My First Disney Cruise

And all during a most difficult time in the world

Over the years, I’ve watched various cruise videos from vloggers and Travel Channel documentaries, but never knew what to really expect when the time came to embark on my very first cruise. And to top that off, it was a Disney Cruise.

It was not just a normal cruise either, and in more ways that one. The family had been planning this cruise for a while, and I only learned about it at the last minute. It turned out to be a family reunion organized by my sister, her husband and his family.

Now, planning any trip is stressful during normal times; considering the circumstances at the time, with the worldwide pandemic which caused restrictions, lockdowns, masks, vaccinations and staff shortages pretty much everywhere, this made the trip even more hectic.

Testing requirements were some of the most expensive and tense experiences during the entire trip. From testing before plane boarding, which in itself was painless and quick, but waiting for the results which could determine the outcome of the next few weeks. And probably the most taxing on our entire family was the ship preboard testing which would affect the entire cruise for the whole family that was with us.

Not only was a negative test required for us to board, but everyone in our entire party had to test negative before being allowed to board. Now, none of us felt ill, or sick beforehand, we were banking the entire cruise on one single swab of a Q-tip, and a 45 minute processing time, all while staring at the beautiful Disney cruise ship, “The Magic”.

After testing we were told to sit in a waiting room in front of large TV screen with cruise confirmation numbers scrolling on the screen. These numbers were linked to our names, and next to those numbers, a message telling us to wait for results, or clearing us to cruise.

Once we received the all clear, We proceeded to board. Very relieved and hungry. We were invited aboard the ship with our names called over the loudspeaker. Only a handful of parties were called aboard at a time, and we each got to meet Captain Mickey before we were invited to “Fathoms” for a pre-departure briefing. This is where we were instructed on how to download the Disney Cruise app, and set up our schedule, and prepare for the modified safety drill, which was as simple as finding out where our muster station was and read a few instructions on how to safely evacuate during an emergency. Now after checking in, it’s off to find the food!

I’m a huge fan of buffets and large food spreads, and this cruise did not disappoint. Our first meal was at “The Cabanas”, a buffet style dining experience with several counters with all sorts of food. Since this was my first cruise, I never knew how their original buffet style was, except that rather than helping ourselves, there were cast members at each food station serving us.

My first plate included craw claws, shrimps, various charcuteries, Disney signature Mac ‘n Cheese, salmon and steak. Soft drinks, coffees and juices were all included onboard as well. And this was only a “taste” of what was to come. Desserts were very impressive as well, with cakes, pies, pastries, puddings, cookies and ice cream!

Now that lunch is complete, it’s off to find our cabins. Just before the cruise we were advised that we had all been upgraded to full balcony cabins near the mid-aft of the ship. So far the entire ship was so beautiful, that even a smaller cabin would not have lessened the experience, but it certainly made it all that more magical. Our luggage was already waiting, and our keys to our cabin were there as well. Everything was so organized and run so smoothly.

After resting for a few minutes, we went to the main deck for the sail away party as the ship sounded the signature horn “When you wish upon a star”, we were off. Through the narrow cruise port, towards the open ocean. The horn sounding again, this time echoing off the buildings on either side of us, even resonating through us.

It was now time for a coffee break at the “Cove Cafe”, a very quiet and comfortable place with friendly cast and delicious beverages. We were invited to enjoy a few crudities along with our coffee, as we observed outside the skyline of Miami disappearing in the distance.

It was almost time for dinner. Food options and meals were available everywhere aboard. This was certainly my type of cruise. Night one was at the “Animator’s Palate”

Our first stop the next day was Disney’s very own private island “Castaway Cay”.

For a change of pace, the council meeting this month was held at the “Manoir d’Youville” located on Ile St Bernard in Chateauguay. A beautiful island filled with wildlife and activities for the entire family, all year round. The city purchased this portion of the island, which was once owned by the nuns, for a convent and hospital care home, but now has taken on the role of a retreat hotel in beautiful surroundings. (Version francaise disponible ici).

I was given the opportunity to tour the hotel prior to the start of the meeting, and was able to snap a few photos along the way to share. The following are my honest opinions, and I was not compensated to promote this place at all, only encouraged to share my experiences, and mention all that it has to offer.

My first impressions of this place are of a historic institution, dotted with signs of modern amenities. The entire building was immaculately clean and well maintained. Hallways were well lit, artwork adorned the walls, and even the little touches such as side tables with potted plants, lamps, reading material and even essential oil infusers filled the air with fresh scents.

From the outside, I walked into a bright and clean lobby with a large decorated Christmas tree. I was greeted by the very polite hostess at the front desk, and the newly appointed hotel manager with a very positive and energetic demeanor. He was eager to show off all the work that had been accomplished in such a short time.

One thing that I never knew about the Manoir was that there are 3 ballrooms available for anyone to rent out for various events, such as birthdays, parties and weddings. Capable of hosting groups from 60 to 150 guests, including bar and buffet service available. Residents are offered a discount to host events here. Along with the ballrooms, there are several conference rooms throughout the building that can be reserved for any business event.

On the ground floor there is a coffee break room with a k-cup coffee machine, (cups and coffee pods can be obtained at the front desk for a modest $1.50) Guest rooms don’t have clocks or televisions, however there is a TV room available, and clocks are located in the hallways throughout the building. A large cafeteria offers buffet style dining for all guests of the hotel and visitors to the island.

Rooms are compact, but appear comfortable. A two room suite such as this one displayed goes for approximately $100 per night (plus a 10% rebate for residents), and includes breakfast. A double bed in one room, with a pull out sofa bed in the next. Two desks, closet space and a full washroom with bath and shower. Not every room has these features though. Since this was a monastery, most of the over 200 rooms offer only basic features, with a simple bed, desk and chair, and a communal washroom and shower down the hall. The actual hotel room may seem small, however guests also have access to reading rooms, with a variety of books and comfortable chairs to sit in, and beautifully decorated, period style communal rooms for guests to entertain in.

Other amenities offered to guests include free wifi, swimming pool, and massage room. And free access to the wildlife preserve on this island. While breakfast is included with the nightly stay, lunch an supper are available at an additional cost.

Customer service is usually what makes or breaks a business, and I must say that the staff that I met were the most friendly and accommodating that I’ve found in any hotel stay. Very eager to answer any questions I asked, and they had a sense of pride for their work and the building they were in.

I mentioned how clean this place was before, but I must say again how impressed I was that such a large building can be so well maintained. And it was a very cold night outside but it was so warm and welcoming in every room I visited, including the washroom facilities, that offered the little things such as immaculate sinks and toilets with a smell-good dispenser, and scented soaps. Even the grout in the shower stalls was scrubbed down and clean, something that most big name hotel resorts can’t even get right.

The council meeting is about to begin, so the last room I visited was the large two story chapel, with room for hundreds of guests. Religious services are no longer offered here, but the feel of peace and serenity still flow from this room, down to the large church organ and painted glass art on the windows.

I will leave you now as I enjoy some of these delicious treats prepared here at the hotel.

Thank you for taking to read this mini review, and I hope you decide to check this place out. As the mayor and all the staff said, this is our hotel, and we need to get the word out about this hidden treasure.

I am also working on the recap from Monday’s council meeting, it should be online shortly. There were a lot of interesting topics brought up, once again, and some heated discussions, which are almost always present.

Thanks Again!