horn a bit here but I think my version turned out a bit better than the one on board. Mickey would be proud! 😉
3 tbsp. salted butter (or margarine), divided use
6 cups milk (2% or higher)
1 (15 oz) can cream of coconut
2 cups instant rice, uncooked (like Minute Rice)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
toasted coconut, for topping (optional)
Cream of Coconut can usually be found in the alcohol-aisle of your grocery store. It is non-alcoholic and is usually used to sweeten and add flavor to Pina Coladas. So, you will usually find it on the same shelf as the other drink mixes (for margaritas and daiquiris, etc.)
Click on the play button below to watch a video on how to make it!
Butter a 5-quart slow cooker. Make sure to rub the entire interior with the butter (or margarine.)
Pour milk and cream of coconut into the bottom of the slow cooker.
Then pour in rice.
Stir in salt, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract and stir well.
Top mixture with remaining butter (that you used to grease the crock pot.)
Cover slow cooker and cook for about 3-4 hours on low. Make sure to stir occasionally. This will help the rice soak up all of those delicious flavors as it cooks.
Top with additional cinnamon before serving.
If you’d like, you can top individual servings with toasted coconut flakes. Place sweetened flaked coconut on a nonstick baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350f degree oven for about 10 minutes (making sure to rotate the pan every couple of minutes) until lightly golden brown.)
Crock Pot Coconut Rice Pudding
- 3 tbsp. salted butter (or margarine) divided use
- 6 cups milk 2% or higher
- 1 15 oz can cream of coconut*
- 2 cups instant rice, uncooked like Minute Rice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- toasted coconut for topping (optional)
- Butter a 5-quart slow cooker. Make sure to rub the entire interior with the butter (or margarine.)
- Pour milk and cream of coconut into the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Then pour in rice.
- Stir in salt, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract and stir well.
- Top mixture with remaining butter (that you used to grease the crock pot.)
- Cover slow cooker and cook for about 3-4 hours on low. Make sure to stir occasionally. This will help the rice soak up all of those delicious flavors as it cooks.
- Top with additional cinnamon before serving.
- If you'd like, you can top individual servings with toasted coconut flakes. Place sweetened flaked coconut on a nonstick baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350f degree oven for about 10 minutes (making sure to rotate the pan every couple of minutes) until lightly golden brown.)