Going on a Disney Cruise is special, but at least once a year a special event is held that makes Disney Cruise even more special: a Disney Vacation Club Member Cruise. This year, two Member Cruises were held—one to Alaska on the Wonder and one in the Caribbean on the Dream. Because a Member Cruise was an item on my personal bucket list, when reservations opened last year, I jumped at the opportunity to book the cruise on the Dream. Although I have been on a Disney Cruise several times before, I couldn’t wait to do a DVC cruise. What makes it special? There are really four reasons that I was excited for this one.
- Special experiences and guest presentations.
- A double dip at Castaway Cay. (For Member Cruises out of Florida only.)
- Special member gifts
- The ‘Ohana factor.
Here’s what my experience was like.
Special Experiences and Guest Presentations
This was the highlight of our trip. Unfortunately, you don’t find out what special entertainment will be on board until you are sailing away, but every year that I’ve seen the post-cruise wrap-ups, there has always been something that I am sorry to have missed. We were not able to fit everything into our schedule, but what we did was amazing. Here’s the special events we attended:
Great Moments with Walt Disney: This presentation, hosted by Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline, Disney Files Magazine Editor Ryan March, and Disney author Tim O’Day, was filled with lots of humorous stories and rare video of Walt Disney being. . . .well, Walt. (One favorite among the audience was a show with Walt Disney talking to a decapitated princess that he brought back to life. Yes, this was a real thing!)
A Screenwriter’s Journey with Robert Baird (screenwriter for “Tangled Ever After” and Big Hero 6): So much of Disney revolves around the power of story, and yet most projects go through paths leading to dead ends, massive failures, and painful rebuilding to get that story to the quality product on the final screen. Seeing how much time, effort, and energy goes into “just” the screenwriting aspect of a project helps you appreciate the final product so much more.
Creating Shanghai Disney Resort: Hosted by Walt Disney Imagineering Shanghai Executive Creative Director Lori Coltrin, this presentation showed the progress being made on Disney’s newest theme park, including video of some new rides in development. (Because I will not likely to be in Shanghai any time soon, I was especially interested in the video they showed about Soarin’ Over the Horizon, which will be coming to my backyard! You can see some of the video here.)
Inside Pixar: Veteran Pixar Filmmaker Josh Cooley (whose current project is a little something called Toy Story 4 that he’s co-directing with John Lasseter) showed us why Pixar may just be the coolest place to work on the planet. (If you’re not careful, they even stick you in a movie—look for Josh’s cameo in Inside Out as the director of Riley’s dreams.) And like an Apple-type presentation, there was “just one more thing”. We got to see the full and complete short “Riley’s First Date?” Of course we were sworn to secrecy, but I can say this much—it totally rocks.
Outrageously Goofy with Bill Farmer and Paul Rudish: Check another item off my bucket list—hearing Bill Farmer (the voice of Goofy) do the famous Goofy holler live and in person (and when he said “Potato….LAND”, yeah, that was an ultimate geek moment for me). A combination of discussion from both the voice acting and director views, seeing the new Disney shorts with Goofy and friends (including a never-before-seen cartoon that will be released later this year), and behind-the-scenes video of recording sessions kept the audience cracking up.
Keepers’ Keeper with Ridley Pearson: I’ve been a fan of Ridley Pearson’s work on both the Peter and the Starcatchers series and the Kingdom Keepers series, so when I heard he was going to be doing a panel on board, I knew I wanted to attend. Fun fact: While on board, Ridley Pearson managed to finish the manuscript for his latest Kingdom Keepers book. Second fun fact: While on board, I didn’t get a chance to finish one article. Cheers to your work ethic, Ridley Pearson!
Broadway and Beyond: Songs We’re Wild About: For many, the capstone of this cruise was the concert with five of Broadway’s finest (Ashley Brown, the original Mary Poppins on Broadway; Josh Strickland, the original Tarzan on Broadway; Alton Fitzgerald White, Mufasa from The Lion King on Broadway; Merle Dandridge, from the title role in Aida; and host John Brady, famous for many Broadway characters in The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Newsies). The performances were stunning as they brought a variety of Disney songs from movies and Broadway to the stage.
There were other events that we were not able to attend, including the comedy of Maryellen Hooper, the Disney Artist Academy Master Class with Alex Maher and Tim Whalen, the Community Cook-Off with DVC Senior Vice President Ken Potrock versus Maryellen Hooper, and Artists at Work with Lorelay Bove and Stacia Martin.
And all of this is in addition to the activities found on a regular Disney cruise!
A Double Dip at Castaway Cay
With Hurricane Danny heading our way, I was nervous that we wouldn’t get a single dip, let alone a double, but “Danny Boy” kept his distance for us to have two glorious days at Castaway Cay. In addition to the enjoyment of being on Castaway Cay, for our second day, there was the exclusive Kingdom Keepers Castaway Quest scavenger hunt, created by Ridley Pearson, which was only offered on this cruise.
Special Member Gifts
To book a DVC Member Cruise just for the “free” gifts is like booking a Disney hotel room for the “free” H2O products—if you really want DVC swag, there are ways to purchase it for far less than the price of a cruise. Still, coming back to the room every night to find a new gift was a wonderful treat. In all, we got the following (with some of the items being given one per person in our stateroom): A DVC cooler bag and aluminum water bottle, a DVC Member Cruise Vinylmation, a DVC Member Cruise hat, a free photograph print from Shutters, a lanyard, a large DVC Member Cruise limited edition pin, a commemorative 2016 artwork calendar (where you can detach the artwork images that are suitable for framing), a DVC Member version of the classic board game Clue, a luggage tag, lip balm, post card, button, and a special edition Disney Files magazine about the cruise. In addition, at different events that you attended, you could get buttons, pins, free drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in souvenir glasses, the scavenger hunt booklet, and more. At a rough estimate of what I’d pay retail for the items I received, it was more than $200 worth of items for the first person in the room, and then around another $50-100 for each additional person (as some items, like the board game and the free photograph, were not given to every single person in the room).
The DVC Member Gifts are not a case of an Oprah-like experience where everyone gets a free car upon the return to Port Canaveral, but I was impressed with the quality and the creativity of the gifts that we were given.
The ‘Ohana Factor
There is something special about traveling with people who have a passion for Disney, and few people would be DVC Members unless they at least marginally enjoyed the Disney lifestyle. In all my years of cruising on Disney, I’ve never seen people cheer for the crew members who are conducting the mandatory lifeboat drill, but this happened on the DVC Cruise. Fish Extender Groups (a type of “Secret Santa” gift exchange that are unofficially organized on most Disney Cruise sailings) were much more organized than I’ve seen in the past, with some really remarkable gifts. There were individuals that organized meet-ups on the night before the ship left or a breakfast get-together on embarkation morning.
To book a Member Cruise you must be a DVC Member or traveling with a DVC Member. A Member Cruise can be booked with cash or with points (some restrictions apply), and it does cost more than a typical cruise at the same time period. In my next article, I will discuss the cost factors of a DVC Member Cruise – is it better to pay cash or use points and is it worth the extra cost?