Disney Cruise Line out of Miami

I want to share our experience sailing out of Miami since I couldn’t find a lot of information before our cruise. We always sail out of Port Canaveral so this was all new to us.

We stayed at the downtown Holiday Inn . It was an older hotel and the parking situation was ridiculous. It was valet parking and they put the cars VERY close together due to the small lot they have for guests’ cars. For that reason and a few others I doubt I’d stay there again even though it was very close to the port.

We called DCL the night before to ask what terminal to go to and we were instructed to go to Terminal C. Our check-in time was 11 and we left the hotel about 10:15 since we weren’t sure what traffic and parking would be like. We found C quite easily (though don’t be expecting digital signs with ship names like at Port Canaveral). At Port Canaveral there is a man directing traffic telling people where to go along the curb so a porter can assist with the luggage. No such thing in Miami. IT WAS A MESS! Buses trying to get out, limos trying to pull in, cars trying to figure out what to do, including us! I saw maybe 2 porters. We decided to park in the garage and bring our own luggage (thank God for spinner luggage.)

Once we handed off our luggage we walked across the street to stand in a long line that snaked around outside of the terminal. We weren’t there long once it started moving. Once we went inside we were directed into a line for a security officer to check our IDs and our port arrival form (printed out from when we did our online check-in. I’ve never had to show it in Port Canaveral but print it every time just in case). Then we walked through the metal detector while our carry ons were scanned. The line for Castaway Club was longer than the first time cruiser line but in our experience the Castaway Club line gives the earlier boarding groups so we went to that one. It moved slower than what I’ve experienced at Port Canaveral.

After we checked in and received our Key to the World cards and lanyards we were instructed to go up one level. Up there they were handing out Navigators and directing people into 2 separate “holding tank” areas (I’m assuming the higher numbers that came early were put in the other area). There was sufficient seating in our wait area but most people were too excited to sit.

Once our group was called we could have gone to the picture area to have embarkation pictures taken or keep going up the ramps to get on the ship. It’s not like Port Canaveral where you have to go through the picture area to get on the ship. When you enter the Magic in Miami it’s not into the Atrium but the deck above! It’s a little less Magical but who cares?! I was just thankful to be going on another Disney cruise. We got the warm, personal welcome aboard we’ve come to expect from Disney. It never gets old.

Fast forward to disembarkation.

The night before we got back to Miami we were given purple Minnie luggage tags to fill out and attach to our luggage. We were instructed to have the luggage out in the hallway by 10 (I think it’s the same on all ships). The next morning we got up, got ready and headed for Cabanas for breakfast (we don’t ever get up super early to eat in the main dining room). The plan was after breakfast we’d get off the ship and head up to WDW to continue our vacation. We assumed the disembarkation process was like Port Canaveral (you know what they say about assuming!) and the morning was not at all what we expected. The express walk-off people were cleared to get off the ship after 7:30. Then they started announcing color/character luggage tags and only those people with those tags could get off the ship! I think we heard most of the Disney characters and colors by the time they finally called purple Minnie. Once we got off the ship to collect our luggage we had to search for a bit since it was scattered all over the Minnie section. That’s never happened to us before, all our suitcases have been together. There were no porters available to assist with luggage and the customs line moved the slowest we’ve ever seen on any of our cruises. It was around 10:15 when we got to our car throwing our schedule off quite a bit. There were a lot more ships in port since it was a Saturday so traffic was heavy but we finally got out of the port area and on our way to WDW.

Of course I’d sail out of Miami again but I’d hope to fly and not drive. I think that would take away a lot of the hassle. We’d also look into park and rides and hotels that have a shuttle to the port. I realize that Port of Miami is huge and many of the things we didn’t like were due to the port, not Disney Cruise Line. Port Canaveral is so easy and they make it fun. There was nothing fun about Port of Miami. Next time I won’t compare but just take things as they come. I’m glad I have an idea of what to expect though. We had a great time on the Magic and can’t wait to cruise again.

Aft of the Disney Magic in Port of Miami. No, these birds did not poop on me like the ones in Port Canaveral.

5E GTY! Assigned 9670!

I’m a control freak, I totally admit it. I like to plan every aspect of our vacation and that includes researching where I want our cabin to be. Booking GTY was definitely out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad we rolled the dice!

We received our cabin assignment 48 days before our cruise. It was on a Friday. Everyone says it’s normally Tuesday but it can be any day and at any time! It was in the afternoon (I know this because I was obsessively checking). We were really hoping for a side cabin with the HUGE verandah and we got one! Cabin 9670. It was supposed to be handicap accessible but for whatever reason it couldn’t pass so it has handicap features but anyone can book.

9670 doesn’t have a privacy curtain but that was okay since we were sailing without our kids on this one. I was most concerned about the bathroom since we’ve always had the split bathroom design but I didn’t need to be concerned at all. We absolutely came to love the bathroom! It was so big. The location at the very back of deck 9 was so quiet. It’s probably the most quiet location we’ve had in all our cruises.

HA bathroom shower that I was nervous about at first. The water goes where it’s supposed to.

The best part was the verandah! We spent a lot of time out there. We even traded a few dinners in the MDR for room service out on the verandah. It didn’t have a slider but a normal door which I actually preferred. We had 3 loungers, 2 regular chairs and a table. On the last night one of the loungers was taken so I’m assuming we were meant to have 2 loungers (one was leftover from previous cruise). It was so nice to go up the stairs into Cabanas, make a plate and bring it back to the cabin to enjoy on the verandah. We loved being out there as we backed into ports. I enjoyed that more than expected.

I miss this verandah!
Best view ever! 5E is my favorite cabin category.

There were a few cons (but they wouldn’t stop me from booking this cabin again):

In Port Canaveral there were a lot of seagulls. I’m not sure if this is because people a few decks above in Cabanas were feeding them but they were aggressive! I also got pooped on (I was going to leave that part out but I’m going for full disclosure here). After I changed my shirt from that experience (and thank God it didn’t get in my hair!) I leaned on the railing and got more poop on me (UGH). I really hated those birds in that moment and was wondering if I made a mistake going 5E. The good news is that we had no issues with birds the rest of the time, only in PC. Constant bird poop would have been a deal breaker for me.

The TV was pretty far from the bed. I didn’t have to get out the binoculars it was close! The TV size works in other cabin layouts, just not this one.

The smell of exhaust would come and go. It didn’t bother me but I know some people are sensitive to that. We always wore flip flops on the verandah because there could be soot (but not a lot and not an every day thing).

Vibration was not an issue for us. I expected it and it wasn’t near as bad as some of the reviews I read. Of course it was worse when backing into port. We don’t sleep in on port days so it wasn’t an issue for us. It was a rude awakening on the last morning since it meant we were back in PC and the cruise was over.

So in closing, our GTY experience was a good one and I’d do it again. it’s hard with my OCD and all but I’d have to get over it. We have another cruise planned and it’s a 5E. I booked on opening day so I was able to get a 5E without waiting for it to go GTY. We will have 3 people in the cabin so decided to go the normal design (split bath, privacy curtain, etc). It’s Cabin 8188. Leave me a comment if you’ve been in that cabin on the Fantasy or Dream.

P.S. Since my last post I’ve also sailed on the Magic. Stay tuned for a post about Disney Cruise Line’s first ship and our experience sailing out of Miami.

St. John On Your Own (ST59)

On this cruise (7 Night Eastern) it was my husband, my cousin, her daughter (who was 17 at the time) and myself. We had been up late the night before so we were needing a low-key, relaxing day and St. John on Your Own delivered.

After we got off the ship in St. Thomas we walked with our group down the pier and boarded the tour boat, Island Girl. I was relieved when I saw the boat was bigger than I pictured in my mind because honestly, I was having a little bit of anxiety about the ride to St. John. It was pretty windy and I have a tendency to get sea sick (I wear scopolamine patches but I’m a worrier). It looked sturdy and safe so that reassured me. We absolutely loved the crew. They were warm and friendly. The narrator on the 45 minute trip to St. John was fun and informative not just a voice droning on as we’ve experienced on other tours. He pointed out celebrity houses on the shoreline which the teenager in our group really enjoyed. The scenery was beautiful. We chose to sit on the outside benches since the inside cabin area had no airflow and I felt better having wind in my face. Many people moved out to sit with us during the ride over so they must have needed it too.

St. Thomas on the way to St. John. I think he said this house was in Charlie’s Angels.

Once we arrived in Cruz Bay, St. John there were cabs waiting to take us to the beaches on the other side of the island. We ended up at Trunk Bay and it was gorgeous. I definitely want to go back someday and spend more time.

We then made our way back to Cruz Bay and ended up at Mongoose Junction. It’s a small but very cute outdoor shopping center that is built on the hillside. We shopped for t-shirts, jewelry and other souvenirs before sitting down at a table in the shade at the Sun Dog Cafe. The service was top notch. You must eat there if you go to Mongoose Junction. My husband ordered the bottomless bloody Marys and I had the stuffed French toast with mango honey butter. It was HEAVENLY! I topped it off with a Pain Killer and it was very good. We sat there sipping our drinks and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of St. John until it was time to head back to Island Girl.

Once back on the boat we talked to fellow passengers about their Port Adventures and it seems like everyone enjoyed the eco-hike. I have that on my list for a future cruise. Most did not enjoy the bus tour around the island but this was after the 2017 hurricanes. It was hard on the heart to see so much devastation they said. We chatted with others as we made our way back to St. Thomas. The crew served drinks and hot dogs (at an additional charge) but we were still stuffed from the Sun Dog Cafe!! When we got off the boat we gave them a great tip. It was well deserved.

Island Girl took us from St. Thomas to St. John and back again.

We had time to walk around St. Thomas awhile before it was time to get back on the Fantasy.

If you are a family with littles I’m not sure you would enjoy this Port Adventure unless you are just going to take a cab to the beach. There are Port Adventures that will take you to Trunk Bay for swimming and snorkeling so doing the On Your Own may be more of a hassle. If you are in an older group and plan on staying up late enjoying the wonderful adult entertainment on the ship and just want to chill in paradise this is the perfect Port Adventure. We’d definitely do it again!

Our first time booking 5E GTY

Recently we had some plans change which freed up a week of vacation time. We decided to book a Disney Cruise (I know, so shocking!). Since it’s pretty short notice all of our favorite cabins are booked so we decided to try something new and book 5E GTY. 5E is the cabin category for the extended verandah cabins on deck 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 aft. There aren’t that many of them so they usually go into GTY (guarantee) pretty fast. When a category goes GTY that means a certain percentage of the cabins have sold and DCL is not allowing anyone to pick a specific cabin anymore. Closer to the cruise date they will sort it out and assign the cabin numbers. They do oversell categories (like airlines oversell seats knowing some people cancel) so there is a chance we won’t get a 5E but Disney would have to upgrade us. We can be upgraded to 5A-D or 4A-E. I don’t want an upgrade so fingers crossed we get the 5E!! I’ll keep you posted. BTW, GTY isn’t usually a money saver. I can book a 5A right now for the same price but it’s not in a location I like. Booking GTY is giving me a chance to get a cabin category that’s popular that I couldn’t book on opening day since this is a last minute trip for us. But there’s also the chance I could be put in a cabin that’s right under the pool deck. It’s the chance we are willing to take. One last thing, people often confuse GTY with IGT (Interior guarantee), OGT (Oceanview guarantee) and VGT (verandah guarantee) which are last minute restricted fares that DCL will offer on cruises that aren’t selling well. With these special rates you are guaranteed the type of cabin you booked (verandah cabin for example) but not a specific category. Payment is required in full when booking IGT, OGT and VGT. Usually you will see these special fares show up within 60 days of the sailing date.

“You cruise DCL so you must be rich, right?”

NOOO! We’re not rich or even well-off. We are a middle-class working family that saves up for our vacations. We make sacrifices. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t wearing the same clothes every day to save on laundry and eating Top Ramen for dinner. There are some movies we skip at the theatre and wait until Netflix to save some money. I may go a little longer between hair appointments or skip going to lunch. In the grocery store one day I asked my daughter to get some cheese. She came back with the store brand instead of Sargento and said, “We could try this kind and it will save us $1.20! It can go in the Mickey Money jar!”. So yeah, I have them totally trained.

Here’s some tips that we use to save money:

  • Buy a placeholder or book a future cruise when you are on the ship! You will save 10% and you will get a break on your deposit. The placeholder costs $250 but it will go towards your deposit when you pick the date you want to sail (edit: onboard credit is no longer offered). With the placeholder you must sail within the next 24 months after purchase. If for some reason you are unable to cruise again you can call DCL and they will give you a full refund.
  • We book cruises on opening day when the prices are the lowest. Because we use placeholders I have to call DCL the minute they open to book our cruise. I’ve never had to wait on hold for hours, thank goodness.
  • Because we usually book on opening day I have about a year and a half to save the money. I transfer money every month to our savings account and then withdraw when our deadline arrives. I pay for the cruise with my Disney Visa and then use savings account money to pay the Visa off. I get all those Disney Rewards Dollars!
  • DCL has special offers on their website. Normally certain cabin types (inside, Oceanview or verandah rooms) are available for discounted rates on select sailings. The only kicker, you don’t get to pick the cabin, DCL does it for you. There are also military rates and special rates for Florida residents (Oh Floridians, I am so jealous!!!!).
  • We drive when we can. It’s a long drive from where we live but we break it up so it’s not too bad. We save a bunch by not paying for airfare so if it’s an option for you, consider it.
  • Pick the cabin that best fits your budget. On the various DCL forums I see people telling first-timers that a verandah cabin is the only way to go. I totally disagree. Go with what you can afford. You are going to have a great time no matter what type of cabin you sleep in.
  • We have the Mickey Money jar as I mentioned earlier. We put our spare change in it. When it gets full I turn it in for cash and put it aside for port adventures and/or souvenirs.
  • I use my Disney Visa card for EVERYTHING. Every few days I pay the balance and keep accumulating those Disney Rewards Dollars.
  • I know some people buy gift cards at Costco and other places for a reduced rate and pay for their cruise that way. I have no experience doing this. I’m all for saving money but that sounds like a huge hassle to me. If you’ve paid for your cruise this way please leave a comment with some tips!

These are the main things we do to save money. If I think of more I will add them.