I didn’t get too crazy with packing, like some do. I didn’t put outfits in baggies or take pictures of outfit options. We were gone for a week and organized the clothing by having me manage my clothes and Cici and Beckham’s and then Kacey was in charge of his clothes and Eva’s. We only kept sock and underwear in a large ziplock bag to keep those items organized and in one place. We only needed to bring a small package of regular diapers and swim diapers, and then eight night time diapers. It didn’t take up too much space. Each of us brought a carry on for books, coloring books, headphones, tablets, spare clothes and undies, etc. We also left room to bring back souvenirs. We only had to check in two large bags, which we get for free with the Delta Credit Card. In the end, we did end up buying another piece of luggage for souvenirs and got creative with getting it on the plane without having to pay. We also used an umbrella stroller for the airport walks.
We stayed at a nice hotel in Cocoa Beach the night before the cruise. I like to get down there the night before so that everyone has time to rest and get acclimated before we get on the ship. You also never know when we will get a spring snow storm. We are all tired after the plane ride, so this is a must. This year, we stayed at the Hampton Inn. Last year we stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites and that was terrible. They ran out of breakfast before we left for the ship and the shuttle was packed getting on to get to the port. This time around, our hotel, the Hampton Inn, was excellent, quiet, and had plenty of breakfast. We used Cocoa Beach Shuttle from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the port. Then we used the Magic Express from the port to get to our Disney World resort, and then back to the airport. All transportation went smoothly!
We rented a Citi Mini Double Stroller from Kingdom strollers which worked out well! We had several spills and fits that occurred in the stroller and would have it rather happen in someone else’s stroller than ours. The kids also took cat naps in the the stroller while at the parks. It was around $80 total for the three days and insurance. It was ready for us at the hotel when we arrived, and then we left it at the front desk when we went to the airport. All three kids used the stroller.
Disney Cruise: Not much involved-just show up and enjoy the rotational dining already set up for you, the Broadway style shows planned for the night, and the activities set up for the day. Use the Disney Cruise Line app on your phone or the paper navigator to review the times of the character visits. You have to get tickets for the princess meet and greet gathering and Frozen (both are free), but they are free. For the other characters, you just show up and there are hardly any lines. I personally love seeing the characters on the Castaway Cay beach! It makes for a beautiful backdrop!
Disney World: Lots to plan; and you better be on top of it months before your trip. You need to plan your fast passes for rides, make reservations for meals if you want to go that route, and pick your hotel and room location. I didn’t start planning anything for Disney World until a few weeks before, but was still able to get fast passes to almost everything I wanted (and yes, the fast passes really do save a lot of time!) We saw all of the characters on the ship so that we didn’t have to wait in any lines at Disney World. After dinner time, we went on several rides without fast passes and lines.
Disney Cruise: You get to rotate to a different restaurant every night with characters. You get your same servers at each restaurant so they get to know you well. Animator’s Palate is the most expensively build restaurant at sea and our favorite restaurant to eat at. The truffle pasta is to die for. The theme of the restaurant changes every 30 minutes and makes you feel like you are underwater for part of it. You also get to talk to Crush! Enchanted Garden is also very pretty. You get so much access to unlimited food options, room services, and late night snacks; all for free. Even the non-alcoholic beverage stations are free on the cruise. There are ice cream machines for free too by the pools. That is the first treat my kiddos get when getting on board the ship.
Disney World: Lots of quick service meal options and sit down restaurants with reservations, but more difficult to navigate than the cruise. You also don’t have as much access to food. We got the quick service dining plan where each person got two meals and two snacks a day and that worked for us! It took a lot more planning though to get the perfect meal and snack for all of us.
Disney Cruise: The AquaDuck and Mickey Slides on the ship. You can stop off at various water parks at Atlantis and at Castaway Cay.
Disney World: Too many to list! There are more ride options at Disney World than on the cruise.
Disney Cruise: There is a character around every corner, and for the most part, there are no lines, especially on the smaller ships. One night on the Dream, my three kiddos were dancing in a circle to a cruise ship singer and all of a sudden, Snow White came up and began dancing with them and then played hide and seek with them; we will never forget that nightJ
Disney World: You have to wait in long lines or fast pass it through the character experiences. I am so glad we took care of this on the ship and spent our time on the rides at the park.
Disney Cruise: This happens on a cruise!!!!!! There is an adult only pool area and adults only district that is very relaxing and not cheesy at all.
Disney World: Maybe at the resort during nap time:)
Disney Cruise: There are several options on the Disney Cruise. Ages 3+ are free in the Oceaneers Club/Lab where there are character parties and different themed areas like Star Wars, Pixie Hollow, Andy’s Room from Toy Story (my favorite), Monster’s Scare Floor, Nemo’s submarine, etc. It’s a Small World Nursery for ages 2 and under is $9 an hour. We used this for three hours during the day for Beckham and 3 hours at night. When the kids are at the kids club, the adults can play in the adult district. I love the Skyline Lounge where they have several floor to ceiling LCD screens of various countries across the world that change every 10 minutes.
Disney World: No kids club or daycare that I know ofL
Disney Cruise: You can stop off at different islands and countries when you take specific cruises. We have been to Tortola and St. Thomas, as well as the Bahamas and Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island).
Disney World: You can travel to other areas of Orlando, but the cruise has more actual travel options. Epcot's World Showcase?:)
Disney Cruise: Equivalent to Disney World
Disney World: Equivalent to the Disney Cruise
Disney Cruise: Just about every night there is a Broadway style show on the ship. Our favorites are: Golden Mickey’s, Aladdin, and Wishes. I didn’t care for Villains. I hear that the Wonder has the Frozen show now and the Magic has Tangled. That is a reason to try new ships.
Disney World: You need to book and pay extra for some of these at Disney World. Fast passes can be used with no additional cost for some of them. I couldn’t find these shows easily at Disney World.
Disney Cruise: You definitely get to dress up more on the cruise. I live in maxi skirts and sun dresses. I rarely wear jean shorts and tanks. I feel like I need less clothing on the Disney Cruise because I wear my swimsuit during the day and a cover up, and then a dress at night because it is fun to get fancy for dinner and shows.
Disney World: Mouse gear is a must. I bought a Minnie Mouse tank in the first store we went to at Magic Kingdom because I just didn’t feel right in my non-Disney attire.
Disney Cruise: There are about four stores on each ship. The products are very unique and cute, but limited.
Disney World: There is a lot more product at Disney World than the Disney Cruise. I love the Christmas ship at Magic Kingdom of course! I love that they will drop off your items at the hotel for you so you don’t need to carry it around all day at the parks.
There are so many choices! Moderate, value, deluxe; I am not an expert, but I can say that I loved the Caribbean Beach Resort! It is one of the largest properties at Disney World, if not the largest, but everything is easy to get to. It was considered a moderate resort. The food was excellent, the pools were a blast, and each island had their own pool. We stayed in Barbados which was right next to Martinique where I had requested because it was by the main pool and dining. We had a resort day and we're so glad we did. The kids swam in the different pools and we watched a movie under the stars before bed. We could also see the Magic Kingdom and Epcot fireworks right after the move under the stars. I had no idea we were able to see the fireworks from our resort! There were various playgrounds to play at too and walking paths. Next time, I want to visit Disney Springs for dinner and shopping, but we ran out of time. We took a walk the last night around the property twice which was beautiful. If I were going to do a value resort, I would stay at the Art of Animation Resort (I can’t believe that is a value resort); you can’t have five people in one room at the value resorts; you have to do a suite which is more expensive than moving up to a moderate resort by at least $100. For the deluxe resorts, I would choose the Dolphin or Wilderness Lodge.
We went to Magic Kingdom (a must anytime you visit Disney World) and Epcot. Our favorite rides were: Peter Pan’s Flight, Under the Sea with Ariel, It’s a Small World, the Prince Charming Regal Carousel, and the Jungle Cruise. I didn’t care for the Buzz Light Year ride, but Kacey and Beckham liked it. I wish we could have done the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train or Splash Mountain (flume ride), but the lines were long and there were no fast passes left for these. I don’t think my girls would have like the 7 Dwarfs Ride because it is pretty fast. The Haunted Mansion looked cool too. I could have spent two days at Magic Kingdom for sure. That is the first park I will go to every time; it’s so magicalJ
The World Showcase at Epcot could have taken all day if it was just Kacey and I, but the kids wanted to move more quickly through the countries. You can visit 11 countries at this end of the park. We loved Norway, England, and France best. The little bakeries and food shops were delicious, and some countries, like China, put on shows every hour that included acrobats, or musicians playing. We didn’t make it to Soaring (the Fly Across the World Ride similar to Mall of America’s fly across America ride) because I thought Eva would get motion sickness and we had Beckham. We could have used a rider switch I suppose where Kacey and I would take turns watching Beckham while we each rode the ride with the big kids, but we were still pretty green by this time and not so savvy. We did do Spaceship Earth and the Seas with Nemo and Friends which were great. The Nemo area has an aquarium with dolphins and various fish that the kids enjoyed seeing. We did the turtle talk with Crush, but the Disney Cruise has better turtle talk at Animator’s Palate. Spaceship Earth is actually in the Epcot ball and was so fun! We did go on the 37-minute Energy with Ellen (1990’s Ellen) that was educational and fun. Beckham loved the dinosaur scenes on the ride; but overall, the ride was a tad long.
Next year, I want to hit up Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs!
Our first year on the cruise, we had all the characters sign a story book that had a collection of stories. The second year, we did embroidered pillow cases with the Disney Cruise Line logo and dates that all of the characters signed with permanent markers. This year, our plan was to do another story book so that each kiddo can walk away with their own book for their kids one day, but it was too crazy keeping track of three kids and three books. Next year! At Disney World, the kids and adults each picked out an ornament. Usually the kids get to pick out an ornament every year at the Macy’s 8th floor Display, but since that is closing, we thought we would get ornaments at Disney World and then save them for when we start decorating our eight Christmas trees next year. Eva picked out a “It’s a Small World After All” ornament, Kacey and I picked out a Disney Cruise ornament, Cici picked out a set of Frozen bells, and Beckham picked out a set of Woody and Buzz Light Year bells. The kids have already forgotten we have them, so they will have a nice surprise the day after Thanksgiving when we decorate. We also buy several mugs a year while on the cruise, and now Disney World, so that when we are drinking out of them at work and on the weekends, we have warm memories of being there:)
I loved both ships. We have also stayed on the Wonder which is one of the older smaller ships without the Aqua Duck, but it has recently been reimagined and has the Frozen Show and Tiana’s restaurant. The Dream has Vanellope von Schweetz sweet treat shop. You can buy cupcakes, candy, and other fun treats. Kacey and I wanted to buy some candy for the kids Christmas stockings next year, but thought it would be a pain to haul back and the kids would have noticed. The Fantasy has a better adult district; especially the Skyline Lounge-it’s bigger and had better bartenders. On the longer cruises, they have fun classes like mixology where you learn how to make different drinks; Kacey and I did that last year and it was so much fun! The Dream seems to just do shorter cruise routes than the Fantasy, Magic and Wonder. Next year, we are going on the Magic since it is the last one we have left to hit. We aren’t sure about doing Disney World too, because the Magic leaves out of Miami or Texas. Disney Cruise Line is building two more ships that should be ready by 2021 and 2023. They will be even bigger than the Fantasy and Dream; we can’t wait! Our goal is to take a vacation on every Disney ship.
In conclusion…..we still think we are more Disney Cruise people vs. Disney World people, but you can’t go wrong with either. If you can swing both, do both for sure! There are many shorter and cheaper cruises that just go to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay for 3 or four days, that it makes it easy to hit up the parks afterwards. I always fight back tears on the last day of the cruise at the “See You Again Real Soon Party”. It is usually just Eva and I going to it while Kacey packs and stays with Cici and B while they sleep. That is why I wanted to do Disney World right after the cruise; so we wouldn’t be as sad. It worked. After being at Disney World, we were ready to come home.
Jessica Sloan from Greenwood Cruise and Travel was our agent who helped us plan and book everything. Jessica@greenwoodcruiseandtravel.com. Her Facebook page is "Jessica's Dreams and Wishes Travel". She is great!