With the latest round of dates being released by Disney for May-September 2020, the question of that mysterious category called Concierge has lit up Facebook pages. Is it worth it? Why is it so much more expensive? Just what do you get beyond the paneled doors of the lounge?
Well, first of all, I will tell you that as with most categories in the world of travel and hospitality, “worth” is subjective. It is subjective to your own travel preferences; subjective to one’s experience with, and understanding of, luxury travel; and of course, it is subjective to one’s wallet.
Personally, I now have 19 Disney cruises under my belt, and in those early years of our cruising, was completely happy with our Deluxe Family Stateroom with Verandah. That I need to stress – a Disney Cruise is a wonderful vacation at any level – that is why we have kept going back again and again. However, once I dipped my toe into the Concierge waters, there was no turning back. It is now the only way we cruise.
So what exactly turned my head? Well, here’s a run down of what to expect should you decide to tempt fate and give Concierge a whirl:
Shoreside Concierge – Concierge guests must pay their balances earlier than other categories (120 days prior for cruises under 5 nights, 150 days prior for longer cruises), but they also get to book their excursions and adventure first. At roughly 125 days out from your cruise, you will receive both an email and a phone call from Shoreside. They are your first contact for setting up your Concierge experience to your preferences. They will take your requests for adult dining, excursions, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations for your little ones, notes you would like passed on to the onboard Concierge hosts, even your pillow preference (more on that later), and will reserve them for you at the 120 mark. This perk is especially welcome as it makes the coveted Castaway Cay cabanas a much more likely reality.
Arrival Day At Port – while check-in/waiting areas vary depending on embarkation ports, if you cruise out of Port Canaveral, Disney’s own terminal, you will find a special check-in area, as well as a comfortable waiting area prior to boarding. (Should you be taking DCL transportation from Orlando to the port, Concierge guests have priority bus boarding.) Once any cruisers who are doing back-2-back trips are allowed back on, Concierge guests are the next to board. This makes for a much more pleasant embarkation, as you are not swept up with a hive of people vying to get at once.
A Concierge host (there are three) will meet your group in the lobby and escort you the forward elevator bank where they have keyed off an elevator to whisk you directly up to the Concierge lounge. This will be your private haven for the duration of your cruise. Inside you will be greeted by the other two Concierge hosts, spa employees, and other Guest Services cast members who are all set to welcome you aboard. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the offered Mimosa or champagne and nibble on the assorted treats – both savory and sweet on display. You will then be approached by a host carrying your personal cruise plans. Everything you have set up in advance will be listed inside, and this is your chance to request additional items – dining, even a cabana, as most cruises they have a couple in their back pocket for last minute requests.
Concierge rooms (both staterooms and suites) are ready for you by 1130am, a full two hours before other guests may access their cabins. Drop your carry-on items and go explore!
Private Luncheon – While you are at your leisure to enjoy the ship, the pools, and the buffet, Concierge guests have a private lunch available to them on embarkation day. It is in one of the main dining rooms (for instance, in Royal Palace on the Dream), and is sit down, menu lunch with items like Lobster Salad. Start your cruise with a beer or wine toast – both offered and included in your lunch. It is a lovely way to ease into your cruise after the hectic pace of traveling to get there.
Your room – Back in your stateroom, you will find a welcome fruit bowl as well as a refrigerator stocked with Evian water and soft drinks. In room amenities are elevated – Elemis products (as found in the spa) are provided in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. Your closets will contain plush bathrobes and slippers, even for your children. Staterooms are larger, and if you have a one bedroom suite, you quickly feel you could easily live in such well thought out space – couch and living room area, dining room, a master bedroom with moveable walls that can be completely shut off from the rest of the suite, and two full bathrooms. Your bed and bedding are heavenly – seriously, you will feel like you are sleeping in a cloud each night.
The Lounge – Back to that haven you first glimpsed when you embarked. Accessible with your Key To The World card from 7am-10pm, you will find a variety of food beginning with Contintental breakfast items at 7am, continuing through the day you will find lunch snacks, afternoon offerings – again both savory and sweet (think mini lobster rolls, tuna sashimi or poke, mini wraps, Mickey Rice Krispie treats, the most picture perfect miniature pastries), dinner snacks, and end of the night dessert offerings from 9p-10p.
Inside the lounge you will also find the most heavenly of coffee machines. Forget Mr. Coffee, think high tech, push a button and the perfect latte is produce machine. In the evenings from 5p-10p, the Concierge bartender is on hand to provide you with your favorite alcoholic beverages. If they do have your favorite item on hand (within reason), just ask. I enjoy a bit of Frangelico as an after dinner drink. The first time I asked, they did not have it, but it has been there every night since, on every cruise I have taken.
Private sundeck – On both the Fantasy and the Dream, you will find a door within the lounge that leads up a staircase to an enclosed private sundeck. There you will find a restroom, a large hot tub, comfortable loungers, cold washcloths, ice water, Evian mister bottles to take, and a variety of sunscreen to use at your leisure. There are two doors from the sundeck to outer deck #13. To enter back into the sundeck from the outside, simply place your Concierge Key To The World card against the reader and voila. On longer cruises 4+ nights) there will be a Concierge Sundeck Afternoon Soiree where you can relax and mingle with your fellow Concierge guest.
On the Magic and the Wonder, as those ships have had Concierge facilities installed during dry docks, you will find the private sundeck located just off the lounge.
Concierge Hosts – I cannot say enough great things about the hosts we have sailed with. Each is unfailingly cheerful and intent on making sure you are having the most magical experience ever. Get to know them – seriously – they are amazing people, with incredible backstories, and they love their jobs – but who wouldn’t love making magic for people? Their ability to make magic for their guests is pretty extensive. One night I asked if they could get a certain pair of mouse ears (hotly in demand) before the stores opened – they hand delivered them to me. Another time I asked if it was possible to have my suite decorated to surprise my sister – no problem. They whipped out the binder with the options you usually have to preorder, and had it done the very next day. In talking with one of them one day, she explained that all they really need to do is pick up the phone to the correct department and begin the sentence with, “I have a Concierge guest who would like…”
Please remember to tip them at the end of your cruise. The auto-gratuities of $13.50 per person, per day does not include them, your banquet server who is constantly cleaning and restocking the food, or your private bartender.
Your other Concierge perks: Bottled water and soft drinks kept stocked in your room, as well as available anytime in the lounge; 100 mb of free wifi (ask your host to assist you in accessing it on embarkation day); a private character meet and greet during your cruise; bagged popcorn upon request should you be heading to the movie theater or to see a show; should you staying in a suite, you may order from any main dining room to be delivered to your cabin – menus are available in the lounge and the host will take your order and coordinate time/delivery, stay in a Royal suite and you may order from Palo (surcharge still applies unless you are a Platinum traveler); ability to access your onboard account for any questions or corrections by simply sitting down at the Concierge host desk, They can even book new cruises or placeholders for you; during your cruise you will come back to your cabin one afternoon to find a wonderful Disney lithograph waiting for you, a gift from the hosts; on disembarkation morning, Concierge guests may enjoy the lounge fare one last time, or order Room Service (continental breakfast), a perk not afforded to regular staterooms; when it is time to leave the ship, they will again have an elevator keyed off and will escort you down and off the ship, no lines, no waiting.
Pillow Menu – lest you think I forgot, this deserves a special mention of its own. When you board, ask to see the Pillow Menu. I knew of its existence but had never asked to see it because I thought it was too over the top. My bad. Last month I finally asked to peruse it, chose the memory foam option, complete with, yes, silk pillowcases. Best sleep ever.
So, as you see, you do receive many perks not found in regular categories, but what truly sets it apart for me, is that the entire experience is elevated. The intangible – the “feeling” of just how well you are being cared for, makes the cost completely worth it.
Just be warned. Once you try it, it is darn near impossible to go back. In fact, on your last morning you just may find yourself having to be dragged away like poor ol’ Flynn Rider.
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