– By Darlin’ Diva
In the summer of 2013, we took the most amazing, incredible, fantastic vacation! We spent a week aboard the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean. A lot of effort went into making that cruise one of the best vacations our family has ever had. I’m here today to share with you what I learned – all that hard work paid off and, with few exceptions, we wouldn’t have changed a single moment of our trip.
- Work your way up if you need to: Our fifth Disney cruise was in the Mediterranean. We started with short, close-to-home cruises (Bahamas) and gradually worked our way up. After we purchased passports, which are not cheap, we decided to actually use them to visit as many places as possible on our carefully budgeted vacation time and dollars. Once we visited Canada for our Alaskan Disney Cruise on the Wonder in 2011, we felt ready to tackle Europe.
- Book Early: We try to book our next Disney cruise while we are ON a Disney cruise. There are some price advantages for re-booking onboard, so we make a placeholder reservation then keep our eyes and ears open for future cruise announcements. Since we have a 24 month allowance before we have to sail, we wait for a great itinerary and try to book on the very first day allowed. Prices tend to increase on popular itineraries – booking early is a must. Also, by booking early, we have as long a time as possible to pay for our trip.
- Be aware that airfare can be half the cost of your entire vacation: If the cruise price for a European itinerary sounds reasonable, the airfare will NOT. Flights can be crazy expensive and may easily double the price of your trip! Get help from a qualified travel agent (like the Divas’ favorite, Patricia) if you’re not savvy about booking international flights and brace yourself for the expense. If you can afford it, a Disney cruise in Europe is a great way to give your children a small taste of what the world has to offer. We saw Spain, France, and Italy on our Mediterranean cruise and got to spend at least one day in each country, with three-days’ worth of time in Italy. Even this little bit was enough to make our children passionate about seeing as much of the world as possible in the future.
- Research and then do even more research: I relied on Rick Steves’ travel guides in both audio (podcast) and book form, but there are tons of great resources on the internet and at the library. Research helped me feel confident about avoiding pick-pockets and scams in large cities. I was able to book excellent tours on our own (like a Segway tour in Barcelona) with well-known, respected tour companies. Research helped us know what attire was appropriate for visiting churches and cathedrals. We made sure we wouldn’t be kept from seeing everything on our to-do list by wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts (guards will turn you away at the door!). If your children are school-age, it’s easy to tie many of the historic sites you visit to class lessons on history, art, religion, and culture.
- Plan for action with an action plan: We wanted to get as much out of every moment as possible. We tried to choose doing over seeing at every opportunity. Many tours are available that take you places and show you things from the comfort of a motorcoach – which is fine if you have physical restrictions that would make walking difficult. We’re an active family and we did not want to see Europe from a bus window. We chose excursions that involved lots of walking and hands-on experiences. We spent a day on the French coast completely on our own and were overjoyed with what we got to see and do. We rode public transportation (with our guides) in Rome and felt we squeezed the most we possibly could out of our time there. A good, action-packed plan was crucial.
Bonus Tip: Do not ignore travel advice on the best ways to beat jet lag! Your legs and feet will swell, you’ll be grouchy and lethargic, and it’ll take days to recover. Not that I’d know about that from personal experience or anything…just sayin’.
We found the experience of a Disney Cruise in Europe to be expensive, logistically challenging, time-consuming, exhausting, and somewhat stressful and cannot WAIT to do it again. For our family, seeing so much of the world in seven short days was life-changing. When we returned home, we immediately started figuring out how and when we could take another amazing vacation like that one. This summer, we’ll be sailing with Disney Cruise Line once again in Europe – this time in Denmark and Norway. Check back soon for tips and tales from our next adventure…Darlin’ Diva
What’s been your best Disney Cruise Line vacation so far?