1. Gawk at Fireworks at Sea
|Buccaneer Blast Fireworks|
One of the unique things about a Disney cruise is their fireworks at sea display. On our sailing, the Buccaneer Blast Fireworks capped off the night's Pirates on the Caribbean theme. After getting in the mood with pirate bandannas and paper hats at dinner then a celebration on the pool deck, the ship blasted "cannons" that shot fireworks high above the crowds and over the water. Afterwards, head down for the late-night Pirate buffet if you're not still stuffed from dinner.
2. Ride the water coaster, watch movies and party on the Pool Deck
|Sailing Away party on the Pool Deck with the AquaDuck running above it all|
Watch kid-friendly Disney movies, TV shows and videos day and night on Funnel Vision, a large LED screen that looms over swimmers in Donald's Pool. My girl loved taking a ride on the AquaDuck, a river of water blasting through a 765-foot-long, clear, overhead tunnel above the pool deck and very briefly out over the side of the ship before splashing down into a landing pool. This water roller coaster is a popular attraction, and the shortest lines were during dinner seatings. Sometimes, the pool is covered up for Deck Parties such as Sailing Away and Pirates of the Caribbean.
3. Marvel at Digital Puppetry at Animator's Palate
|Turtle Talk with Crush while you dine|
I am truly impressed by the interactive animated show at the Animator's Palate dinner restaurant which every guest will have on the dinner rotation at least once per cruise. It's the same as Turtle Talk with Crush at some Disney parks and similar to Stitch Encounter and Stitch Live! The dining room is surrounded by video screens that simulate looking into a vast aquarium. Crush the Turtle floats around from screen to screen pausing to have a little chat with some of the diners. "Hey you with the spiky hair and red Hawaiian shirt!" you'll hear him drawl in his laid back, surfer dude voice. Look at the nearby tables, and it could be your neighbor or even you that he's talking to. After an unscripted conversation with the diner where the animation is done on the fly, he swims off to talk with someone else. I know that hidden cameras, microphones and motion-capture is involved, but I'd really like to one day learn exactly how they pull off this cool show.
Tip: If you pre-booked an extra-charge, adult-only dinner at Palo or Remy on the same night as your assigned Animator's Palate seating, you have until 2PM on the day of reservation to cancel it if you'd rather dine with Crush.
4. Fold adorable Towel Creatures
|Check out the elephant I made out of folded towels|
Every night, my family enjoyed entering our stateroom to see what adorable towel creature the room steward had left us. We got everything from a large turtle to a monkey hanging from the ceiling. So, I jumped at the chance to learn the craft of towel folding in high hopes that I could dress up my guest bathroom at home. (Note: I haven't.)
5. Learn to draw Disney Characters
|Yup, I drew those myself which is a real testament to how good the instructors are.|
I don't consider myself very good at sketching. Copying simple line drawings is the extent of my talent. Still, I sat in on the Disney Animation Creating a Character class. The artist patiently demonstrated step-by-step how to draw Mickey Mouse and Stitch. I was quite satisfied with my results and still can't believe that it's solely my own work.
6. Eat your way through the Iron Chef Ice Cream challenge
|Ice cream sandwich, root beer float, and an ice cream cone|
Free, unlimited ice cream? Yes, please! Chocolate and vanilla were always available, and other flavors like banana or mint rotate throughout the day. My family wasn't satisfied with mere cones, though. So, we had our own mini Iron Chef ice cream challenge limiting ourselves to incorporating other free food on the ship. While pepperoni pizza a la mode was never a contender, ice cream coupled with chocolate chip cookies from the lunch dessert turned into a tasty ice cream sandwich. Soft serve in a cup with some of the ever flowing free soda became an ice cream float. Yummy and a great excuse to eat even more ice cream.
7. Run the Castaway Cay 5K
|Displaying my finisher medal for the Castaway Cay 5K before eating more ice cream|
While technically not on board the ship, I'm including it since Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, is a typical stop for their Caribbean and Bahamas routes. The 5K Fun Run is open to everyone, even kids. It's free, and all runners (and walkers) get a medal if they cross the finish line in under an hour. Yes, you have as much as an hour. After that, the
For more details, see The Slowpoke's Guide the runDisney Castaway Cay 5K
8. Clap along at Character Performances
|Sea Ya' Real Soon|
The cruise ships don't have parades like the parks, but they do have character performances in the public areas. It's similar to the lively atmosphere when a parade float stops en route and Mickey and his friends get the crowd clapping and dancing.
Character Meet and Greets are also free but the really popular ones like Anna and Elsa require obtaining one of a limited number of tickets from the Port Adventures Desk beforehand. Go early to nab one so you're not like the dad I saw boo-hooing at the desk about how sad his girls would be.
9. Sleuth to solve a mystery
|Figuring out Who Did It with the Midship Detective Agency|
The Midship Detective Agency is a scavenger hunt that takes you throughout the ship looking for clues. Kids can start the activity anytime at the kiosk on Deck 5 Midship where they'll get a card that serves as a detective badge card as well as a pamphlet to keep track of the clues and suspects. Paintings around the ship are actually video screens in disguise that come alive when you flash a badge card at it. After successfully completing a game on screen, the kids get their clue before running off to the next stop. What I really liked is that the same screen plays different videos so that you're not watching the same thing over and over while you wait for your turn. There's enough variety that you are not necessarily following the same route as the team in front of you either. We had so much fun we played it more than once.
10. Take a romantic stroll hand-in-hand around Deck 4
|Whenever people finally meet my hubby, they remark "That's why your kids are tall."|
Deck 4 is one of the quieter areas on the ship to take in ocean views and the salty sea air. If it were olden days, I'd imagine ladies with parasols and long, bustled dresses strolling along with a hand resting lightly on a gentleman's forearm. But it's the 21st century, so you'll see shorts and flip-flops or sports sandals instead. Hubby and I took an hour or so while the kids were otherwise occupied in the Youth Activities Clubs to take a romantic walk around the ship. Joggers kept lapping us, and we had to go around a shuffleboard game or two, but it's nowhere near the level of activity by the pool. Lounge chairs gave us a place to relax and read a book or just stare at the watery horizon.
11. Kick back at the movie theater or live show
The Buena Vista Theatre has G or PG rated movies going from morning until night. Check the Personal Navigator or the marquee for showtimes. I was pleasantly surprised that it was showing first-run movies including ones that premiered the same week we set sail. One guest I met planned ahead by finding out what movies were showing on our sailing and then avoiding them beforehand in regular movie theaters so she could watch them for free on board. (Note that the popcorn is not free.)
Best of all, the Walt Disney Theater has two live performances every night full of top notch singing and dancing. They are typically musical revues with original storylines pulling characters from multiple Disney movies. It was a different show each day, and they run at about the same time as the two dinner seatings. Attend the later show if you have the earlier dinner seating and vice versa.
|Sitting on the beach of Castaway Cay is free. Going snorkeling is not.|
We have another cruise on the Disney Dream planned for a few months from now, and I'm keen to try a few new things that I didn't have time to do before. The Art of the Theme Show Tour is a guided tour of the ship highlighting one-of-a-kind features of the design. I'd also like to attend an Anyone Can Cook cooking demonstration, as if I need more excuses to eat on the trip. I can hardly wait and am already counting the days.
Have you been on a cruise? What's your favorite free thing to do?
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