Special Info for these Crazy Times:
News for 2021:
- Disneyland Finally Scheduled to Reopen
- Planning and Executing Your Walt Disney World Vacation During These Trying Times
- 2021 Walt Disney World Armed Forces Salute Ticket Announcement
- Using Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets in 2021
- Using the Walt Disney World Theme Park Reservation System
- Park Hopping Returns to Walt Disney World Starting in 2021
Everything is Different at WDW since it Reopened. See Our Trip Reports:
- 2022 Disney Armed Forces Salute Timeline
- Our Return to Walt Disney World (Aug/Sep 2020)
- Our Second Trip Back to Walt Disney World (Nov 2020)
- Our Third Trip Back to Walt Disney World (Jan 2021)
Disney Cruise Line Military Discounts The Disney Cruise Line continues to offer Military discounts. Discounted Military Disney Cruise Rates are usually announced 30-60 days out from each sailing.
The military deals are for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8-night cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean with a few Mexican Riviera options. There are options to sail on all four of the line’s ships.
MDT Reader Trip Reoprt
Today I’m so happy to present a trip report on a 3-day sailing on the Disney Dream by U.S. Air Force member Josh. Josh and family recently took advantage of a short notice military discount and took their first ever cruise. They had a blast!
Without further ado here is Josh’s very through and interesting trip report.
3-Nighter on the Disney Dream with a Military Discount
By TSgt Joshua Strang
We are a military family of 4, with two girls ages 8 and 4. My wife and I typically like to plan very far out for a Disney vacation. One year we bought a trip with the military discount to Walt Disney World on December 26th and didn’t travel until September of the following year.
We had been looking into a cruise but Disney does not offer a regular military discount like the Land and the World do. Typically they offer a military discount for a couple weeks every once in a while. So with a PCS coming up later this year, we had talked about getting in a vacation early in the year which led me to look at a Disney cruise. Within about a month, we had booked and were headed to Port Canaveral for our first-ever cruise.
We found the military discount here and booked the cruise almost entirely online. It is very easy using their site. We did call a few days later to add gratuities but I will get in to that in a bit.
Once you have booked, I highly recommend completing your paperwork on-line when you are allowed to do the on-line check in. Complete it all to include registering your kids for the kids club. It makes life very easy later. A few days before our trip we received our cruise booklet and luggage tags in the mail.
Arrival & Check In
Flash forward to arrival day, arriving and parking at the port were very easy. Once you pull up, a cast member takes your checked luggage from you and you don’t see it again until it is delivered to your stateroom a few hours later. You then proceed to park in the parking garage. Your parking price is based on the length of your cruise. For our 3-nighter, it was $60 which you pay after the cruise as you drive out. After parking, we grabbed our carry-on and proceeded to the terminal.
As you approach, there is a small line as you wait to go through security. Your bags are checked and you walk through a metal detector, just as you would at an airport. One difference though, you don’t have to take off your shoes.
After security, you proceed up the escalator to check-in. You are asked if you are Castaway Club members (meaning you have sailed with Disney before) and since we had not, we were ushered to the longer line. Although it was a long line, our wait was definitely acceptable as they have a lot of people checking you in. Since we had completed our paperwork on-line, check-in couldn’t have been easier.
One thing to note, if you do not have a passport, birth certificates work too but they MUST be certified copies. The lady checks every one by sight and touch for an embossed seal. A quick signature later and we were ready to go.
After you check in, you could get in line to have a photo taken with Pluto. We decided to just waive and move on. You can also get your children their wrist bands before you enter the ship which we decided to do. Again, since we had registered them on-line, this was a simple process as well. The girls were each given a magic band which they kept on until the last night when we turned them in. To note, you could keep them for $12.95 each.
After we were all registered, we headed through a Mickey shaped doorway and got in line for a family photo in front of a generic Disney cruise logo background. You could skip this if you please. After the photo you walk onto the ship. Some very friendly cast members (with a lot of energy) ask your name and then announce you as you enter the ship.
You enter in the lobby on deck 3 and are free to basically do whatever you want.
TIP: you can take about anything you want to have the characters sign it. I had read some people take pillow cases. We took a photo matte that we had purchased at home and brought with us. We also brought our own pack of 8 color sharpies. I recommend dropping this off at Guest Services as soon as you get on the ship. If you wait too long, you may not get it done. The good thing is that Guest Services is right where you board the ship so that was our first stop. They drop it back off to your stateroom on the last night of the cruise.
Our next stop was to check out our room.
Our military rate was under the room code 05A which gave us room number 10532, an Oceanview Room with Veranda on the 10th deck. We found the room to be a good size and we enjoyed the double bathrooms.
The best part though was the veranda which contained two chairs and a small table. The room was also close to a set of stairs and bank of elevators. One flight up was the pools, Flows V-8 grill, ice cream, soda station, etc. After we had discovered our room, we headed to Cabanas for some lunch.
One thing we noticed right away is the hygiene of all the common areas. Going in to the restaurants you are given sanitary wipes that everyone must clean their hands with. If you leave and come back in, you re-clean your hands.
The great thing about the cruise is that after you book and pay, all the food is free. The exceptions to this are alcoholic drinks, dining at the Palo or Remy restaurants, and a few things here and there like kids smoothies.
Cabanas is a buffet style restaurant and we really liked the food there. It would be a staple for breakfast for us almost every day. After lunch we decided to explore the ship until it was time for the mandatory safety drill.
Before you set sail, you have to attend a mandatory drill to show you where you would go in case of an emergency. We showed up early (typical military) and waited for the drill. We did find the drill to be a little long, as you have to stand there for a bit and listen to some basic information. Our 4 year old especially was “antsy” as were a number of other kids in our area. After the drill is over you are free to go. We decided to check out the kids club areas.
The two kids areas are right next to each other and the first night they have an open house time so parents can go check out (and be jealous) of all the cool play areas the kids get to enjoy. In typical Disney fashion, they are pretty much fantastic.
Once again, cleanliness is top priority. As soon as you walk in, they have these really cool hand wash stations for the kids and the kids counselors make sure every kid cleans their hands before they go in.
The counselors are fantastic and were always, cheery, upbeat and a lot of fun. The kids use their magic bands to sign in to the clubs. They can only be signed out by you or someone you deem ok.
When you show up to pick them up, they swipe your room key (which also serves for paying for drinks, getting you off and on the ship, etc.) and your photo comes up. Then they let you in to find your kid but before you leave, they swipe your key again, look at your photo and ask for your password that you set up online. I felt my kids were very secure and in good hands whenever they were in the kids clubs.
Dining On Board
One of the things we loved about the cruise was the food. They have what I feel to be a great way to get you to eat in each of their restaurants called rotational dining. You sign up for a dinner time when you book your cruise. There is Main Dining (about 1715) and Second Dining (about 2015).
We were signed up for the second dining times as the main dining time was sold out when we booked. The Disney Dream has 3 main restaurants called the Royal Palace, Animator’s Palate and the Enchanted Garden. On your key card are the letters for which restaurant you will eat in. Ours said RAE which meant on night one we would eat in Royal Palace, night 2 was Animator’s Palate and night 3 was Enchanted Garden.
We also had the same wait staff that followed us to each restaurant and got to know over the course of the trip. Our head waiter liked to play with our girls and pretend to steal their food. The staff was great. They even cut up our kids salads! I also really hope you like desserts. There were times we ended up with 6 plates of goodies even though we only ordered 2.
As I mentioned, we ate in the Royal Palace on the first night. It may be where we were sitting but this was our least favorite dinner. I believe it also had to do with the fact we were all tired from the drive to the port earlier in the day, all the excitement on the ship and the fact we were feeling a little off due to the rocking of the ship. It could also have to do with the fact I dumped my Coke in my lap so I had to sit in soda. The food was great but the atmosphere compared to the other 2 restaurants was so-so in our opinion.
Night 2 was at Animator’s Palate. This is a really cool restaurant in its colors and animated screens. I won’t ruin any surprises here but if you want to miss a restaurant meal, I wouldn’t miss this one. Nor would I miss the next one, the Enchanted Garden. The Enchanted Garden turned out to be our favorite. Again, I won’t ruin any surprises here but it was a great atmosphere.
Entertainment For Everyone
We found that between time together as a family and time for just my wife and I were about perfect. We enjoyed doing things together but also apart. The kids always loved the kids clubs and honestly cried one night that they had to go to dinner.
To note, the kids clubs do serve your kids dinner if you leave them their over that time. This could give you time to enjoy the fancier Remy or Palo, which we did not do on this trip.
The ship has a lot to do for families. There are 2 family pools, a Mickey slide, the Aquaduck, movies by the pools, mini-golf, the Midship Detective Agency, etc.
The Aquaduck is a lot of fun. The line can get long but the ride is worth it. You ride a tube on a water coaster around the deck of the ship. It is a 2-person coaster so one parent and one child can ride together or both parents can ride together. For both children to ride together, one child needs to be of a certain height.
Another really fun activity was the Midship Detective Agency. You are given a mystery to solve while walking around the ship looking for interactive paintings. We completed it 3 times. Hint: The bad guy isn’t the same even if you do the same mission so do it more than once!
Also on ship are the Broadway style shows. We attended all three and enjoyed them all. There are 2 a night and they go along with your dinner times. For example, we had a second dining time of 2015 so we went to the early show at 1815. Each show is about an hour which gives you time to do some shopping, kids club time or whatever else before your dinner.
The three shows on the Dream are The Golden Mickeys, Villains Tonight and Believe. We all enjoyed the shows. To note, if you miss a show for whatever reason, they show them on the TVs in your room.
Ports Of Call
Our itinerary included ports in Nassau and Disney’s island, Castaway Cay. We stayed on the ship in Nassau and used it to spend time in the pools, on the Aquaduck, solving the Midship Detective mysteries, eating, etc. There are less people on board at this time so it’s a good time to explore the ship. We were not interested in exploring Nassau.
Before getting off the ship at Castaway Cay, we went down to the lobby to get photos with princesses at a princess meet and greet. There are multiple character meeting times and places throughout the day.
On Castaway Cay they have a kids club that our girls enjoyed as well as time on the family beach. They also serve a free island BBQ which is a buffet style serving. You are allowed to get on and off the ship as much as you want but it is a little distance away so we just stayed on the island.
Preparing To Leave
On the last night, you are given envelopes to give your servers and room servers. These are for gratuities. You can prepay your gratuities before your trip which makes it really easy. They give you slips of paper with a predetermined amount printed on them and you just put it in the envelope and hand it to your staff on the last night.
Everyone there is incredibly friendly and helpful. They really do deserve a good gratuity for all they do for you. If you do not prepay, you simply put a gratuity in the envelope and give it to them that way.
On the last night at no later than 2230, you will need to have your bags packed and outside your stateroom for them to pack away. You will not see them again until just before you go through Customs so remember to keep out the clothes you want to wear the next day!
They give you a bag tag specific to your area on the ship. We had Chip and Dale. The last morning you are given a breakfast time and are invited to eat in the last restaurant you ate in the night before. Ours was the Enchanted garden.
This is when having the Second Dining payed off. Our breakfast time was at 0800. The Main Dining people had to eat breakfast at about 0645 or so. That little extra time to get up and get ready was nice.
When you leave your room to go to breakfast, you will not return to it. After breakfast, you make your way to deck 3 and exit the ship in the same door you entered.
Back On Land
Finding your bags is very simple. You simply look for your character (Chip and Dale), tell the person standing there your room number and they show you to your bags. Then it is through Customs and on to your car. I thought leaving the ship was going to be horrible but it was honestly the quickest and most efficient process I have seen. If only returning from a deployment was as easy…
Overall, we enjoyed our time on the cruise. I did find that the 3-nighter was a good thing as well as bad. The good is that it is nice and short for first time cruisers that don’t know how they will do with sea sickness. It is bad in that, you really feel a little rushed in trying to do as much as you can while also finding time to just sit and relax with a “drink of the day”. It was a great time and I highly recommend trying it at least once.
Cruise Date: April 10-13, 2014
Cruise Cost: Total with Military Discount and Tip roughly $2196. Full Price without tip $2900. Savings: Roughly $800+
If you have any questions or comments for my wife or I, please let us know and we will be more than happy to help you out.
Thanks again Josh! I’m so glad that you shared your experience on the Disney Cruise Line with us. And thanks for the pictures too.
You can ask Josh any question you’d like in the comments section below.
Would you like to share your trip report? Let me know!
Military Disney Tips readers can make their Disney Cruise Line reservations through Ears of Experience. Ears of Experience is a Fee Free Travel Agency they specialize only in Disney Vacations.
Owned and operated by a military family! They knows all the ins and outs of Disney Military Discounts! There is never an extra fee but always extra service.
Planning a Disney Trip? Want to get the best military discounts that are available? Feeling a little confused? Get Our Email Newsletter
Read about the Temporary Changes to Disney World during their Post-Lockdown Re-OpeningSee Our Great Disney Discount and Planning Info:
- Disney Veteran & Military Discount Eligibility Guide
- The Military Family’s Walt Disney World Comprehensive Vacation Planning and Preparation Guide
- Military Disney Tips Disney Packing Checklist
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
- Resorts/Hotel Overview Page
- Dining Overview Page
- Transportation Overview Page
- Technology Overview Page
- Shades of Green, WDW’s Military Only Resort
Military Disney Tips' Recommended Disney Travel Agent
Ears of Experience Disney Only Travel Agency. Military family owned and operated! They know all the ins and outs of Disney military discounts!