by Canadian Diva
With their extensive knowledge, meticulous attention to detail, unbiased opinions, coupled with their trademark humor and expertise in all things Disney, it’s no wonder the Unofficial Guide Series also included a travel book devoted to the Disney Cruise Line. I literally jumped at the chance to review The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017, as I have been a fan of The Unofficial Guides for many years. Their Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is almost as iconic as the Mouse himself (see Jollyfrogger Diva’s review of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017 here) and with over 6 million Guides in total sold, these folks know their stuff!
First, why are they called “Unofficial”? The Unofficial Guide Team are not affiliated with the Walt Disney World Company, or any of the other Theme Parks and Travel Destinations that they review. This means, they give you their honest assessment about everything they experience, so that you can make the most out of your vacation.
The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017 is written by Len Testa with co-authors; Erin Foster, Laurel Stewart and Ritchey Halphen. They also include tips by Master Cruisers; Scott Sanders (of the disneycruiselineblog.com) and Matt Hochberg (of the royalcaribbeanblog.com). Together, they form one expert team of oceanic proportions, to help you know, all you practically need to know about cruising with the Disney Cruise Line (DCL).
Like Walt Disney World, there is something for everyone, which the authors say is the same for those wanting to go on a Disney Cruise. Whether you are a virgin cruiser, a family with kids, a single cruiser or couple without kids, a Foodie, a World Adventurist, someone who has cruised with another cruise line and even Veteran DCL Cruisers, this book has YOU covered. Read on and see which type of person you are and find out how you would benefit from having The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017 before you embark on your next DCL journey.
The Virgin Cruiser
You have NEVER been on a cruise ship before. Perhaps the idea of being stuck on a “boat” with thousands of people gives you anxiety (on page 375, the authors tell you why it’s not called a “boat”). But you have heard how awesome cruising is and want to try. Well this guide is FANTASTIC for you. They explain in such details, each of the four DCL ships: Wonder, Magic, Dream and Fantasy. They also provide great money saving tips, informing you of when the best times to sail are, which particular ship might be best for you, a step by step process of how to board and a whole array of information on Staterooms, Restaurants, Activities on Board, Shows, Shore Excursions (or ‘Port Adventures’ in Disney Speak) as well as detailed diagrams of each ship’s layout and maps of where DCL cruises to around the World. The guide also has a map of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island and a section showing every DCL Itinerary for 2017. You will totally be enthralled reading it cover to cover.
My favorite tip of this Guide is by Scott Sanders, “Scott Says” on page 184, which I think is an especially perfect tip for first-time cruisers.
You have KIDS
It’s safe to say that almost any child will enjoy a vacation on a Disney Cruise. No matter the personality of your child (or children), DCL will be able to accommodate your family. However, this guide will explain certain age restrictions, like how old your infant can be before cruising, what age your child is considered “an adult” (it varies from destination to destination), and how DCL became the Cruise Industry leader in so many ways for families with children. The expert team have children of their own, so they are able to do the leg work to help you so that you can narrow down the perfect cruise vacation for your family, with tips like…
- Why your children may prefer an inside stateroom to an Oceanview one
- Different layouts and sizes of the various Kids’ clubs on each ship
- On which ship your kids can “pilot a faux Millennium Falcon” or where they can bring our their inner Superhero
- The difference between the AquaDuck and the AquaDunk, which ships has either and which one has neither
- Which ship has a game-changing place for a winning Ice Cream Sundae that would never wreck your trip
- A whole section on Disney Cruise Line’s private Island oasis, Castaway Cay, and the various activities your children will enjoy there
- At which European Port, you should just skip everything and go straight to because your children will LOVE it (and so did Walt Disney himself)
- Where your children might find “gold”
- At which particular shore excursion, your kids might be “bored to tears”
- What the authors’ teens think is “gross”
The above tips are just a small sample of what you will read in this guide when planning a vacation with your children in mind.
The Adult Cruiser
You may be a solo vacationer wanting to try a DCL cruise, or you are a couple planning your honeymoon, or perhaps you are parents who would love a little vacation from your family vacation. This Guide is incredible in telling you how ADULTS can enjoy a DCL cruise. Although it may not be a “party barge” as they say, the many activities and entertainment are enough to let you have a kid-free fun vacation. The authors tell you how DCL has many “Adult Only” amenities and areas on board.
- Enjoy Adult’s only places on the ship including pools, bars, nightclubs and even a coffee bar – they include 20 pages of information on Adult’s only entertainment
- Have a kid-free, sophisticated Adults only meal at the Adults only Fine-Dining
- Which shows to skip and go to the spa instead
- The authors state that there are NO Casinos on board any DCL ships but if you’re itching to get your gambling game on, the authors tell you which Ports have great Casinos (just make sure you get back to the Ship on time!)
- Where you can see “Nekkid” people
- Read the many adventures of Len Testa and the other authors getting … tipsy
Plus informative seminars (like a Mixology class) and so much more.
Disney Theme Park Fan
You are probably a Virgin Cruiser as well. You are the person who is a total Walt Disney World fanatic. You’ve always wanted to go on a Disney Cruise but you may have been hesitant to “test the waters”. Well the Unofficial Guide Series’ folks are your “tribe”. Like you, they know Disney World (and Disneyland) like the back of their hands. So when writing this guide, they give you the perspective of experts of all things Disney. You will see familiarity in this Guide as…
- They compare Disney Cruise Line stateroom sizes to the size of a Value Resort Room and Moderate Resort rooms at Walt Disney World
- Which restaurant on which particular ship, you can talk to the coolest turtle, Crush, as you do in Epcot
- Which Ship has an experience similar to Hollywood Studio’s “Jedi Training Academy”
- Tips on Disney Character Meet and Greets
- What co-author Laurel Steward calls, “the Princess Bomb”
- The explanations of the various Disney-theming of the Ships, Restaurants and Kids’ areas, will have you dreaming of being totally immersed like you are at a Disney Theme Park, but at sea!
Fun Fact: co-author Erin Foster is a CHARTER member of the Official Disney Moms Panel.
The Veteran DCL Cruiser
Here, at the Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos, we have quite a number of Veteran DCL cruisers. Our own Cruisn’ Diva could probably write a whole Guide with her extensive knowledge and DCL experience.
If you are a Veteran cruiser, I feel you would benefit greatly from this Guide as well. It has a lot of up to date information and they know many with insider knowledge. The team has visited every nook and cranny of the ship that you may not have seen or visited yet. Or perhaps there was a port you haven’t experienced but is on your bucket list or a particular restaurant or lounge you haven’t tried on your last Disney Cruise. You will get a kick out of their opinions as you live vicariously again through the authors’ experiences. You can agree, disagree or agree to disagree with their ratings and reviews. Here are some great examples of what you, the fortunate Veteran cruiser, might enjoy reading about and which could indeed help you plan your next vacation on a Disney Cruise…
- On which ship and in which particular area, you may want to avoid at the spa because of pounding being heard above
- Speaking of Spas, which experience they feel is the most relaxing as well as which spa on which ship is better than the others
- Which table is their favorite at Palo and which ship has the more sophisticated Palo
- Their favorite viewing spots on all the ships and where you can get the best Wifi signal on each ship
- Which ships they like the treadmills but also which ships have treadmills that get them disoriented
- Which bathroom you MUST visit
- Where they suggest you can visit for a moment (because it’s one of the coolest places on board) but you may not be able to stay because it’s not your “vibe”
- If you ever wanted to experience Concierge level, they share their experience on this
- Information including Laws on how to do a back-to-back cruises
- Read how co-author Laurel Stewart got pushed to Castaway Cay Platinum status
- Find out why author Len Testa did carpet angels on a ship’s floor one time
- If you have never been on a River Cruise, they have a whole section on this as well
If you have vacationed on other Cruise Lines, but wanted to try a Disney Cruise Line, there is a section on comparing DCL with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which the authors say are the most similar in the industry. Matt Hochberg of royalcaribbeanblog.com gives great tips and advice. The authors also make mention of other Cruise Lines throughout this Guide too.
Personal note: My family has cruised on Carnival Cruise Line and we all LOVED it – it’s super affordable, food is great and the service is amazing. However, since we are Walt Disney World fans, a Disney Cruise Line is definitely on our bucket list. And after reading this Guide, it makes me want go on a Disney Cruise even more!
To be honest with you, I initially was not looking forward to reading this section. Surprisingly, their Port Adventure chapter turned out to be one of my favorite sections of this guide. They explain each port that DCL visits. I enjoyed reading the snippets of History that they included with each Port. The authors start by introducing the indigenous people of each region. They account the historical battles and which country eventually took over. All of this information is pertinent in learning about the influences of language, architecture, customs and cultural traditions you will see when you visit. The team explains what type of weather to expect at each port and their opinions of the best places to visit within each port. They help you save money by telling you what is each place’s specialty souvenir is and what to avoid spending on. As well, they describe the cuisine and alcohol unique to each region.
Fun Fact: co-author Laurel Stewart lived in the Bahamas.
The Unofficial Guide put the “tour” in Touring Plans. You may know this site and their very popular Lines APP, as the GO TO place to figure out how to maximize touring Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Universal Orlando. In each Guide, they include pages of their tours and in The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017, they have walking tours of some of the more popular ports!
I also mentioned earlier that this Guide has a whole section on Castaway Cay (totally on my Bucket List). You will read tips specifically for this Disney-owned island paradise as…
- What you should wear proudly around
- A sentimental must-buy purchase that you can only get on this island
- What’s totally free and well organized
- Which excursion you need A LOT of leg power
- Their opinion of the most ‘rewarding’ shore excursion on the Castaway Cay
Plus, check out Guest Writer, Scott Sander’s “Scott Says” necessary “tip” on Port Adventures on page 330.
Now I wouldn’t be the Canadian Diva without giving you some Canadian tips. For my fellow Canucks, as you may know, 2017 is a special year for our Nation! It is Canada’s 150th Birthday. There will be celebrations ALL over our country. If you want to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary with a Disney Flair, you can. Besides visiting Walt Disney World, going to Epcot and getting a special 150 Happy Birthday Canada Button from the Canada Pavilion, you can also CRUISE to Canadian ports.
DCL cruises to ports on of both coastlines of Canada. It was absolutely lovely to read, about the ports DCL goes to on the East Coast of Canada because I have visited many of them. A DCL cruise would be PERFECT if you wanted to visit these historic Canadian cities and cruise on the same vacation. Although, you would have to embark from a US port, it is such a great way to “sea” some of Canada. This guide gives a brief yet great explanation into the history of each port and what you may enjoy. If you are going to the West Coast of Canada, DCL embarks from Vancouver, which The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line 2017 calls it one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Once on board, you can see some of Canada’s West Coastline as it heads up to Alaska.
Food and Drink
Who doesn’t love food? Well the Unofficial Guide team are expert Foodies too and they love to enjoy a glass of wine and spirit. I mentioned above how they explain the cuisine and alcohol unique to each port. They also give you such details about what food and drink you will experience on board, sometimes down to specific ingredients the chefs includes and how it may or may not really go with the theming of the restaurant or suit your palette. They discuss about various wine pairings at restaurants and the whole array of colorful alcohol concoctions that DCL offers in their many themed lounges, bars and nightclubs. Here is just a wee example of what you would expect when it comes to reading about food and drink on board and in the various Ports…
- They tell you how an experience on DCL will be as memorable as the birth of your first born
- They explain DCL’s unique rotational dining
- Why you need to “just ask”
- Find out what Disney’s “grain of the moment” is
- I wonder if Carioca’s (on the Magic), chimichurri sauce is as delicious as the one at Coronado Springs Resort’s Quick Service Restaurant, YUM!
- See what “Scott says” to do before trying Remy or Palo, and which time of day the authors said is best to dine at these restaurants
- The name of their favorite bartender
- Herbs in a cocktail? They teach you how to prepare to try this
- Do you know the “Second Law of Champagne”?
- They explain an exquisite experience which may be possibly the BEST 3 hour culinary experience of your life
- Which Port has a fruit that has an acquired taste (it happens to be my favorite fruit)
- Find out which restaurant is their favorite in Alaska
- Which Port has a particular delicacy that might make you retch
I always love the Food Section of The Unofficial Guides because of their detailed description of what to expect and their witty take on their many dining adventures. It was also interesting for me to read about Laurel Stewart eating only a plant-based diet at home and her suggestions for vegan and vegetarian eating on DCL. And I was curious to read about guest writer, Scott Sander’s shellfish allergy and his tips on this issue. My own toddler has multiple severe allergies. This is why my family and millions of other families like mine, choose a Walt Disney World vacation. Walt Disney World is one of the BEST vacation destinations catering to many people with severe food allergies, dietary restrictions or food related diseases like Celiac. The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017 has a nice section on tips for those with special dietary needs however it would be awesome if for their future guides, they could expand on this topic. I would love to know more tips on board for eating like..
- if DCL provides a dairy-free, gluten-free, mostly allergy-friendly “ice cream” similar to the famous Dole Whip
- if packaged Erin Mckenna’s (of Disney Springs fame) cupcakes are on board
- or if Enjoy Life Food (who has a partnership with Walt Disney World) snacks and cookies are available at the Buffets and for purchase at ships’ gift shops.
- explain in more detail of how the Buffets and Table Service Restaurants handle food allergies and their policies on cross contamination.
- and which Port is best for people with severe allergies to visit and which Ports they would tell you to avoid completely
It was great to read about the inclusiveness of everyone who wants to go on a Disney Cruise. In this guide they tell you how accessible staterooms can best accommodate people who need an ECV or people who are in a wheelchair. And how to get around on the ship as well as in certain Ports including Castaway Cay. They even have a special tip about service animals too.
I hope that all of the above has convinced you that this is the go-to guide if you are wanting to sail on a Disney Cruise. I adored reading this guide, mostly because they keep you engaged with all of the information along with their special humor. And an added touch were the colored photos found in the first few pages of this Guide, they give us a glimpse of what we can dream of while we have a fantasy of the magic that is the wonder of a Disney Cruise.
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Disney Diva Disclaimer: Liliane Opsomer from The Unofficial Guide Series and Keen Communications, LLC, provided me with a copy of The Unofficial Guide: Disney Cruise Line 2017. They have generously allowed ‘Tips from the Disney Diva and Devos” to give away another copy of ONE of The Unofficial Guide Series for free to our readers and fans of our site and social media. I received no other compensation for this review and my opinions are 100% entirely my own.
Copyrights of all the Photographs in this article belong to Liliane Opsomer and are being used with her permission.
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