Part 4: What to Expect Once Onboard! Going on a Disney Cruise with Asperger’s

Getting the Lay of the Land Ship!

Exciting about being onboard and ready to have some fun?! Or are you feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what to do first or how things work? Let’s chat!

Probably one of the best things to start with is to take some time to familiarize yourself with the ship. Taking the time to do this will make the cruise easier to enjoy. Floors are known as decks, and it’s important to learn which decks you can take from bow to stern (front to back), and which won’t. There are maps posted all around the ship that let you know where you are, making it easier to figure out how to get where you want to go. Once you have a good feel for how to get around, the cruise will be much more relaxing. (The photo is from the back of the door in our stateroom.)

TIP: The stateroom corridors are quite long. As the doors are metal, you can bring fun and colorful magnets to place on your door to help you locate your room quicker. Many cruisers do this, and it’s fun to see how others decorate!

Some of you may be wondering about the railings overlooking the ocean. I know I did! They are lined with Plexiglas(?), adding to safety. I’ve included a photo to help you get a better idea. (Look to the upper right in the photo to see it a bit better.) Still, if you are concerned about “your place in space” do some research to determine your own comfort level with walking along the open decks. It’s for this reason I kept my phone in my clear lanyard and took photos from it. I didn’t want to drop it! (motor coordination is a thing, y’all…) K, however, didn’t worry about any of that and was fine.

Getting to Know Your Stateroom

Staterooms vary in several ways, aside from location. Some have verandahs as ours did (open air deck), some have porthole views, while others are interior rooms with no view to the outside. And, of course, there’s the concierge level.

NOTE: We enjoyed a verandah room, and there are a few differences from room to room.

When you enter your room, you will need to use your Key to the World Card for the electricity to run. There is a slot by the door where you will insert your card. (This also means you’ll need to remember to remove the key whenever you leave the room!) This setup has the benefit of providing a space for your key where it won’t get lost, as well as conserves energy as the lights go out once you remove it.

Your stateroom will be looked after by the same attendant during the length of your cruise. Jesus did a wonderful job, and crafted adorable towel animals for us each evening, too! He also converted the sleeper bed each morning and evening, which was much appreciated. I will say we had an Aspie moment early on regarding having a stateroom attendant. K was a bit anxious leaving our things in the room with this “stranger” having access to them. As she “whispered” out loud (y’all know what I mean, here…) some blunt commentary, I noticed he was in the room next to us. Awkward? To mom? Yes. To my Aspie? No. She still swears there is no way he could hear her through the walls. *sigh*

Our room had a queen size bed and a couch that transformed into a sleeper. K is rather picky yet found the sleeper quite comfortable. There was also a curtain that closed off the bed area from the sofa and tv area. This was appreciated.

One thing we really liked was how the bathrooms were set up. They are divided into two separate compartments. The shower is in one, the toilet in another. Both have sinks and a mirror. This was perfect for us. One thing to note is that there is a step up into both the shower and the toilet areas. Please note this in case you have any mobility issues and contact Disney ahead of time if you need different accommodations.

At the time we set sail, Disney provided shampoo, conditioner, hand cream, and soap. There was more than enough for us. The bottles were larger than what you get in a typical hotel room! Still, if you run out (or simply want to take some home with you) you can purchase larger bottles in the gift shop.

The room came with a small refrigerator and the usual bits. There was much more storage space than expected, too. A room safe held our passports and other important things. We never had an issue with storage.

Knowing What’s Going on Ahead of Time

If you are like K and need to know what’s going on ahead of time (no surprises, please!), Disney provides you with a “Navigator,” which is a printout of the activities and schedule for that particular day. You’ll get it in your stateroom the night before. I found that fine, while the timing was one of K’s only grumps. She wanted more advance notice of what was going on and when.

Adding to that, one of the harder things about cruising was knowing that schedules can change due to myriad of things, including the weather. When we booked the cruise there were two shows K really – and I mean really – wanted to see. Wouldn’t you know that month we boarded they changed shows over? Not only that, they gave the new show two – yes two– time slots, meaning we lost a show. This did not go over well with my Aspie. Not. One. Bit. We did have a fantastic cruise and would do it again, but changes like that can happen. Try your best to find multiple things you’d like to try or see in case the same happens on your trip. That will up your odds of avoiding a meltdown or three. Maybe…

That leads us to this: be open to happy surprises! Yes, “happy” and “surprises” rarely go together with Asperger’s in the house. Especially my house. Oy. One of K’s hopes pre-cruise was to see the new Star Wars movie opening night in the theater, yet it released while we were on the ship. This was stressing her out. As Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, we had a last minute schedule change while onboard; they opened up two theaters and provided us all with a showing! This also meant dinner was a few minutes earlier. Yes, these were changes, but changes K was MORE than happy to take! But, yeah, she still commented on the changes and verbalized how she REALLY wished they were announced earlier…

Understanding the “MDRs” – the Main Dining Rooms and Rotations

As mentioned earlier in the series, Disney does a great job with allergy concerns (contact them before you sail) and offering different types of food to enjoy. The only scheduled meal is dinner. You are assigned to one of the main dining rooms (“MDRs”), and they will rotate during the length of your cruise. If you find you aren’t interested in them you can go to one of the quick service stations or order room service. This may be good if you are overstimulated and really, really need to have some quiet during dinner.

Another thing to know about MDRs is the seating. You will be assigned a table for each dinner, along with the same servers. If your party is larger, there is a chance you will have your own table. If not, you will likely be assigned tablemates. We were a bit concerned going in, but I have to say Disney Magic was alive and well! We sat with another mother-daughter pair and had an absolutely fantastic time! (We’re still scratching our heads as to how they paired us up so well!)

The MDRs only have two dinner seatings and you may or may not have a choice in which one you get. For dinner, you can always grab something from quick service or room service, instead, if eating dinner at the exact same time every day is important to you. We had the late seating (after 8pm). At first, we were concerned as it is well past our usual dinner time, but we had so much to do, we ended up preferring the later seating. You never know.

Again, you know your family. You know your personal triggers. If dining solo is best, skip the MDRs. However, we both highly recommend giving them a try first! Stretch yourself. Assume the best. It’s Disney. Be open to being pleasantly surprised.

TIP: As mentioned in an earlier post, there are adult only restaurants on board. These require reservations that often need to be made months in advance. If you do decide to go to either of those, it’s a good idea to inform your servers ahead of time so they know not to expect you that evening.

Family Fun Onboard

There really is more to do than there is time! While there are a few things that do cost a little extra, most of it is included in the price of your tickets. We took advantage of a few craft activities and really enjoyed them. There was also a towel folding class. So fun! Of course, there are the pools, movies by the family pool, and more. One great thing about traveling with Asperger’s is being able to plan things ahead of time so you can make the most of it!

Disney Cruise and Alcohol

We chose to take the cruise when K turned 21. Part of the reason for this was that “la la land” of 18-20,

where you are too old to join in the kids clubs (not that you’d want to…) and too young to check out the other clubs on board. In other words, you’re in this weird space between adulthood and, well, adulthood. Make sense? And, yes, even though we were in international waters for a good portion of the cruise, the drinking age Disney uses (at the time of this writing) for cruises to the Bahamas is 21.

We both realize you may have no interest in a glass of wine or a rum-infused drink of the day. However, we both want to point out a few things you need to remember, especially if your cruise uses 21 and over as the age to purchase alcoholic drinks:

  • If you are traveling with Asperger’s, and that Aspie (like my K) is 21 and you’ve allowed them charging privileges, they will be able to purchase whatever bevvy they want, whenever they want. If nothing else, this can add up fast. (And, no, they won’t need an ID to buy – the Key to the World Card works for that. Remember the photo taken upon check-in? Yeah, that photo.)
  • If you are from a country outside the USA, such as Australia or the UK, where you are used to having a glass of wine for dinner with Mum and Dad but are under 21, you’ll have to choose something else. (Something our tablemates were not aware of until they boarded.)
  • The “Drink of the Day” is actually two drinks! One does contain alcohol, while the other does not. So, yes, you can have a fancy beverage, no matter your age! And, yes, these do cost a little extra.

The Disney Cruise line does have several night spots on board for adults. We checked out a few and found them rather low key. Our favorite was Skyline. (But that’s another story altogether…)

For those of you who are wondering about bringing your own alcohol on board, please refer to the Disney Cruise Line website. This is not something we chose to do, so can’t we comment on that.

The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App

Disney offers a free app you can download, called the Disney Cruise Line Navigator. As of this writing, it’s gone through several updates, so our opinions reflect our use at the time. On the whole, K and I found it rather useful. It runs off the ship’s Wi-Fi so you won’t incur extra phone charges, so long as you follow their instructions. It took several hours for ours to be able to log on, but once it did, it was incredibly helpful! The free Navigator app provides you a list of daily activities, a way to “text” each other, helps you keep track of your chosen activities, plus other little bits that help you make the most of your Disney Cruise.

And, yes, you can purchase Internet access, but you are on vacation. Emails and social media really can wait. For this mother and daughter, it did mean our snap steak bit the dust, but the time together was well worth it! We both have Disney Cruise withdrawals!

That wraps things up for now. Coming up next? We’ll talk a bit about Sensory Processing Disorder and Cruising with Disney. Have a question, concern or tip? Post in the comments below! Missed the previous posts? You can access them here: Disney Cruise with Asperger’s.

Until next time!

Julie and K.

**DISCLAIMER: This is not a sponsored post. I am not affiliated with Disney. Opinions are my own and that of my daughter.

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