I have never been on a cruise. I’m not into casinos, bingo, cheesy musicals, hypnotists, art auctions, or shopping in third-world tourist traps. Thus most cruise ships and itineraries don’t catch my fancy. Disney Cruise Line seemed different, and doing the programming to enliven our Disney Cruise Line product heightened my interest in sailing with Mickey.
My wife and I discussed taking a DCL cruise once our child was old enough to enjoy the kids’ activities, and that time has come. Conveniently enough, we’ll be sailing for TouringPlans.com on a 4-Night Bahamanian Cruise on the Disney Dream in October 2014, when my son will be about 3½ years old. Our family of three will fit fine in the smallest on-board room (Category 11C, baby!), and I’m confident we’ll find plenty to do to fill four days.
My main challenge – and most of what I’ll blog about – is getting to and from Port Canaveral in a way that works well with our schedules while minimizing costs and hassles. One recurring wrinkle in my planning is that I need to have my son in a car seat in any non-bus vehicle in which he might ride; that makes renting a car, hiring a town car, riding in a cab, etc. more burdensome. Ironically, so far I’ve found the logistics of our family trip to Tokyo in 2012 to be simpler than those for this DCL trip!
I hope you’ll join with me as I analyze my transportation options and make rational decisions based on my group’s preferences and the cost impacts of our decisions. I start with a brief overview of some travel decisions I need to make. In subsequent blog posts I’ll look at TouringPlans.com tools and consult you, Dear Readers, for assistance.
Decision 1: Fly or Drive?
I live 800 miles away from Port Canaveral, and that’s a full day’s drive of about 11 hours each way. Flying would take less time, and that’s potentially important to minimize the time my family is away from work and school. Alas, since Len has yet to pull the trigger on a TouringPlans.com Gulfstream G650 (no Club 33 membership, either!), I have to fly commercial, which has its own time-consuming hassles: after dealing with driving to the airport, parking, security, and local transportation (whether it be mass transit or a rental car) in Florida, that’s at least a half-a-day each way.
I have to compare driving costs to three plane tickets, thee port transfers, etc., plus any hassles related to my kid’s car seat.
Decision 2: When to Arrive at the Port?
We recommend getting on the ship either early or late to avoid the worst crowds. Never having been on a cruise ship, I’d enjoy having all the time I can on the boat. However, I will not know my boarding time until I do online check-in 75 days before sailing, and I would have to use something other than Disney transportation to arrive in time to take advantage of that. Plus, I’m concerned that hauling around a “day bag” of stuff on the ship would be annoying.
Decision 3: When to Arrive and Leave?
I do not plan to arrive in Central Florida much before the cruise. We recommend arriving the day before the ship sails. That seems reasonable, but it adds an extra hotel night in unfamiliar turf for me. Plus, I’d have one fewer stopover if I flew in on the day my cruise departed and went directly to the port.
After the cruise, it’d be easiest to head straight to the airport and fly home on Thursday, but I may stick around through the weekend and visit Walt Disney World. While fun (I’d get to experience the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for the first time!), spending time at Disney World would involve significant extra costs (hotel, food, and park tickets) for only a couple of days.
Decision 4: Where to Stay Before the Cruise?
Assuming I arrive the day before the cruise, I could stay near the airport, at Disney World, or near Port Canaveral. I don’t think I’ll spend the night at Disney World the night before the cruise since that would involve extra travel in the wrong direction. My preferences for the other locations will vary based on the sort of transportation I’m taking to the port.
I have three options here: Disney transportation, a private car service, or a car I drive. Using Disney transfers is straightforward but inflexible. A private car service is flexible but expensive. A rental car is flexible and affordable but time-consuming to deal with (especially since I have a kid who needs a car seat). If I opt to drive to Florida, this is a moot question, although I would need to decide where to park during the cruise.
Look for future blog posts that walk through the above decisions, hopefully culminating in a comprehensive travel plan that works best for my family. Ultimately I’ll start worrying about what to do on the cruise (although I cannot reserve any cruise experiences until July: I have a reservation reminder set for that!), but first I need to get to the port!