Whew, it’s been a few busy weeks for me and I have been very neglectful of my blog during that time. Hopefully this week I’ll be able to get back into my normal groove and thought today I’d start looking at planning a Disney cruise since we have our Alaska cruise coming up in just 3 months. Woohoo!!
If you’ve cruised before, but have been on less than 5 cruises, you’re considered a Silver Castaway Club member and can book excursions and onboard activities starting 90 days before the cruise. For us, that’s a week from today, so I’ve been doing a lot of research and I think I’ve narrowed everything down. But, after 4 cruises, I still worry about how things are going to work out, so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned about booking port excursions for those of you who are new to cruising. These are based 100% on our experience and may or may not work in your family’s particular situation
You don’t have to book excursions at all
If you look at the Disney marketing material and website a lot, you might get the sense that you HAVE to book a port adventure to have ANY fun on your cruise. Sure, the excursions are fun and we’ve always had a great time, but you can also have just as much fun exploring a port all on your own, or, even staying onboard the ship during a port day. We did Cabo on our own and had a great time, exploring the city and then taking a boat over to one of the beaches for WAY cheaper than any of the excursions we looked at. It was quite relaxing and we didn’t feel like we were missing out at all. If we ever do another cruise to the Bahamas, I already plan on just relaxing on the ship the day we’re in Nassau because I was just not a big fan. Fewer people onboard during a port day means more lounger space by the pool!
You don’t HAVE to book port excursions through Disney
A lot of new cruisers may not realize that you don’t HAVE to book one of the Disney port adventures if you don’t want to. Almost everything that Disney provides as an excursion is available to book privately, sometimes at a cheaper cost or with different options. If you see a Disney excursion that looks interesting but isn’t quite what you want, look around to see if you can find it elsewhere. Conversely, if you find a private tour that’s similar to the Disney one, but much cheaper, just verify exactly what you get. The Disney excursions typically include transportation to and from the port and may include “extras” like snacks or lunch that may not be provided in the private tour price. Do your research to find out what option is going to be best for you and your family.
If you go with an external vendor, have a plan and keep track of time
There are always unexpected things that can happen when you’re in port – traffic on the island can be horrible, like it was for us when we went to St. Thomas, or a sudden rainstorm can hit you when you least expect it. If you’re on a Disney-led excursion, the ship is much more likely to wait for you if something delays your return. If you’re on a private excursion, there’s no guarantee they’ll wait, and although it is VERY rare, the ship has had to leave without all it’s passengers a few times. If you only have a short time in a port, you might just go with a Disney excursion to be safe, but no matter what, at least have a plan for emergencies and leave yourself PLENTY of time to get back to the ship before the all aboard call.
Try something different
If there’s ever a time to try something a little out of your comfort zone, I feel like a Disney cruise is the time to do it, especially if you’re looking at doing a Disney-led excursion. Last year on our Mexican Riviera cruise, we did a ziplining tour and an ATV tour – both of which I’d never imagine I would do and I had a GREAT time. Disney takes safety very seriously and if anything goes wrong on the excursions they offer, they are quick to follow up and make sure everything is ok. I know from personal experience after I, um, sort of, flipped my ATV and got a little banged up. Sure I was shaken up and a little sore after the experience, but even now, I’d do it all over again if I had the opportunity, although I’ll be a little more tame on our Alaska cruise since the kiddos will be with us when we head into port!
If you’re booking a Disney-led excursion and it’s a popular one, book it as soon as your booking window opens because there are limited spots available and they can fill up quickly. They do say you might be able to add or change an excursion once you’re onboard, but there’s no guarantee, so if you want to do it, book it. All of the Disney port excursions are listed on the Disney Cruise website and there are tons of resources, like the DisBoards, where people share their reviews and experiences on the various excursions. Do your homework ahead of your booking window so you know what things you’re interested in doing.
Those are just a few of the things we’ve learned and I’ll continue to provide additional tips in the next couple weeks about planning your onboard activities, so stay tuned for those! And, if you have any questions I can answer, leave me a comment, I’m happy to help!