by Soarin’ Diva
It’s no secret that my family loves the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. We purchase the updated version every year and use it for our vacation planning. There are more details in those books than you could ever imagine wanting or needing, but when you see them, you realize you couldn’t plan your vacation without these details. When I was approached about reading and reviewing one of the Unofficial Guide books, of course I was giddy with excitement. The only problem was…which one should I choose. There are several different books to choose from. I decided to pick one on a subject which I had no prior experience with, but would love to know more about. I chose The Unofficial Guide Disney Cruise Line 2016.
My husband and I have talked about the possibility of taking a Disney Cruise in the future for a while now, but we don’t know anything about them. Well, nothing other than the obvious being that it takes place on the ocean. When I received my copy of the book, I prepared myself for a few days of curling up on the couch, reading and dreaming of the cruise life. I flipped through the book and was blown away by the details included. Questions were answered for me that I didn’t even know I would need to ask.
The Unofficial Guide Disney Cruise Line 2016 was written by Len Testa with Erin Foster, Laurel Stewart and Ritchey Halphen. I will confess, I’m jealous of a life in which you would have a need for taking several Disney cruises in the name of getting information for a book. Why, oh why can’t that be my life? Alas, it is not, so I will live vicariously through this talented group of cruisers and writers.
Part I, II, III- Dollars and Sense, Planning Your Cruise, Staterooms: The book begins with a subject that is always first and foremost in everyone’s minds, the financial aspects of cruising. This portion gives you everything you need to know about what is included in the cost of your cruise, as well as the extras that go along with it. From paying extra at the two expensive restaurants on board the ships, Remy and Palo, pricing for your alcoholic beverages, prices for your extra-curricular activities when on shore excursions, spa and salon services, arcades, prices of a rousing game of bingo, and even the cost of ship to shore phone calls and internet if you are so addicted to the web that you can’t even break free for a cruise. If you are like me and are a total cruise novice, and even if you have been on a few cruises, you NEED to read part II! There are almost 50 different itineraries offered by Disney Cruise Lines. This book breaks them down for you and can be very instrumental in deciding which itinerary is right for you and your family. There are many destinations to choose from, and time frame can range from a two night getaway to a 15 night vacation of a lifetime. They even break down the best time frames to take your cruise vacations, depending on pricing for each month based on previous data collected. This part of the book also goes into packing for your trip, health insurance, cell phones, travel documents, and the possibility of splitting your vacation between cruising and a trip to Walt Disney World Resorts. In part III, you get all the details of staterooms, such as square feet for the level of luxury you are looking for in each of the four Disney Cruise ships. It also lets you know what exactly is included in your room (everything from toiletries to t.v.’s and life jackets). Included in this part of the book are diagrams of the staterooms for every level of service for each of the Disney Cruise ships.
Part IV- Arriving, Getting Your Sea Legs, and Departing: This is the place to turn if you want to learn about your departure ports. I love that this portion even gives you the names, phone numbers and pricing of third-party non-Disney shuttle services to and from the departure ports for all the Disney Cruise Line ships. It gives excellent advice on when you need to be at the ports before your departure, how to check in at your terminal, what to expect when boarding the ship, and even what to expect your last night of your cruise.
Part V- Special Tips for Special People: Can I just say how much I LOVE that this topic was included in the book? No detail has been overlooked when writing this book. Here is where you learn what to expect for single travelers (yes, believe it or not, even singles take cruises on Disney, not just families), expectant moms, seniors, small children, older children, guests with disabilities, guests with dietary restrictions, guests traveling with medication, smoking on board and other topics as well.
Part VI, VII, VIII- The Ships at a Glance, Dining, Entertainment and Nightlife: For me, perhaps this was the coolest part of the book. I’m a visual person, and included in this section is a diagram of each one of the Disney Cruise Line ships, the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. You are given a little background information on each of the ships, how long they have been sailing, if they have been updated since first sailing, and what features on included on each of the ships. This is where you get your details on each of the ships swimming pools, the clubs for kids, tweens and teens, and the bars. After pricing of your vacation, the second most important part of your Disney Cruise Line vacation planning is probably dining, right? Who doesn’t love to talk about food? In section VII you learn all you need to know about counter service dining, cafe’s and lounges, buffets, full-service restaurants, even room service. You will read about what is expected when dining with children, the dress codes for restaurants, as well as what you need to know for those who need to be on special diets. This portion breaks down each restaurant for each ship, whether or not they accept reservations, where on ship they are located, when they are open, and quality and taste of the food served. I love how honest the authors of this book are, and they don’t disappoint when giving reviews of the entertainment aboard the Disney Cruise Line ships in section VIII. In this part, you will read about each of the live shows offered for each ship, which shows aren’t to be missed and which should be skipped so you can head to the spa instead. You will even read about special holiday celebrations, formal nights, Star Wars Days, and Frozen Days. You will learn more about nightclubs, cafe’s, bars and lounges for each ship as well.
Part IX- Activities, Recreation, and Shopping: This is where you will learn even more about deck parties, children’s activities, youth clubs from babies up to teens, where to meet characters, and children’s activities when in port. As the mom of a tween and teen, I love the break down they give you of what types of activities are available for children, tweens and teens, and trust me, there seems to be plenty to keep them busy. You will also learn more details about each ships pools, sports and fitness, spas available, and shopping, both onboard and when in port. There is even a portion that tells about the religious services offered if you are on a cruise seven nights or longer.
Part X, XI, XII- Castaway Cay (pronounced Castaway Key), Ports, Port Adventures: Again, being a visual person, I love the map of Castaway Cay included in this section, letting you know where to find everything from shopping, food and drinks to all the attractions and where the first aid department is . Detailed in this portion are lists letting you know what to pack for your Castaway Cay excursion, attractions that are offered, such as biking trails, snorkeling, sailboat and paddleboat rentals, and the Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure (which sounds like fun to me!) You also get a break down of each port with the language spoken in that region, the season the cruise line travels and stops in those ports, what to pack for these ports, and any pros and cons to traveling to those ports. No detail has been left out when reading through this section. I do believe this is probably the longest section in the book, simply because there are so many ports Disney travels to and so much to learn about them. I confess, I had no idea there was so much I might possibly learn from this book. This is an excellent subject to read through when booking your trip, just to help you decide which itinerary might be right for you.
In the final section of the book, the details given about port excursions and adventures will make you excited for your own adventures. It breaks down pricing of each excursion, how to customize your own adventures, cancellation policies if you do need to cancel, and most importantly, safety. Face it, many of you going on a Disney Cruise Line vacation will be traveling to foreign countries, where you don’t know a lot about the area around you, and you must take the safety of your family and yourself seriously. On a lighter note, you will read more about the previously mentioned Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure, as well as boat rentals, bike rentals, a glass-bottom-boat excursion, fishing, parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking, water-skiing and, for those runners who can’t get enough, the Castaway Cay 5k Run, which is offered for every cruise to Castaway Cay. There is even a section offering recommendations for those of you heading to Nassau and other ports.
That sums up the Unofficial Guide Disney Cruise Line 2016, but I definitely recommend that those of you who are going on a Disney Cruise Line cruise grab a copy of this book and get the details for yourself. I’ll be honest, my eyes were definitely opened about cruises when reading this book. I had no idea how much I actually DIDN’T know about cruising until I read it. What my husband and I have always loved about the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is how honest and upfront they are in their reviews of everything from food and resorts to attractions and entertainment. The Unofficial Guide Disney Cruise Line 2016 holds the same theme of honesty and well thought out advice. The authors are very upfront about what they didn’t care for in Disney cruising as well as what they love about Disney cruising. They even suggest using another cruise line depending on what exactly you are looking for when thinking about your cruising vacation. Are you thinking about booking your own Disney Cruise? Perhaps you just need a quote before deciding? Feel free to contact Patricia with All for Dreams Travel, our travel specialist, and she can answer any questions you may have. Reading this book has only reaffirmed my love for the Unofficial Guide books and their honesty as well as their sense of humor on certain things and I highly recommend it, as a matter of fact, I give it two Mickey thumbs up!
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Disney Diva Disclaimer: Liliane Opsomer from the Unofficial Guide series provided me a copy of the book, “The Unofficial Guide Disney Cruise Line 2016″ to review for free. She has also generously allowed our site to give away a copy of another Unofficial Guide book for free to our readers. I received no other compensation for my review, and my opinions are 100% entirely my own.
Also, all of the copyrights for the photographs used in the article belong to Liliane Opsomer, and are being used with her permission.