I hope to provide you an overall review to help new and return cruisers based on our experience.
I booked the trip the day before US Thanksgiving online. I was pleased with the purchase price of 2700 for 2 adults and one 9 year old. sail date was December 1.
We flew into MCO on Thursday night and spent Friday at Disneyworld. We drove the hour to Port Canveral on Saturday.
We booked parking with Raddison online for approx 7$ a day. The lot was across the street from the hotel and didn't appear as secure or monitored as I expected from their ad online. Lucky for us nothing happened to the car. I say this because a bus mate had their car vandalized at the Port Canveral parking garage in the past.
We booked late so we didn't have bag tags. Regardless of whether or not you have bag tags, get off the transportation shuttle and validate that all of your bags are being handled properly.!!! If we would not have done this, our bags were ready to go on the Carnival cruise ship that was the first stop of our shuttle. Even if I had bag tags....I would still watch to make sure everything is handled properly because the oversight costs you nothing and saves potential headaches and a terrible start to your trip.
Be prepared to tip the shuttle drivers and the folks at the port who will be handling your bags. The person at the port will help make sure your bag is delivered timely.
We arrived at approximately 1:00 so we were able to get on the boat right away even though our room wasn't ready until later. We had "day bags" so that we could swim or read if we wanted.
We did each lunch on the ship at Cabanas but Flos is an option too. both are on deck 11.
If you are on a high deck, like 9, i would suggest getting close to your assembly station so you dont have to walk down all the steps, especially if you have small children. after the drill, go down to go up because the elevators are very busy.
Take multiple highlighters so that you can plan out you daily agenda. Give each family member their own color to make it easy. Extra Navigators are in a stand to the left of guest services.
Take advantage of the shows and movies that are on board. I enjoyed the musicals, movies, etc. I even enjoyed the family talent show and towel folding. So in other words, do not rule out the options you have!
I thought the food was acceptable but nothing was great. One of my complaints is that the food wasn't hot.
A lot of people do not dress up, dress up and have some fun with it.
Things to take
Mini medical kit for common maladies
Post it notes or a white board to communicate with family or room steward
In my case less clothes....if you are spending time in your swimsuit or casual wear, you don't need a different outfit for every day and you can repeat your evening attire.
Sand toys if you don't want to buy them at Castaway Key
We took a blank frame for character signature. We dropped it off at guest services right away. They did a great job on this!! You don't have to bring markers. You could also take a pillowcase and get that signed...it is easier to transport home!
We didn't buy the picture package. In hindsight I would have had pictures taken whenever and wherever I could by the staff...that would make the entire package more affordable their individual prices were very high, I thin 20$ a picture and I want to say 349$ for the entire package!
Disney is very organized. To learn about the process, watch the TV program that explains the process. In general though the bags are grouped by your state room number so it only took a few minutes to find all of our bags.
Looking at the mass of people I expected it to take a long time but I bet it only took us 15 to 20 minutes.
Our stateroom was 9644. It was very nice and accommodated the three of us quite nicely. Definitely unpack right away and put your suitcases under your bed so you have room. Don't forget your sofa table has storage, if needed. The verandah was nice but we had a smoker next to us and that limited our enjoyment of the balcony. Disney should do something about limiting where people can smoke on the ship.
The have machines on each floor. 2$ each for a wash and dry. I brought my own soap. The machines are smaller than what you have at home. Also be prepared for them to be busy so do wash when you have time to tend to them right away so that others can use them.
We did the snorkeling....be forewarned sea lice are common in this area. Research how to treat and address sea lice. The itching and bumps have been on my daughters arms, face, and shoulders, for 11 days. Disney even has a warning about sea lice at Castaway Cay!!!