I’ve been working on this blog post now since we returned from our Disney Magic at Sea UK Staycation Cruise. This was something that was requested and I have tried to factor in quite a few of the questions we were asked, but also things we think may be helpful to know too.
Its quite obvious we are huge Disney fans! We often visit Disneyland Paris about 3 times per year and our big holiday to Disney World Florida had to be moved numerous times thanks to covid. We’ve really been missing the excitement and buzz of our Disney trips. So when we heard that there would be a staycation style cruise we were so excited! However with the details being rescinded and then the confusion that came with the re-release of the information… we were slightly apprehensive about booking. Even on the day the reservations opened, we weren’t sure whether to book but eventually did because we just weren’t sure when we would make it back to a Disney park. Weighting up our concerns, we decided to book for 2 nights from Southampton.
Our trip was quite close to the beginning of the cruises starting so we were closely following those who embarked from Liverpool in order to have a feel of what to expect. One thing I have to say is… Disney folk don’t like to criticise Disney. Therefore many of the reviews we read and vlogs we watched were overly complimentary. We even watched one very popular Disney YouTubers vlogs and despite it being incredibly obvious that she was bored stiff less, she didn’t dare say it. I honestly don’t think it is right or fair and we always pride ourselves on giving honest reviews. Therefore, here is our completely honest opinion!
Boarding/ Testing / Embarkation
When we arrived at the port we were quite early so we were told we needed to come back only 15 minutes before our port time so we headed to the local McDonalds along with quite a few other families. Once it was time to head back we parked up, our luggage was swiftly taken from us and were told we need to immediately make our way to the terminal to begin our check in process.
This entire process was swift and quick and the staff here were really patient and helpful. I felt quite anxious thinking it would be sods law for one of us to test positive and the staff were just to relaxed that it really helped calm me too!
Once we had our test results we headed through the building to await at the terminal. Here was very chaotic and despite our boarding time being at 12.30, we didn’t actually board the ship until after 2pm. Bring snacks! Lots of snacks and plenty of water.
Usually there would be a photo op here with Mickey and Minnie in their special outfits but of course that was off the cards on this occasion. I do feel that not having that special photo op is a big loss and I think Disney Cruise Line (DCL) could do better to have some sort of photo op even if it wasn’t with characters.
Boarding is really quite special! You are welcomed on board and announced by your family name to the entire ship! This is quite standard for Disney cruises but we thought it was such a lovely way to welcome us on board.
Once you are onboard, there is a small welcome and dance by Mickey and Minnie and then you are escorted to learn about the health and safety.
If you are doing a 2 or even 3 day cruise, the late embarkation and the health and safety part really eats into your day. As mentioned, we had one of the earliest PATs and yet we weren’t fully ready to explore the ship until around 3. Your luggage is left by your door from around 4pm. My biggest tip here would be to bring swimming items in your handbag and head straight to the pool and grab some food at Cabanas.
Documents to have on you – details of your booking including reservation number, your prenetics personal account with the varication of vaccination status, your port arrival form, NHS Passport.
Day Time Activities
This was by far one of our main concerns prior to booking. When we looking on the DCL website or asked people who had cruised before, the information was really lacking in any great detail. Usually, you would of course stop at ports and leave the ship during the day but the staycation cruises meant you were on the ship for the entire time.
So what is on offer? Well in short… not much. We did a drawing class which was really good fun, spent time in the pool and tried to meet some characters. One morning Ita had an appointment at the Bippidy Boppidy Boutique (which I will share further info on) and she also attended the kids club too. However, there just was not enough to keep you excited or entertained, we felt. There are things you could book at an extra cost such as cocktail classes or the spa, but given the fact that this was a staycation, DCL absolutely should have considered more things to keep guests busy.
You can of course visit the cinema and it was decided on our cruise that you could also visit the theatre for a live show during the day too. I would really recommend seeing a live show during the day. The shows are INCREDIBLE!
Shows and Theatre
We were really fortunate in that we got to see Dreams and a new show called Tangled. I cried the entire way through Dreams – it was utterly fantastic and just as good, if not better, than any show we have seen in the West End. Tangled was really good too and I feel like the shows really stand out from our trip.
Since you can now see a show during the day, I would recommend doing this! I wish we had seen Dreams twice!
It was not our intention to watch any movies even though there are various shown throughout the day. Jungle Cruise was just out and was show onboard but we decided against spending our time watching a movie. In hindsight, I wish we had let go of any hope in seeing any characters and just visited the cinema instead!! Which brings me on to…
Oh gosh. Where do I even start with this one? For us, characters are a big deal. Ita absolutely loves the likes of Stitch and Minnie so when we visit the parks, we do make a big effort to get in as many character meets as possible. Given the circumstances, we knew that the typical character meets wouldn’t go ahead, but there was no way that we could have expected what we encountered. It was dire. I have nothing positive to share about the character meets and I am here typing and deleting my words in case I seem too negative!
Essentially, the mascot characters were so far away that any interaction or engagement was near impossible. Much of the time it felt as if the characters were running away from you. It was something that upset many of the smaller children because they couldn’t understand why they were so far away. By contrast, the princesses – who obviously have no costume or mask covering their faces – were allowed closer. It really made no sense at all. The princess meets did make for the better meets though and you could take a photo without it looking ridiculous.
Another issue is that the planned character meets were often in the theatre which was not the prettiest of backdrops. It would have been brilliant to have been able to get some photos outside on the deck, even if socially distanced.
Day 2 is known as Marvel day on the staycations and all of the characters are dressed up in these outfits. There were a few marvel characters in the foyer (again too far away) and in the theatre you can meet Donald, Daisy and Minnie in their costumes.
Ita met Stitch in the kids club and that was a real highlight for her! During the open house at the kids club we also got to meet Woody and Jessie – this was really good and I would highly recommend popping in during the opening house (the morning on the 2nd day) to take a look around and grab a picture!
Dining was BRILLIANT!
This was something we really enjoyed and felt the ship came to life in the evenings!
We were allocated Lumiere’s and Animators Palate for our dinners but I knew that I wanted Ita to experience Rapunzel’s Royal Table. We asked at Guest Services and they were able to find us a table in Rapunzel’s with no problem. The menu was really good and the show was brilliant. As expected, Ita loved it! I would highly suggest that you dine at Rapunzels – the show is only on for dinner.
On our second night we enjoyed Animators Palate. I have only ever heard good things about this restaurant and it was definitely the highlight of our staycation. Once we were seated we were asked to do a little drawing of ourselves. Later on during our meal, the restaurant turned into colour and all of our creations were brought to life!
Ita absolutely loved this and both myself and my husband were wowed!
We also ate at Lumiere’s for lunch which was a bit bland by comparison. Although the setting was quite obviously Beauty and the Beast, there was not any additional elements apart from a painted wall.
Each morning we headed to Cabanas for breakfast. We saw a few people complain about the breakfast but we felt there was plenty of options – cooked, cereals and fresh fruits. We really enjoyed it! One disappointing fact was that there were no Mickey waffles! Almost a crime you might say! Afterwards we learnt that they were only in Lumieres and Rapunzels at breakfast time. So if you do really want Mickey waffles then make sure you head there.
Health and Safety
This was something that was stressed before reservations opened and equally, something that put many of sailing.
I want to be very clear here, I acknowledge covid is real and we were doubled jabbed before this was a requirement. However, the precautions taken as addition are really disproportionate and in my opinion they made a huge difference to enjoying this cruise.
Onboard, everything was spotless and everyone was socially distanced and wearing masks. (Please don’t get me started on the masks…). The issue is that you couldn’t so much as get a photo without wearing a mask and this was really off putting. It is also the single reason we did not purchase a photo package. Why on earth would I want a book of us wearing masks?!
Children under a certain age did not have to wear masks in general however, only after booking the Bippidy Boppidy Boutique were we informed that Ita would be expected to. Frustratingly, I had already told Ita about this and she was really excited….
Bippidy Boppidy Boutique
One of the activities that I really wanted to book for Ita was the Bippidy Boppidy Boutique. She has done this in Disneyland Paris and was so excited at the prospect of doing it in Florida, so I really wanted to make sure that I was able to get a booking for her. When I did get a reservation, I was so happy!
However, one thing that was not clear to us was that she would be required to wear a mask. The whole experience was really ruined by the requirement to wear a mask, one I consider to be draconian and insanely unnecessary given the precautions we took to get on board. As a result of the need to wear a mask, children cannot have their make up done… exactly. So we paid for her to sit in a seat and have her hair done… Bippidy Boppidy BOOOOOO. We were given a make up pallet to take away but it just isn’t the same. I can’t recommend this experience sadly and I know others who feel the same way too.
What I will say though is that the prices are well reflected. We brought a specially made dress with us so opted for the 99dollars package. Ita received a little bag, a BBB T-shirt, make-up pallet, nail polish and a sash. She also of course had her hair styled. What is unfortunate is that because she had to wear a mask the whole way through, I wasn’t too keen on capturing it and therefore I don’t really have any photos of this experience. It’s such a shame and I hope this is reviewed.
As the cruise was all inclusive, you might be surprised to learn that you cant actually get drinks everywhere without paying. Every single time we wanted a soft drink (without paying) we had to make our way to deck 9. We had thought perhaps room service would be different however it wasn’t. So do bear this in mind!
Food is included however and as is milk, but we were charged for our sprite and cola. Definitely order a Mickey ice cream just for the sake of it.. although it’s a fancy choc ice, it’s still quite cute!
Tips and Tax
It is really important to consider that whatever you purchase in the shops is subject to an additional 20% tax and that for every night on the ship, each member of your party incurs tips which need to be paid upon check out. You can actually pay this in advance of sailing and I would recommend doing this!
On the first day we didn’t really experience any issues with motion sickness but the second day hit us hard! And not just us, it hit plenty of people hard! We took some tablets which did help but they also made us really tired! I think if you are prone to motion sickness then cruises probably aren’t for you.
This was a bit of a let down to be honest. I don’t know what we were expecting but by comparison to the huge welcome, leaving the ship felt a bit like we were being kicked off! We actually laughed that when you board your luggage is taken away to be brought to your room and you get that fancy shout out, but when you leave your expected to bring your own luggage off and there is no special bye!
Highlights – the live shows and the evening dining at Rapunzels and Animators Palate. These were just incredible. Honestly the evenings just came to life and felt really magical. We have the best memories from the evenings.
Poor parts – without a doubt the lack of character interaction and boredom during the day. I would recommend forgetting about the characters and enjoying a live show and the theatre during the day instead. Swimming is also an option too!
Ita absolutely loved the cruise which was by far the most important thing for us.
She has even asked to go again!
Although I am glad that we went – and there definitely were some really lovely highlights and memories made – but overall it felt lacking in the Disney magic that we are so used to.
I really hope that DCL review the staycation for those who are yet to attend and I hope they take on board the need for magic!