INTERVIEW: “I didn’t enjoy my first Disney cruise, then I went on 88 more!”
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Barbara Sypien lives in Titusville, Florida with her husband, Peter. Together they have taken 89 cruises with Disney Cruise Line and hope to celebrate their 100th Disney cruise on the maiden voyage of Disney Wish.
In this exclusive interview, Barbara explains why she fell in love with Disney Cruise Line, despite not loving her first cruise. She also gives her tips about how to book your cruise for the best price and make the most of your time onboard.
How many Disney cruises have you been on?
We have done 89 Disney cruises over the past 22 years, including all the maiden voyages on the four ships.
What first attracted you to take a cruise?
We are avid Walt Disney fans. We love Disney theme parks, especially EPCOT and have Florida resident passes. We try to go at least every six weeks for a few days.
When Disney announced that they were going into the cruising business, we jumped on the chance.
Tell us about that first cruise…
Our first cruise was the maiden voyage of Disney’s first cruise ship, Disney Magic in 1998. The first cruise wasn’t that great. The crew weren’t trained very well and it was very confusing.
Within six to eight months, we went back and the service had improved. We then decided to do the maiden voyage of Disney Wonder in 1999, just to make sure they got it right.
That was our downfall, especially when they announced they were going to do seven-day cruises on the Magic. Pure heaven!
What’s your favourite Disney cruise ship?
Although the Magic will always be in our hearts, our favourite ship is the Fantasy. The rooms, dining and nightlife are by far the best, in my opinion.
Would you ever consider cruising with a different cruise line?
We did try two other cruise lines. One was a small ship – that company is gone now. It almost was the reason I’d never cruise again apart from with Disney.
The other cruise we tried was with Carnival. We only went to help some friends who had never been to the Western Caribbean. It was a seven-day cruise and the ship was horrible. Our room was small, even with a balcony, and the bathroom was so tiny that I could sit on the toilet bowl and shower at the same time!
I literally counted the minutes until we got off the ship. The crew, service and food were all terrible. But, we were able to sneak alcohol on board and spent most of the nights drinking on the balcony!
Do you book your cruises with a travel agent or direct with Disney?
We have a travel agent that we have been using for 22 years and she is wonderful. She knows what we like and lets me know when they are opening for future cruises. She even knows my favourite room and makes sure she gets it for us.
Do Disney give you any perks for being a regular cruiser?
When they started the Castaway Club, we were automatically Platinum members because we had at least 25 cruises done already.
We got to go to the special parties they gave for the Gold and Platinum members and we do get some perks. We get special robes in our cabin, snacks sent every day in the afternoon and even bottles of prosecco for dinners. They know we like a table for two and accommodate us every cruise.
The best perk we got was several years ago. It was our 75th Disney cruise and hubby’s 75th birthday. The restaurant manager knew that and sat us at table 75 for dinner and had a Paris 75 cocktail sent to us. That afternoon, Commodore Tom surprised us with a trip to the bridge. There we had a surprise party for my hubby and they let him blow the Mickey horns. It was so magical and we will never forget it.
The Disney crew truly are our family and when we board, they announce us as “mom and dad” instead of our family name.
Do you always cruise as a couple?
When we first started cruising, we took our daughter and son, until they grew up, got married and left home. Now, its just hubby and I and we love it.
What is there for adults to enjoy on a Disney cruise?
We love the shows, but we’ve seen them many times. Now, we just enjoy going to the adult area and having a quiet drink and time to relax after dinner.
What are some of your favourite ports?
Our favourite cruise port is St. Lucia. We also like St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We have done all lengths of cruises from three to eleven days. Our favourite cruises are the 11-day ones.
Do you have any insider tips about Disney cruises?
My best tip for newbies is to book early for the best price and do monthly payments. I’d also recommend that you try not to jam everything into one trip. Relax, enjoy, explore and you’re sure to fall in love and be hooked, just like we are.