I recently took a trip with my family aboard the Disney Magic for our forth cruise, and second aboard the magic. A major goal of the trip, other than a great time with my family, was to update the various kosher options available on the ship. While this is going to be a full trip report, for people who aren’t familiar with what to expect on a Disney Cruise, I know some of you are thinking, “GET TO THE POINT!!!”. So, at the end of the full trip report I will be publishing brand new overviews of the dining options. There have not been a lot of changes, but if you are going on a trip soon feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have specific questions
As this was a 5 day cruise leaving on a Sunday, and we didn’t want to take chances that some weather pattern would hit over the weekend and cancel our trip, we headed out to Miami the Friday before our cruise and spent Shabbat in Miami. If you are leaving on a Sunday this is something I highly recommend. Our last cruise was almost a disaster because of the big storm of 2016, but we were able to quickly change our tickets and fly out before the storm. In general, always try and get to your port the day beforehand just in case.
I had spent the weeks and months before the trip trying to find the ideal location to spend our shabbat. We generally like to try and find a chabad that serves meals and plant our flag there for a weekend, although I’m sure many of you are find pickup up, or bringing, your own food and just spending the weekend in and around your hotel. In case you didn’t know, the Miami/Broward/Fort Lauderdale has approximately 17 Million Chabad locations (i’m rounding down), so trying to find the ideal location took a bit of work on my part. To help myself track everything I even created this spreadsheet, which anyone else should feel free to use in their own travels. We were looking for 3 main criteria when we were booking
- Chabad that provided meals (even if they were paid)
- Nearby parks to keep the kids entertained during the day
- A hotel that fit our family (preferably no studios), and with the current anti-Semitic behavior by AirBnB they were ruled out
We eventually settled on Chabad of Sunny Isles Beach while staying at a 1BR apartment at the Intracoastal Yacht Club (booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal). The food and company at the chabad was really nice and I would certainly recommend utilizing them if you are in the area. The same is true of our accommodations, however I would say that the apartments are independently owned and operated in many cases so you experience may vary based on the apartment/owner you get (ours, Elizabeth, was great). If we went to this Chabad again, we would possibly look into some place closer, the walk was a bit for the kids, especially after dinner.
Saturday night I decided to trek out to one of the local establishments, even though I had heard the places were crazy busy during yeshiva break. Well, I must say, waiting over 2 hours between order and walking out with my pizza is a bit much for me. I don’t want to devolve into a whole “Miami v NY” turf war here, so I will merely link to a post on this topic by Rabbi Goldberg from the Boca Raton Synagogue. While I may not agree with everything that is said, I think it is well said, and he tries to come at the issue from both sides.
Sunday morning we were off to the port! Disney provides everyone with a boarding group, a number you get when you either check-in online, or check-in in person. We usually arrive around midday to allow us time to get ourselves together, and since the check-in is usually not as busy that time of day. You put special tags on your bags to be loaded on the ship and upon arriving at the port once you hand them in you won’t see them till later, so make sure you pack a day bag that will last you will the early evening. Upon boarding the ship we have a number of items to take care of, and recommend others doing the same:
- Lunch – we make it a point to head up to Cabanas, which is a buffet for most meals, to see what is available that we can eat. Additionally, there is always someone there to help you get some kosher meals. They will probably be the worst quality of the meals you will have since they will be warmed up quickly (probably a microwave) so they are unevenly cooked/soggy, so I recommend getting something “easy” like hot dog/hamburger for kids and a simple chicken for adults. Sometimes you will just be limited to what they have and you will take what you can get. At the end of the day, if you eat before you board the boat, it will probably work out better
- Check-in/Scope out the kids clubs. This is a good chance for your kids to see where they will be spending a lot of their time on the cruise. You can also check-in your kids if you didn’t do it online already, and for them to get their wristbands (they are basically magicbands). When you check in your kids (online or in person) you can notate things about them that are worthwhile for the counselors to know, as well as any important allergies/food issues (e.g. kosher).
- Meet with the chef – in the past this was a big deal because you would find out what the plan was for the food for the remainder of the cruise. At this point, while the quantities are still an issue (more on this later), the system is pretty much good to go. The key here is to make sure to order your food for the first night.
- Link our Staterooms with Shutters – we pre-ordered a picture package which saves some cash. We find that the Disney photographers are great, and while we take our own pictures as well, its good not to have to worry about taking pictures with the characters. Also, most nights they provide free sittings with both professional and fun backgrounds, so we really get our money worth since the packages are unlimited photos. Since we were sailing with 2 staterooms, due to the size of our family, we had to link our staterooms so all pictures would be together (there are specific rules about which staterooms can be linked for free and which you have to pay for). We did find out that this could only be done after 6PM.
While running our errands we also checked-in on our rooms to see if they were ready, and to see if our bags were delivered. Fortunately for us both of these were true so before 4:30 we were able to get settled in our rooms a bit. Why 4:30? At 4:30 Disney holds the required muster drill. While accidents rarely happen, its good to be prepared in case of an emergency so everyone is required to know where to go and what to listen for. After the muster drill Disney has it’s first official event: the Adventures Away Sail Away Party
Next post: Sailing Away, the first night and the first day at sea.