26 Disney cruise tips, tricks, secrets and extra magic to unlock when setting sail with Mickey

Summer Hull

Disney Cruise Line might be a comparatively small cruise line with just five ships, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in popularity and enthusiastic fans. It also has some unique approaches to cruising that may surprise you — whether you're a first-time cruiser or an experienced cruiser on a different line.

After sailing on six Disney Cruise Line voyages across four of its ships in the last few years, I've picked up a few hacks and money-saving techniques I'm happy to pass on to you. No matter if this is your first time at sea or your 99th, you can benefit from this list of 26 Disney cruise tips, tricks and secrets.

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You can find discounts on Disney Cruises

Disney cruises are generally more expensive than other family-friendly competitors such as Royal Caribbean , but there are still ways to save money on a Disney cruise . Here are some different discounts you can find for Disney Cruise Line.

When booking a Disney cruise, your best move is to book the cruise as soon as it becomes available. You'll have the best selection of cabins and generally the best prices. Sometimes, you can find discounts closer to the sailing if certain room types aren't selling as hoped.

Sail one-way

A few times a year, Disney ships based in seasonal homeports need to head toward their next cruising region. When that happens, the ships sail one-way (aka repositioning) cruises , starting in one port and ending in a different one. You can often book these one-off sailings for less money than the normal round-trip cruises that start and end in the same spot.

For example, Disney Dream will sail a three-night cruise to move it from San Juan to Ft. Lauderdale in November. You can book a cabin with a balcony for $1,580 for two people, which is a solid price on Disney Dream. The $3,326 price tag for a concierge-level cabin is very good; those cabins usually start at close to $800 to $1,000 higher on many other three-night sailings.

disney cruise suggested tips

Remember to factor in the cost of two one-way flights when you're calculating the savings bonus of taking a one-way cruise.

Related: Ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line

Let Disney pick your cabin

If you're not picky about which cabin you get, an easy way to save a substantial amount of cash on your Disney cruise is to let Disney pick your cabin for you. You select a room type (such as an inside room or one with a balcony) and then let Disney assign you to a specific cabin location closer to sailing. For your flexibility, this type of guaranteed fare comes at a discount.

In the example below, you'll see the cheapest inside cabin where you pick a specific room on the ship is $2,072, while the price starts at $1,488 if you let Disney choose which inside room you get. This type of fare comes with additional restrictions, so read the fine print carefully. I've done this multiple times and have always been happy with the room location I've received.

disney cruise suggested tips

Upgrade your room at the port for less

Depending on the ship's occupancy, it can be cheaper to upgrade your cabin at the port right before you board than in advance. There's no guarantee a better room will be available, but it can't hurt to ask when you are checking in inside the port just before boarding if nicer rooms are available.

disney cruise suggested tips

If higher room categories have gone unsold, the check-in staff can tell you the price to upgrade to a nicer room; they can reference a spreadsheet that outlines the upgrade rates based on your current cabin and fare. In my experience, you can save up to half the cost compared to upgrading your room in advance.

Pay with points or discounted Disney gift cards

You can pay with discounted Disney gift cards to save a little money. There are many ways to do this, but stacking credit card bonus categories with discounted gift cards that can be available at places like Sam's Club or even Target can knock around 5% off the total price without too much effort.

You can also use some types of credit card points and miles to pay for a Disney cruise. For example, you can use Capital One miles from cards such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees ) and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card , (see rates and fees) to cover all or part of any charge that's considered a travel expense.

The Disney Visa Card also offers some onboard savings perks and you can enjoy 0% APR for six months on your Disney vacation packages from the date of purchase, after that a variable APR of 19.24%-28.24%.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

disney cruise suggested tips


2 rooms are cheaper than a suite

If your family is considering getting a suite to spread out and have more space, but are finding the prices for Disney Cruise Line suites to be prohibitively high, consider connecting staterooms instead. A family of four can expect to spend about 50% more on connecting cabins instead of all staying in one room, which is likely a lot less than buying up to a suite which can be several times the cost of a regular room.

disney cruise suggested tips

Get free Mickey ice cream bars (and more) from room service

Unless you're staying in a concierge-level stateroom (more on that soon), room service on a Disney cruise is relatively basic. However, it's available at no extra charge, so use it as much or as little as you like.

I'm a fan of ordering room service for a quick breakfast (or that first hit of coffee) or for a fun anytime treat of Mickey ice cream bars. I often order Uncrustables from room service the night before port days to toss in my bag for the family to eat while ashore. My girls learned how to politely call to order these by the second or third day of the cruise.

It's a common courtesy to add a few dollars for a tip to the slip that you'll sign when the order is delivered.

disney cruise suggested tips

Order as much dinner as you want

On Disney Cruise Line, you'll be assigned a dinner rotation through the three included restaurants on the ship. Your serving team will rotate with you, which is pretty fun as they get to know you and your preferences.

Since this food is all included, don't be shy. If you can't decide between the shrimp or salmon entree, try both. Order a couple of appetizers or be daring and try a dish you've never tasted before.

When it comes time for dessert, create your own sampler-platter for the table and taste them rather than limiting yourself to one selection.

disney cruise suggested tips

You aren't locked into your assigned dining plans

If, for some reason, your assigned order of restaurants or tablemates (if you have any) aren't working out, don't be shy about asking guest services to make alterations. They will connect you with the appropriate people within the dining team to make necessary adjustments.

New movie releases are shown in the theaters

While a movie theater may sound like a strange place to spend a few hours at sea, I recommend making time to go see a new Disney movie while on your next Disney Cruise. The ships show first-run movies, so instead of heading to your local theater to see the next Marvel, Pixar or other Disney film released close to your cruise date, save some money and enjoy the movie at sea for no extra charge.

In fact, if you are at sea when a new Disney movie premieres on land, you'll get to see it the same night on the ship, too.

disney cruise suggested tips

It's cash-free on the ship — except for this

You don't need much cash while on a Disney cruise. Your "Key to the World" room key serves as your form of payment and identification on the ship. I highly recommend bringing a lanyard to keep track of this important card if it's your first Disney voyage. Return cruisers are given a lanyard in their cabin.

However, if you want to add an extra tip to your service team at the end of the cruise beyond the standard amount that's charged to your folio, it's nice to do that with cash. If you are staying in a concierge-level room, you may want to pack some extra cash for the concierge lounge hosts and the evening bartenders, too.

disney cruise suggested tips

Your kids can (maybe) get into an older club

Disney Cruise Line divides kids into four age groups — the nursery (up to age 3), the primary kids club (3–12), a tween club (11–14) and a teen club (14–17). The clubs, other than the nursery, are complimentary, so the magic age for a Disney cruise begins once your child is at least 3 years old and potty-trained, so they can enjoy time in the kids clubs while you enjoy … whatever you want.

disney cruise suggested tips

Once your kid is ready to age up to the next club, they can actually do that a little early with your permission. For example, my oldest was able to level up to the tween club at 10 years old and the teen club at 13 years old with a signed slip from me, so use (or hide) that information as it suits you best. I will say that once your kid levels up in those clubs, they probably won't go back much to the previous club.

Take note that the tween and teen clubs allow kids to come and go at will. If you need your child to be monitored, then they will need to stay in the main kids club, which is open through age 12.

disney cruise suggested tips

Hit the pools early or late to avoid crowds

If you don't want to swim in a crowded pool or wait in a long line for a slide around the AquaDuck or AquaMouse, you'll need to employ some strategy. I recommend heading to the waterslide the second you board the ship if it is warm enough in your port, as that is as empty as it's going to get.

If you miss that window, mornings are also pretty empty, as are late afternoons as everyone starts to get ready for the evening. Avoid mid-day on sea days at all costs unless you like swimming with dozens of your new best friends.

disney cruise suggested tips

You'll want to decorate your door

The cabin doors on a Disney cruise are almost all metal, so decorative magnets will stick to the doors nicely. Pack themed magnets to decorate your door. Not only is it fun to participate in this shipwide decoration, but the personalized door serves to help kids (or tired adults) find their cabin should they forget the room number.

disney cruise suggested tips

You can keep things simple or order personalized magnets on a site like Etsy in advance of your sailing. You may see some doors that go all out and even have pouches with goodies in them. Those hanging pouches are known as fish extenders (as they hang off of a fish built into the ship). They often signify that the cabin is participating in a gift exchange with others on the cruise that they arranged beforehand on Facebook.

disney cruise suggested tips

Your sailing has a Facebook group and it's worth joining

Speaking of Facebook, the odds are excellent that your individual sailing has a Facebook group with several hundred people in it. If you wish to participate in gift exchanges, get to know your shipmates pre-cruise or tap into a hive mind for advice on picking excursions and packing, it's a big asset to belong to a group specific to your sailing.

Go to Facebook and search for your sailing (e.g. Disney Wonder Alaska June 12 - 19). You'll likely find a "private" group that's not officially affiliated with the cruise line. Join the group to be kept in the loop and to drum up excitement for your trip before you set sail.

Soda is free if you know where to look

If you order a can of Coke in the dining room or from room service, it's going to cost you a few dollars, but you can get as much free soda as you want from the fountain. These are usually located on the pool deck and in the buffet area. Bring a refillable bottle so you can easily take your soda with you around the ship.

Check the app for happy hours

Alcohol isn't free on board, but you can find discounted drinks at happy hour. On my most recent Disney cruise, select drinks were 50% off from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the ship's pub. Check your Navigator app during your sailing to look for happy hours on your Disney cruise.

disney cruise suggested tips

The best merchandise sells out

If you see a cool hat, sweatshirt or shirt you adore, buy it as soon as you spot it. The onboard gift shops are only open while the ship is at sea, and the popular items sell out (and generally don't get restocked while you're on board).

A Disney cruise is not just for families

There's no doubt that families make up a large portion of the Disney Cruise Line passenger base, but a Disney cruise is not just for kids . The ships cater to childless couples and friend groups with special spaces reserved just for grownups.

Each ship has an adults-only nightlife area and/or multiple bars and lounges to visit in the evening. An adults-only sun deck includes a pool and space to sunbathe. Each ship also has one or two adults-only restaurants you can retreat to at dinnertime if you want to ensure a high-end and kid-free meal. (You'll have to pay extra for these meals, however.)

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney offers legitimately good liquor and tastings

On top of the cocktails and drinks you may expect, Disney ships offer some very high-end liquors on board. I shared a photo of the below beverage cart on Instagram while on a recent cruise and got dozens of messages from people shocked Disney would have Pappy's bourbon. That specific 23-year-old bottle goes for several hundred dollars per drink, and it's on board Disney cruise ships.

If you're looking for something more affordable, sign up for one of the various beverage-tasting classes on offer. Most of the tastings are $40 - $50, and you'll get to sample a few drinks, as well as learn more about wine, tequila, bourbon and other beverages.

disney cruise suggested tips

You don't need to pay for motion sickness pills

If you find the motion of the ocean to be a bit more than you bargained for, head to guest services, and they will give you — and your kids — motion sickness pills free of charge.

Pro tip: Don't wait until you are feeling terrible to start battling any potential motion sickness . At the first signs of queasiness, seek out a remedy. Green apples and ginger candy are alternatives for travelers who prefer not to take medicine.

The concierge lounge is extra magical

If you want your own personal Fairy Godmother who all but ensures you get the bookings you want, the best meal times, coveted reservations at the adults-only restaurants and cabana access at Castaway Cay, then book yourself into a concierge-level cabin or suite.

You'll get all that, plus you can board the ship first and skip the lines when disembarking. Concierge guests get exclusive access to a lounge with included evening drinks and a private sun deck (with a hot tub on Disney Wish ). You can order meals from the onboard restaurants to your room, and hang out with a Disney character in the lounge one evening of the cruise.

Not to mention, you'll be staying in some of the nicest and largest accommodations on the ship.

disney cruise suggested tips

Concierge-level rooms do not come cheap, but they're the way to go if you want cream-of-the-crop service on a Disney cruise. I'd venture that the added perks and extra booking window for specialty restaurants and Castaway Cay are most valuable on the shorter Disney cruises of three or four nights.

Related: What it's like on a $10,000 Disney Wish concierge cruise

Find your way by looking at the carpet

It can be disorienting at first to find your way around a cruise ship, but Disney makes it easy to know if you are heading forward or aft when you're in the long cabin hallways. If the carpet design is upside down, you're heading toward the back of the ship, but if it is right side up, you're heading to the front of the ship. In the photo below, the globe is the clue.

disney cruise suggested tips

Late dinner is better

Disney cruise ships offer two dinner options — early or late seating. Your showtime for the evening entertainment is opposite your dinner; if you have an early dinner, you have the late show and vice versa.

It's logical to assume that an early dinner at 5:45 p.m., as opposed to late dinner at 8:15 p.m., is better if you have little kids. Having done both, I'd say that late dinner is vastly superior in most situations.

First, 5:45 p.m. is too early to have made the most of your day and be ready for dinner. With all there is to eat on the cruise, you might not even be hungry yet. Beyond that, if you aren't heading into the dark theater to see the show until 8:15 p.m., it can be hard for little ones to sit still or stay awake.

However, if you see the show first and then eat dinner, the servers are great about expressing your meal with little kids. It's better to do a quick dinner and then head to bed (or back to the kids club!) than an early dinner and miss the evening shows because your kid no longer has the ability to sit still.

disney cruise suggested tips

The $45 adult restaurant is worth it

If you enjoy fine dining, book a fancy dinner at one of the adults-only restaurants. Depending on which ship you are on, there will be one or two restaurants that are reserved for adults — Palo and perhaps also Remy or Enchante .

Remy and Enchante are super-fancy and pricy, but Palo is approachable-fancy and costs an additional $45 per person for the set menu. It's 100% worth the money if you can get a booking.

disney cruise suggested tips

You'll leave any cartoony trace of Disney behind as you leisurely indulge on beef tenderloin, sea scallops, grilled lobster with pasta, calamari and chocolate souffle.

The best character meetings aren't the posted ones

You'll find many character meet-and-greets on the itinerary for each day where it's known that Mickey, Donald or Minnie will be at a specific place at a specific time for a brief hello and a photo. Those meetups are great, but they are not the best character interactions you'll find on Disney Cruise Line.

The best time you'll have with characters will be when you least expect to see them. You might spot Goofy walking around in his pajamas, Donald waddling out on the deck or Minnie strolling the halls in her finest dress.

disney cruise suggested tips

These encounters can't be planned or predicted, but without the lines and forced nature of a quick photo, the more free-form interaction with the characters is better than any planned photo sessions you'll find on land or sea.

All the characters come out to say goodbye on the last night

On the last night of each cruise, all of the classic characters come out to the atrium for a short time (15 - 20 minutes) so you can snap a quick photo with anyone you missed before they do their final farewell presentation. Check your app for this goodbye show, which usually occurs around 10 or 10:30 p.m.

disney cruise suggested tips

Pro tip: If you have a specific character you want to photograph, ask a cast member setting up for the event where that character usually stands during photo time. That way, you can position yourself in the right area to snap a photo because the event can turn chaotic in a hurry.

Skip the debarkation line by carrying your own bags

Getting off the ship at the same time as thousands of other guests can be a buzzkill, so don't do that. If you can manage your own bags, don't put them out the night before and take them off the ship yourself the final morning.

That leaves you free to disembark as early as possible before the regular disembarkation begins, which might be around 7:30 a.m. or so, depending on the port, weather and other factors. You can avoid the crowds because you don't have to wait for your luggage to be assembled along with everyone else.

You can bring your own water and wine

If you want to have bottled water at the ready, bring a case of it onboard. It will need to be sealed in its original packaging and you have to carry it on (instead of having it in checked luggage), but it can be worth it if you want to save money for the truly yummy drinks.

disney cruise suggested tips

If you enjoy wine or beer out on your veranda, you can save a little cash by bringing your own alcohol onboard , with limits. Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or a six-pack of beer (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. Again, these beverages need to be carried on and not stashed in checked bags.

You can enjoy the spa without a treatment

If you love the idea of spa-like quiet and relaxation without paying around $200+ per treatment, look into the Rainforest Room in the Senses Spa, which costs much less than that per day. Depending on demand, you can book a one-day pass or get a pass that lasts the duration of your cruise. Inquire in the spa as to availability and exact pricing, but it's certainly going to be less than a spa treatment.

Each of the Disney ships has its own version of this room. On Disney Wish, the space has not only the heated loungers that are a common fixture in each of these thermal areas, but also an indoor and outdoor lounge component, a steam room, a chilled ice room and a relaxing water feature for dangling your feet.

disney cruise suggested tips

Bottom line

You can't go wrong in booking a Disney cruise as there is already so much included and available at your fingertips. But with a little knowledge, you can skip some of the common first-timer mistakes and board like a pro, starting with your first cruise.

Related reading:

  • What it's like inside the Disney Wish Star Wars-themed bar
  • Everything you need to know about Disney Wish
  • The best credit cards for Disney
  • Best destinations you can sail to on a Disney cruise
  • Everything you need to know about Disney's loyalty program
  • The 2 types of Disney Cruise Line ships, explained
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Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay

14 Insanely Useful Disney Cruise Tips to Know Before You Go

October 25, 2019 //  by  Stephanie Kastan //   Leave a Comment

If you’re thinking about planning a Disney cruise, or have already booked one, these Disney cruise tips will help you get the most out of your vacation. Disney cruises are tons of fun, but, like with any vacation, you can miss out on some fun and relaxation if you don’t prepare! If you’re interested in what to pack, how to save money, or how to make the most of your time on your Disney cruise, I’ve got you covered!

Disney Cruise Line (DCL) currently has four ships: The Fantasy, the Dream, the Magic, and the Wonder. There are also more coming in the next few years! Each ship has slightly different offerings, so, whether you have kids or are a kid at heart, Disney definitely has something to offer every passenger.

Get a FREE printable 30/60/90 day Disney countdown by joining our private Disney Facebook Group and share your photos and ask for tips and tricks! 

Disney cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay

Tips for Booking Your Disney Cruise

Best time to go.

Timing is obviously important for vacations, and this is especially true for Disney vacations! Time of year for cruising will also depend on your family’s needs and wants. For example, anytime school is in session is a good choice for a Disney cruise. Fewer people and often cheaper prices are a huge benefit to the off-season. However, if you absolutely cannot go during the school year, that’s clearly not going to work for you.

September is often hailed as the number one Disney cruise trip for best time to sail. It’s a good choice because the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the onboard pools and white sand beaches (unless you’re doing an Alaska or Europe itinerary- though warmer weather will still help these!). However, September is also during Florida’s Hurricane Season, and it can be a busy time of the season for storms (Note that in recent years both Hurricanes Irma and Dorian were in September).

If your family is looking for a specific itinerary- those have specific dates attached to them. For example, Alaska cruises only sail during the summer, for obvious reasons. Disney Cruise Line also has specialty sailings at certain times of the year- Halloween on the High Seas, Very Merrytime, Marvel Day at Sea, and Star Wars Day at Sea. If any of those strike your fancy, be sure to pay attention to which dates they’re offered.

Disney Very Merrytime Cruise Decoration

Choosing your Stateroom

I highly recommend picking your own stateroom! This is one of my biggest Disney cruise tips. However, this can be overwhelming as there are so many options and things to consider. Fortunately, when you book through Disney, or if you go through a travel agent, you are able to view the deck plans to make an informed decision. For example, if anyone in your party experiences seasickness or motion sickness, it is absolutely crucial to pick a stateroom as close to mid-ship as you can and as low deck as you’re comfortable with.

If you are traveling with a bigger party you may be considering a suite that can sleep more people, but it is usually recommended to instead get adjoining cabins. It is actually cheaper to get two cabins than it is to get a larger suite most of the time, plus everyone will have more room (and bathrooms) to spread out.

You should also think about where you want to be in relation to everything else. There is dining on the lower desks if you want to be close to it, but usually most people think about being close to the pool deck up top. This is great if you want to be right there with the action and fun, but you should also consider volume. If you like peace and quiet when you go to bed and night, you may want to be a bit further away from the top decks. Personally, I like to cruise midship because I’d rather have the quiet at night and take an elevator to get to the pool.

Disney cruise atrium and chandelier

Dining Times

Disney Cruise Line has a super fun dining rotation that allows guests to experience different restaurants during their sailing. There are also two dining times to pick from when you book your cruise: early and late. If you’re okay eating dinner at a later time, I highly recommend choosing this option as it will have fewer kids in the dining room (making it much quieter!) and it has the added bonus of Dine and Play. The Dine and Play program means that families at late dining can have dinner all together before the kids are taken to the kids’ clubs!

Your dining time will also impact your timing for the shows! Early dining is much more crowded, which means that most families go to the second show when they finish dinner. If you have late seating for dinner, you can see the show first and get better seats because you won’t have to rush from dinner to the theater!

Specialty Dining

Specialty dining is a total experience on Disney cruises, and one of my biggest Disney cruise tips. If you think you want to do it, book in advance! You can always cancel later but many times you’ll find that by the time of your sailing most reservations will be taken.

Palo and Remy, Italian and French themed respectively, are fine dining experiences. There is an enforced dress code, so pack accordingly! The Palo brunch is often the highest regarded meal, but I think it depends on your tastes. I am a huge sucker for brunch so the Palo brunch did win me over, but the chocolate souffle on Palo’s dinner menu is TO DIE FOR.

The specialty dining options are a flat fee, so while that does mean they’re a bit pricey, it also means you can eat as much as you want to. Just don’t fill up too much before dessert!

Character Meet and Greets

There are plenty of characters to meet onboard Disney Cruise Line (and on the private island, Castaway Cay), and just like in the parks, they’re happy to meet you and your little ones. These characters also have the great benefit of being in great, sea-worthy outfits! Eskimo Minnie on the Alaska sailings has totally stolen my heart, but Captain Mickey (and now Captain MINNIE!) are iconic.

Just like in the Disney Parks, there are designated times for meet and greats with the characters, and you’re able to reserve a spot for them before you sail! I highly recommend doing this if anyone in your party wants to meet the characters (especially the more unique characters like the Star Wars and Marvel crews on those specialty sailings), as the lines can get long and close very quickly.

But don’t worry! If you don’t reserve a time to meet the characters in advance, your cruise Navigator (delivered to your stateroom each day) will list times and locations for meet and greets. Just be sure to arrive early! 10 minutes is the recommended window to ensure you grab a spot in the line. And don’t forget your autograph books!

Disney Cruise Minnie Mouse Meet and Greet

Tips for Making the Most of Your Disney Cruise

What to pack.

If you get motion sickness or seasickness, Dramamine is a MUST for your Disney cruise. You can find it at any drugstore or here on Amazon. Important note about Dramamine- start taking it several days BEFORE you cruise because it can take awhile to start helping you. Also, if you discover you need it after you’ve set sail, or have run out, you can find it onboard all of Disney’s ships!

For most itineraries, sunscreen is another must-pack item. I highly recommend (and encourage) going the reef-safe route, especially because these sunscreens are as effective as the non-reef safe ones are. My favorite ones are All Good and MyChelle , both of which are animal cruelty free and feel great on my skin.

I’d recommend bringing a light sweater on your Disney Cruise for dining and shows, as I find the interior of the ship can get a bit chilly with the air conditioning- especially if you’ve been in the sun all day! For those sailing on colder Disney cruises, I’d still recommend bringing a light sweater in addition to your warmer clothes.

Pins! This is one my favorite Disney cruise tips. I wish I had known to bring pins on my first Disney cruise- my husband and I are big pin traders. For those who don’t know, Disney Parks’ cast members often wear lanyards with Disney pins on them for guests to trade with. However, what I didn’t know was that during Disney Cruise sailings, there is an event held near the theater where the ship’s officers come out and trade pins with the guests! It was a great way to find some unique treasures and can be a great way to bring home a souvenir with a fun memory attached!

Another fun Disney cruise tip is to pack magnets! Why? Because Disney cruise guests often decorate their stateroom doors to show who they are, what they like, or what they’re celebrating! It’s a really fun way to get to know the people you cruise with and make a statement!

For more great ideas on what to pack, check out our post on Disney packing lists !

Stateroom door decorations

Bringing Booze on a Disney Cruise?

All right, adult Disney fans, this one’s for you: Disney Cruise Line allows you to pack booze in your carry-on to bring on your sailing! Honestly, I think this is a great idea for everyone. They do have limits and specifications, so be sure not to exceed them and risk losing the money you spent on the booze AND the money you’ll spend buying more onboard!

Disney Cruise Line allows you to bring two (2) bottles of wine and one (1) six-pack of beer PER PERSON in your carry-on luggage. You are also allowed to buy wine and beer while you’re in a port of call and bring it back to the ship with you! This is such a great money-saver for those who want to drink on their Disney cruise. Additionally, you can also bring wine to your dining room if you want to drink with dinner- the restaurant will charge your stateroom $25 for the uncorking fee.

Tips for Pirate Night

Pirate Night is such a fun and exciting part of Disney cruising. This event is only featured on Caribbean itineraries, so if your Disney cruise happens elsewhere then you can skip this section! Pirate Night happens up on the pool deck, and is a pirate-themed show, with dressed up characters and fireworks!

There is a buffet on the pool deck during Pirate Night, so you may opt to skip the dining room in favor of the buffet and staking out a spot for the festivities. The pool deck is PACKED during Pirate Night, so definitely get there early. Plus, it’s windy up there and you may end up getting a bit chilly (trust me) so bring your sweaters!

At dinner, you will get a Mickey banana to wear for the party, but most guests choose to dress up much more! The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique onboard the ship does offer kids’ pirate makeovers for Pirate Night, but I highly suggest packing costumes/accessories with you.

Disney cruise pirate costume for Pirate Night

Get Connected

Honestly one of the most convenient parts about Disney Cruise Line for me and my husband was the DCL mobile phone app. If you’re wondering what my favorite Disney cruise tip is, here you go: download the app! It allows you to communicate with your party without using data or paying for wifi. No more making plans for the whole day and trying to remember what time you need to meet up with your family. Now you can message them while onboard! The app has other handy features, including a fun countdown to your cruise before you go, but it is a MUST for Disney cruising.

Disney Cruise Line mobile phone app

Embarkation Tips

Best Disney cruise tips for embarkation? Check in online is number 1! You can do this in advance and it will save you so much time at the terminal. When you check in online you can also select your arrival time- be sure to write it down! This saves you so much time in the port AND can help you get on the ship early! If you do this, definitely keep your swim gear in your carry-on so you can grab lunch and hit the pool while others board. Just make sure to still arrive one hour before your scheduled time!

For cruisers with kiddos, it’s almost always easier to sign up for the kids’ club after you board the ship. You are able to in the terminal but the lines get very long, especially compared to the ones onboard the ship.

Disney Cruise Pool Deck

Shore Excursion Tips

I highly recommend shore excursions if they’re in your budget! These are a great and EASY way to explore your ports of call. However, if you’ve been to one your ports of call before, this is a great time to enjoy the ship with fewer people. I live in Florida and have been fortunate enough to cruise multiple times, but the itinerary is always the Bahamas, so I usually skip Nassau to stay on board. This is when I ride the Aquaduck without waiting in line!

However, if you’re going somewhere new then I highly recommend excursions. When I do go to Nassau, my favorite thing is the Atlantis waterpark. It’s awesome! Most ports have a lot of options for you, so definitely check them out and decide on your family’s must-dos. And, if you’re going to Alaska, you’ve got to do the sled dog racing for me! That’s my dream trip. If you’re not a dog person, my mom swears by the glacier helicopter rides.

Disney cruise in Alaska

Before and After Your Disney Cruise

Transfers to and from the port.

Disney offers their buses, which are super cute, for ground transfer for a per person fee. These are an awesome option because you can check your luggage into the bus and it will be delivered to your stateroom without you having to lug it around. Trust me, the cruise terminal before embarkation is PACKED. The last thing you want is to deal with your suitcases and carry-ons and children, if you have them! Plus, bus rides are better on the environment than everyone riding individually, which is a win in my book.

If the shuttle service doesn’t work for you, Uber, Lyft, and other shuttles are all great options to get to the port. Be sure to prepare for a wait in the drop-off lane, though, as that can take awhile! There is also parking at the terminal if you want to drive your own vehicle, just know that the parking is a bit pricey and must be paid upfront.

Disney Cruise Line Bus

Best Hotels in Cape Canaveral and Miami

Cape canaveral.

If you aren’t local to your port and are flying to them, I cannot say enough how much I recommend arriving a day before your cruise. It means you need to get a hotel, but it also means you won’t miss your cruise if you have flight delays or cancellations. Plus, if luggage is lost the last thing you want is to board the ship without it! Even if the airline can’t get your luggage to you in time, at least you’ll have time to pick up some necessities before you set sail.

Many Disney cruises embark from Port Canaveral or Port of Miami, so you may struggle to determine where you should stay! Port Canaveral is in the very small town of Cape Canaveral (home to the Kennedy Space Center), so if you want to stay close to the port, or maybe check out the space center, then below are a couple of good picks.

Country Inn

Canaveral Towers

If y0u’re sailing out of Port Canaveral, you also have the wonderful option of staying at Walt Disney World, which is about an hour away. Disney World is also closer to the airport and still offers ground transfer with luggage checking from the resort to the port.

If you’re sailing out of Miami, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of options for hotels. Port of Miami is right by downtown Miami, it can be pretty hectic. If you’re wanting to see the sights while you’re there, hotels downtown on South Beach are your best bets (and are still close to the port). Here are my favorite choices for Miami.

For Downtown:

Guild Miami

Holiday Inn

For South Beach:

Casa Boutique

National Hotel

Disney cruise terminal at Port Canaveral

Gratuities are a hugely important part of budgeting for your cruise, because most cruise employees rely on tips for their income. Thankfully, gratuities for your cabin and waitstaff are automatically included in your fare so you don’t need to worry much about this on a Disney cruise! However, you have the option to go to Guest Services and adjust the amount of tips provided to your staff. You can also tip cash in most currencies at the end of your cruise if you want.

If you order room service, you will need to sign the receipt and write-in a tip amount to be charged to your cabin because this is not an automatically tipped service. If you enjoy services at the spa, specialty dining, or concierge, gratuities are also included in the price but you are able to tip on top of that if you so choose.

Disney Cruise ship Magic

Now you’re ready to book and set sail on your Disney Cruise! You’re going to have a wonderful time. I hope these Disney cruise tips have helped you to feel more prepared for your vacation so that, when the time comes, all you need to do is have fun! Happy cruising!

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40 Disney Cruise Tips and Secrets You Should Know Before You Go

These tips will make your Disney cruise vacation even more magical.

disney cruise suggested tips

Cruise vacations are a great way to unwind and relax in some of the most beautiful locales in the world, and a Disney cruise takes the traditional experience up a notch with unique, familiar touches and a little bit of magic. With so much to know before you set sail with Disney Cruise Line, it's easy to miss out on the most interesting facts and features.

Even if you think you know all about the ships and activities on board, you can still return to port without ever knowing about the secret sundecks, unannounced character greetings, and unexpected Mickey-shaped foods. Whether you're planning for this year or the next, prepare yourself for a hefty dose of Disney knowledge, because for you, these Disney cruise tips and secrets are no longer under wraps.

Meet the Expert

Adrianna Hwang is a planDisney panelist specializing in Disney Cruise Line.

Heather Peggs is a Disney travel expert with Castle Bound Travel Company.

Book your cruise early to get the best deal.

Disney uses a dynamic pricing system, meaning the earlier you book, the more you’ll save. Early bookings also ensure that you get your desired cabin. You can even book your next cruise while on board to save even more. The best part? This placeholder is fully refundable if plans change.

Consider booking a themed sailing. 

Disney Cruise Line offers a limited number of themed sailings, including Pixar Day at Sea and Marvel Day at Sea itineraries. These cruises up the ante with specialty shows and character appearances from beloved franchises, including Captain America , Toy Story , and more. You’ll also want to check out the special holiday cruises surrounding Halloween and Christmas. During these sailings, you’ll spot characters in special outfits and can enjoy themed food and beverage options, specialty entertainment, and much more. Disney Cruise Line guests love to bring themed attire to celebrate the occasion, so plan ahead if you want to partake in the fun.

Save big and let the mouse pick your room.

If you’re not picky about where your cabin is located on the ship, you can save a substantial amount of money by letting Disney pick your cabin. Just select your room type, like an inside cabin, and your specific cabin number will be assigned closer to your sail date.

See if cabin upgrades are available when you arrive at the port.

When available, cruisers may be able to snag an affordable last-minute room upgrade at the port, saving hundreds on a higher-tier room. 

Download the app before you go. 

Disney Cruise Line’s exclusive Navigator app is an absolute must-have to make the most of your time at sea. It adds convenience while taking care of practical vacation elements, like payment, online check-in, and trip modifications. This is also your go-to for pre-registering for Disney Cruise Line’s wide range of activities and keeping tabs on the daily schedule, which includes showtimes and deck parties. You can also communicate with your family and other cruise-goers for free using the app.

And don’t miss out on this convenient notification feature: “Scroll through the daily activity schedule to look for entertainment options that interest you, and be sure to click the heart icon next to any listings you don't want to miss,” planDisney panelist Adrianna Hwang tells Travel + Leisure . “If you've enabled notifications for the app, you'll receive a reminder about 15 minutes before the activity will begin. It's a really helpful feature when you lose track of time relaxing by the pool!” 

This is especially important if character meet-and-greets are a priority for you. “The Disney Cruise Line Navigator app will list character appearance times and locations so that you can be sure to catch your favorite Disney characters on board,” Hwang adds. “If you select the specific character listed in the Daily Activity Schedule within the app, you'll even see the full schedule of times to meet them throughout the cruise so that you can plan accordingly.” Hwang suggests arriving at the greet locations at least five to 10 minutes early.

Use your Castaway Club perks to book extras early. 

If you’re looking to book extras, like shore excursions and elevated dining experiences, your booking window depends on your loyalty to Disney Cruise Line. The Castaway Club is Disney’s version of a frequent cruiser program, and sailors earn status based on the number of sailings they’ve been on. Higher status translates to earlier booking windows, so Disney Cruise Line loyalists can score their desired bookings first. 

Related: What to Know About Castaway Club, Disney Cruise Line's Loyalty Program

Plan to exchange your currency onboard.

Not only does Disney Cruise Line take no commission for exchanging bills , but they'll actually honor the transaction's rate of exchange for any leftover money. Simply present your receipt prior to the end of the cruise, and they'll convert your foreign currency back to your preferred denomination at the same rate, even if the exchange rate has since changed. (Note: This only applies to bills, not coins, and there is no ATM on board.)

Bring a reusable water bottle. 

While there are water fountains and bottle refill stations on board, they can be far away from your room — and disposable bottles (not included in the fare) can add up. The tap water in each room is drinkable, but sinks are often too small to accommodate big bottles. You can bring packs of bottled water, but you'll have to carry it through embarkation — it cannot be packed with luggage — so consider bringing refillable bottles or tumblers.

See characters in their special cruise wardrobe.

Thought you knew everything there was to know about the Fab Five? Wait until you see them in their exclusive Disney Cruise Line wardrobe. Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Minnie wear special outfits for Pirate Night, and they also tailor their outfits to where the ship is headed that day. On Alaska sailings, expect to meet Mickey in fisherman's overalls and Minnie in a fur-lined coat; on trips through the Mediterranean Sea, Goofy dons an Italy-inspired suit. Specialty characters are also known to show up from time to time, like Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabelle appearing as the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus during the spooky season.

Aspiring princesses won’t want to miss the Royal Gathering.

The Royal Gathering is your chance to meet and greet with Disney royalty, like Tiana and Cinderella, all at one time and place. It’s offered on most cruise itineraries but there is a catch: while tickets are free, they are required to attend. “Complimentary tickets to the Royal Gathering are available to be booked online or through the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app or Disneycruise.com 30 days before your sail date,” Hwang adds. “Take this experience to the next level for your little one by reserving a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover an hour or two before the Royal Gathering begins.” 

And know that the most memorable character experiences won’t be at meet-and-greets.

The lines to meet Mickey and Minnie are (amazingly!) short on Disney Cruise Line, but favorites like Daisy Duck are known to freely wander the pool and jogging track decks, playfully surprising guests and often sharing elevator rides for a once-in-a-lifetime interaction. Don't miss the character dance parties either, which allow kids and adults to line dance with Goofy and shake it off with Donald Duck for an experience that goes beyond a hug and photograph.

Order whatever you’d like to eat — and as much as you’d like. 

Disney Cruise Line’s dinnertime meal service operates on a rotating restaurant schedule, so you'll get to enjoy each restaurant the ship offers — and some more than once on longer sailings. These highly themed restaurants, like Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure on the Disney Wish , offer pre-fixe dinner menus. Torn between two entrees? Order them both. Each of your ship’s included rotational dining restaurants comes with a fixed three-course option that is all-you-care-to-enjoy.

Splurge on specialty dining. 

Standard dining is fantastic, but Disney ships also have adults-only restaurants available at an extra charge. Depending on your ship, this could include the French-focused Remy or fan-favorite Palo. While Remy and Enchante can be pricey, you can enjoy Palo for as little as $50. 

And on the Disney Wish , you won’t want to miss its newest iteration, Palo Steakhouse. “If you've sailed with Disney before, you may be familiar with Palo, but on the Wish , Palo Steakhouse is even better,” Heather Peggs, a Disney travel expert with Castle Bound Travel Company, shares with T+L. “I highly recommend trying the A5 wagyu steak, which is about a fifth of the price it would be off the ship, and it's absolutely phenomenal!”

These upgraded dining experiences are known to book up well in advance, but there is occasionally a waitlist available for canceled and missed reservations. “If you can't snag a reservation before the cruise, inquire in person on the day you embark,” Hwang adds. “Look for the activity listed as ‘Dining Reservation Changes’ to speak with a crew member about reservation availability.” 

Request the best seat in the house at dinner. 

Always dreamed of sitting by the stage at Tiana's Place on the Disney Wonder or enjoying dinner in those gorgeous Enchanted Garden booths on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ? Well, it's not entirely luck of the draw. Nothing is guaranteed, but requests for a certain table can always be added to your Disney Cruise Line reservation, and they are worth the extra phone call. Concierge guests can make seating requests to their Concierge Service Specialist before boarding as well. You never know when Disney will sprinkle a little extra magic onto your vacation.

And don’t miss the best dinner entertainment.

The dinner show at Animator's Palate is a highlight if you’re sailing on the Magic, Wonder, Dream, or Fantasy, but it's the second visit to that dining room that can't be skipped. It's called Animation Magic, and guests get to draw their own characters and see them come to life on the screens mid-meal. The incredible display is only offered on longer sailings on the Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy, so make sure you don’t skip it. Even better? Request that your rotation allows two visits to Animator's Palate that don't overlap with Pirate Night to ensure you enjoy the show.

Grab a free soda at this spot.

Soda is included during sit-down meals, but if you’re craving a thirst quencher outside of those times, go to the free-flowing beverage stations near the pools on each Disney ship.

Sip cocktails at this favorite bar. 

There are plenty of themed watering holes in the adults-only areas of the ships, but on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy , Meridian is the place to be. The upscale bar and lounge is located next door to Palo and Remy, but it is open to all adults adhering to its business casual dress code. Though known for its martinis, Meridian also offers a cigar bar, custom craft cocktails, and a gin and tonic cart, as well as a private deck hosting a picture-perfect view of nightly sunsets.

Check out the Star Wars -themed bar on the Disney Wish .

Star Wars : Hyperspace Lounge is a bar exclusively found on the Disney Wish . “Whether you’re an avid Star Wars fan or just want to explore the galaxy, you will be able to enjoy delicious alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages that are simply out of this world,” adds Peggs. Reservations are no longer required, but there might be a wait, especially during peak hours; visit when the ship is in port to avoid the crowds. During the day, guests of all ages are allowed in.

It’s a multi-sensory experience in this immersive, interactive venue, and you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled in case anyone orders the $5,000 Kaiburr Crystal cocktail.  

Save on drinks during happy hour at sea. 

Be sure to check the Navigator app for daily happy hours at different bars and lounges. The exact offers vary, but they can include deals like half-off draft beer and discounts on specialty cocktails. And if you’re looking to take your cocktail knowledge to the next level, cruises also offer add-on mixology classes and tasting experiences.

Ask about the Sommelier Bin for discounted wine. 

Once a bottle of wine is opened, Disney must serve it (in its entirety) that day. Because of this, Disney ships have a sommelier bin, with opened bottles of wine served by the glass at highly discounted rates. This is your chance to sip on otherwise pricey pours at a bargain price. Now that’s Disney magic.

Or B.Y.O.B. to save money.

Looking to save a few bucks? While Disney ships offer a bevy of specialty cocktails, you can bring your own drinks — with some limitations. Hard liquor is a no-go, but each cruiser 21 years of age and up can bring two bottles of wine (or six-packs of beer) on board with them. If you’re thinking of bringing that bottle of wine with you to dinner, be aware that Disney does charge a corkage fee. You can also bring sealed bottles of water on board with you.

Take a second look at that barbershop on the Disney Wish .

Hook’s Barbery may look like any old upscale barbershop when walking by — but it’s hiding one of the best-kept secrets aboard any Disney ship. Tucked away within the salon is a hidden speakeasy-style bar serving expertly crafted cocktails, including a smoked old fashioned. Its liquor selection is extensive and surprising with rare and vintage pours.

Snack on soft serve on and off the ship.

If you’re a frequent Disney cruiser, you’re probably familiar with the line’s free-flowing soft-serve ice cream. And if the craving strikes when visiting Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you’ll be glad to know it’s also available on the island for the ultimate sugar rush in the sun.

Get an extra-magical coffee. 

Few can resist a Mickey-shaped treat while visiting any Disney property, but the best mouse-themed treat on the ships can be found at Cove Cafe . Order a cappuccino, ask for Mickey's face on it, and prepare to enjoy your jolt of caffeine with some extra magic. It'll cost a few bucks, but the joy of sipping a “Mickeyccino” will always outshine the complimentary coffee served on board. 

Order a Mickey bar — and more — with free room service. 

You’ll be glad to know that, unlike other cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line’s room service is completely free and offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The best part? You can have an iconic Disney treat, the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, delivered directly to your room.

Book early if you plan to use the ship’s nursery.

Bookings open early for guests looking to take advantage of the onboard nursery. Available for an extra charge, the It’s a Small World Nursery is available to supervise your child ages six months to three years old, ideal if you’d like a quiet dinner or time to explore one of the ship’s many themed lounges without the little one in tow. And don’t forget — the other youth clubs for kids, tweens, and teens are absolutely free.

Teens can hang out in the coolest part of the ship.

Every Disney ship has a Vibe , an onboard youth club that is exclusively available for teens ages 14 to 17. There is supervision, of course, and Disney Cruise Line's famously fun activities, but it's practically a private resort for high schoolers to chill in all day and night — no parents allowed.

Explore the kids clubs during the open house. 

Activities at the Marvel Super Hero Academy and Star Wars : Millennium Falcon play areas are reserved for young ones, but all kids club spaces empty out for the open house, when anyone can wander in and check out Vibe's arcade games or Oceaneer Lab's high-tech designs. Don't skip out on Andy's Room, which brings Toy Story to life while making for incredible Instagram snaps. And you won’t want to miss a multi-level slide on the Disney Wish which takes you from floor to floor in the ship’s soaring lobby. “Little ones can get comfortable with and excited about areas where they will play without their grownups,” shares Hwang.

Join a secret community of friends — hiding in plain sight.

Ever seen those homemade decorations hanging beside neighbors' doors? They're called fish extenders, and they're used by a network of families who have packed small gifts, treats, and trinkets to exchange with each other throughout their trip. To get in on the fun for your next sailing, visit the DisBoards Cruise Meets forum or CruiseCritic's Roll Calls . Many times, there are Facebook groups for your exact sailing as well. This can be particularly helpful with shy kids as they can get acquainted with other cruise-goers their age ahead of their journey.

Add an Adventures by Disney trip to your vacation.

You can enhance your Disney Cruise Line experience with Adventures by Disney Escapes before or after your sailing. Experience global cities through expertly curated itineraries in Barcelona, Paris, Rome, and beyond. 

Spring for a concierge-level room and relax on a private sun deck.

There are plenty of perks that come with booking a concierge-level room — namely early access to onboard bookings, personalized service, and in-room amenities. And perhaps the best part, concierge guests have access to their own private sun and lounge deck outfitted with upscale lounge chairs, complimentary sunscreen, and chilled face towels, as well as a pool deck host who can fulfill any requests for full relaxation.

See the latest Disney movies. 

Enjoy the latest Disney releases at the on-board theater without having to buy tickets in advance. Even better? Many new Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars films have 3-D showings, allowing guests to experience eye-popping effects on the high seas. Movie times are available on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. And during the holidays, classics are featured, like “Hocus Pocus” during Halloween sailings.

Skip the ports to enjoy fewer crowds at the pool.

It may be tempting to disembark and explore Jamaica or relax on Castaway Cay, but if you stay behind, you can enjoy fewer crowds at the pools. This could be your prime chance to experience the AquaMouse water coaster, the cruise line’s first attraction at sea on the Disney Wish , with little to no line.

There are also lots of activities to take advantage of on board. “I must say I'm a huge fan of staying on board even on port days to explore the array of classes, Broadway-caliber shows, and, of course, the games,” adds Peggs. “If you're looking for family-friendly options, a couple of my favorites are Bingo, which they have every day during your sailing, napkin and towel folding, bar trivia, and so much more!”

Don’t miss the musicals.

While it may be tempting to take advantage of quieter swim times in the evening, you won’t want to miss your ship’s musical offerings. Broadway-quality productions including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” (exact offerings depend on the ship) are a must-see. “These are beautifully done and are wonderful for the entire family,” Peggs adds. “Plus, if you purchase a popcorn bucket at the beginning of the cruise, you will be able to enjoy $1.50 refills for the remainder of your cruise!”

There’s an under-the-radar design tour.

Adults 18 and up can enjoy one of the cruise line’s best walking tours. “The Art of The Theme Show Tour gives adults an insightful look into the detailed and thoughtful design of several spaces throughout the ship,” adds Hwang. “It's usually offered in the mornings and provides some fun trivia to share with anyone in your party.” 

Unwind at the spa.

You’re on vacation — it’s time to pamper yourself in the state-of-the-art spa. “If you are interested in booking a spa treatment, attend the open house before the ship sets sail,” Peggs shares. “You might get lucky and win a voucher for 10% off or possibly a facial or massage during the raffle. Speaking of savings, the more spa services you get while on board, the better the price will be. If you want to secure a spa day/week pass, be sure to book them sooner rather than later as they sell out pretty quickly!”

There’s a totally free fan-favorite activity.

If your itinerary takes you to Disney’s Castaway Cay, then you can partake in one of Disney Cruise Line’s most beloved activities, the Castaway Cay 5k — and it’s completely free to all guests. Suitable for runners and walkers alike, this on-your-own race invites you to discover Disney’s private island from a different vantage point as you travel through its stunning tropical paths. All participants receive an exclusive medal when they finish.

Not feeling well during your sailing? Disney can help.

There’s nothing worse than feeling sick on vacation. But have no fear, the mouse is here to help. Each ship is equipped with on-site medical help, and if you experience seasickness, complimentary medicine is available.

Grab every photo before the clock runs out.

Even if you skipped every character meet-and-greet, you'll still be able to cram in a week's worth of photos at "Til' We Meet Again," the goodbye show on the final night of each sailing. After a short heartwarming performance, loads of Disney characters, princesses, and theater performers will disperse throughout the crowd, posing for photos on a first-come, first-served basis. The onboard photographers will have already shut down, so you can snap as many iPhone pictures as you'd like, making for a full album in one fell swoop. This experience only lasts for around 20 minutes; you can find the exact time in the Navigator app.

Want to disembark first? Carry your own bag.

You don’t want to sour a wonderful vacation with a never-ending line simply to exit the ship. Instead of leaving your luggage out the night before, carry it off the ship yourself and arrive at your final destination without having to wait in lengthy port queues.

EverythingMouse Guide To Disney

107 Disney Cruise Tips and Hacks You Have to Know Before You Sail 2024

Sharing is caring!

Who wants all the Disney cruise tips and secrets 2024 that you need to know?

After sailing on over 40 cruises I wanted to give this free list of Disney cruise tips to our readers.

So if you want the biggest and best collection of Disney Cruise Tips, Secrets and Hacks ever read on! 

Everything was updated in January 2024.

disney cruise suggested tips

We started out thinking we would aim for 101 Disney cruise tips and secrets.

However, that just wasn’t quite enough.

So here is our collection of 107 Disney cruise tips to save you time and money so that you can have the very best experience at sea!

These Disney Cruise Tips are Updated for March 2023 Booking Your Disney Cruise


There are ways to save on your Disney cruise.

Whether you are sailing to Alaska, cruising the Caribbean and the Bahamas, or choosing an exotic European vacation, there are always ways to save.

Booking well in advance also gives you the best choice of staterooms.

disney cruise stateroom

If you want to know more about this here is our complete guide at How To Save Money on A Disney Cruise

2. Pick Your Disney Cruise Sailing Carefully

Some Disney Cruise itinerary sailings are more expensive than others. The usual rules of economics work here.

The more demand the higher the price. Usually, the repositioning cruises offer the best per night price for a Disney cruise.


The Disney Cruise Transatlantic sailings on that for 2024 are on the Disney Dream are usually one of the best values.

The most expensive Disney cruises? You probably guessed it. Holiday cruises, particularly the Christmas Disney cruises are usually the most expensive.

The Disney Mediterranean Cruises and Alaska Cruises are also higher priced – but worth it!

3. Disney Visa Has Perks

If you check in with your Disney Visa card you will be entitled to certain discounts.

Currently, this will give you:

  • 10% off select Disney Cruise Merchandise when you spend $50
  • 10% off a digital photo package
  • 20% on certain spa treatments on port days
  • 10% off a Castaway Cay Getaway Package.

We have written a guide for you with all the Disney cruise tips you need so that you get the very best deal.

How to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

4. Two Disney Cruise Staterooms May Be A Better Deal Than One

If you have a party of 5 you really need to consider if one stateroom or two will be the better deal.

Disney cruises are one of the very few cruise lines which have staterooms that accommodate up to 5 guests.


However, these Disney cruise staterooms are very popular and tend to be pricey.

You should consider if 2 staterooms would be the better deal.

If you have young children you might want to think about choosing connecting staterooms on your Disney Cruise.

There are plenty of options available, particularly on the newer Disney Dream and Fantasy ships and of course the Disney Wish .

5. Book A Disney Cruise Onboard

This is one of the best Disney cruise tips to save money.

It will work once you are sailing on your first and any future Disney cruises.

The best deal is to book when you are onboard.


You will receive a 10% discount on the current brochure prices.

Unfortunately, a placeholder no longer offers any onboard credit.

Don’t know which Disney cruise you want to sail on next?

You can book what is called a Disney Cruise Place Holder and decide at a later date which one you want to sail on.

You have two years to sail on a Disney cruise from the date you booked your placeholder.

Join My Disney Cruise Group for Exclusive Tips and Disney Cruise Giveaways

6. Look Out For Special Disney Cruise Sailings

Love Pixar movies? You will want to check out the Pixar Days at Sea.

Other themed cruises include Marvel Days at Sea and of course the Halloween on the High Seas , Christmas, and New Year Cruises.

7. It’s All Included on a Disney Cruise

Once you are onboard almost everything is included.

Your accommodation, food, and entertainment are all included in the price that you have paid to sail.


Yes, you can pay extra for things on board, but you don’t have to.

Here is our guide to What is Included on a Disney Cruise and What You Pay Extra For

8. Disney Cruise Gratuities Explained

Gratuities for your dining servers and stateroom host will be automatically added to your onboard account.

However, you can adjust them however, you want.

Service onboard a Disney cruise is excellent.

Guests do get confused about Disney Cruise tips and how to pay, but it’s really very easy.

Here is a Guide to Tipping on a Disney Cruise to help you know what to expect.

Check-In For Your Disney Cruise Online


Remember to check in online for your cruise as soon as you can.

9. Use Your Disney Cruise Personalizer


Once you have completed your Disney Cruise online check-in you will have access to booking onboard events and cruise excursions on the Disney Cruise Personalizer.

The  time that you can check in depends upon whether you have cruised with Disney before, and if so, what level of Castaway Club member you are.

This can be anything between 75 and 123 days before your cruise.

Platinum members and Concierge guests get priority so you may find that some things are booked before you get the chance.

A classic illustration of this is the Cabanas on Castaway Cay .

There are limited numbers and are usually snagged by Concierge and Pearl guests at one minute past midnight on the day online check-in opens for them.

Castaway Cay Cabanas are the hottest ticket on a Disney cruise and are very difficult to get unless you are a Concierge or Pearl Castaway Cay guest.

10. You Must Prepare for Embarkation Before You Sail


Things have changed quite a bit since Covid – but Disney makes things as easy and as safe as possible for all Guests.

Disney Cruise Line DOES NOT Guests to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.

DCL does continue to strongly recommend that guests are vaccinated and that they test before embarking on a cruise ship.

Requirements can change so the best place to go for this information is always:

Disney Cruise Line Know Before You Go

11. Book Tickets Online for Character Greetings


Most character greetings are just announced every day in your Personal Navigator and you get in line to see your favorites.

The Disney Princess Gathering is a separately ticketed event and you must have this to attend the meet and greet.

If you want to see your favorites your best chance is to get tickets online in the Cruise Personalizer.

If you don’t get them online go straight to Guest Services when you board to see if there are any still available.

Note that right now the Anna and Elsa Frozen Meet and Greet is not scheduled on any of the Disney Ships.

12. Book Special Dining Online


If you want to book one of the adult dining experiences you can book one experience in each restaurant online.

If you book for the first night at Remy or Palo you can now also book a second night online. Remy, in particular, gets booked up so always try and book in advance.

If there is nothing available, you can still try and book as soon as you get on your cruise.

The Navigator will tell you where the restaurant Cast Members are on the ship to help you make a reservation.

Wine tastings and other special events are now offered online as well. Make sure that you log into your Disney Cruise Personalizer as soon as you can so that you can book the events that you want.

Remember though that there are usually spaces still available on the ship.

So visit Guest Services as soon as you get on board.

13. Sign Up The Young Ones for The Kid’s Clubs


See that long line at the cruise port over in the corner? That is for the grown-ups who did not sign up their children online for the kid’s clubs.

You can save a lot of time waiting in line if you just fill out the simple form online.

Then you can skip the lines and go straight to the place where they will be given their wristbands.

Disney Cruise Ship Kids Clubs – What to Expect

14. Book Port Adventures in Advance


You will be visiting some amazing ports so you will want to think about which Disney Port Adventures you want to book.

Your online Cruise Personalizer has details of them all. You can book before you sail.

We always suggest that you book excursions via Disney. You can book independently and you will probably save money.

However, if you book with Disney you can be sure that they have the Disney seal of approval. Most importantly if you are late back from a Disney Port Adventure the ship will wait for you.

If you go independently you could be waving goodbye to your floating home from the dock.

We have seen it happen.

Don’t let it be you.


15. disney cruise packing 101.

One of the great things about a cruise is that you are not restricted to how much luggage you can take on board.

If you are driving to the cruise port this makes things easy.

Take as much as you want!

However, if you are arriving by plane you will still have to navigate their increasingly ungenerous baggage allowances.

disney cruise save money

Things to Take on a Cruise: 50 Must-Have Items to Pack

16. Pack a Carry On

Your luggage will arrive in your Disney cruise stateroom sometime in the afternoon and early evening.

If there is anything that you need as soon as you board, make sure that you have packed it in a carry-on bag.

This should definitely include your cruise and identification documents, and any medication that you need.

I also tend to pack swimsuits.

It is also a great time to experience the Aqua Duck if you are on the Disney Fantasy or Dream. Or the AquaMouse on the Wish.

17. Prepare For the Unexpected


No one wants to talk about this subject, but here we go.


It happens.

The Disney cruise ships are very stable, but sometimes you may not find it possible to get your sea legs.

We have sailed in very challenging seas but never encountered a problem.

However, just in case you will find our guide How Not To Get Sick on a Disney Cruise useful.

18. Tell Your Credit Card Company Your Plans

Unfortunately, credit card fraud is very common these days. So your credit card company will pick up on any unusual activity.

They can and often will stop your card if they detect anything strange.

My card was canceled when I tried to charge $10 in Grand Cayman!

Fortunately, I had a backup card.

For more details check out Things Not To Forget on Your Disney Cruise

19. Arriving at the Port


If you are sailing from Port Canaveral here is a guide to getting to the Port from Orlando International Airport. 

20. Arrive the Day Before Your Cruise

Sometimes flights are delayed. We strongly recommend that if you possibly can, make sure you arrive at least within easy driving distance to the port the day before.

There are plenty of hotels at each Disney cruise port including Port Canaveral.

If you ignore most of the rest of this article just listen to this Disney Cruise Tip as it is one that can make a huge difference.

Don’t leave things to chance and be stressed about making it on time to your cruise.

Nothing could be worse than not making it on time and watching the ship sail away into the sunset without you.

21. Get a Call from Mickey or Minnie

This is another great feature of your Cruise Personalizer. You can schedule a call with Mickey or Minnie! You can schedule the date, and time and choose if you want Minnie or Mickey.

It’s another way Disney cruise lines make things that bit extra special.

22. Download the Disney Cruise Navigator App

You can do this any time you want, but make sure you do it before you get on board.

On the cruise ship, it shows you what is happening every day.

Before you cruise it gives you a countdown of how many more days, hours and minutes there are before you board!

The Navigator App also lets you send texts free of charge to members of your stateroom and anyone else who authorizes you to do this.

This is so much better than the Wave Phones you get in each stateroom. Make sure that all family members get the App before they board.

If you have an iPhone then iMessage works on the ship.

23. There May Be a Disney Cruise Stateroom Upgrade


Want to upgrade your Disney cruise stateroom? You can always ask at check-in if there are any upgrades available.

Sometimes, but not always, you can get an upgrade at a reduced cost. It always pays to ask just in case! You can then decide if the upgrade you are offered is worth the extra cost.

Never rely on a Disney Cruise upgrade though.

They are increasingly unlikely as Disney cruise ships are so popular and are often fully booked.

24. It’s A Key To The World

When you check in you will be given your stateroom key which is your Key To The World Card.

This allows you to charge all expenses to your room key.

You can limit the charging privileges of others in your stateroom.

You don’t have to give your 8-year-old the power to buy what he wants in the store!



Finally, the time has come to get on the Disney ship.

All that anticipation and preparation.

Now the day has arrived!

27 Do’s and Don’ts For Your First Day On A Disney Cruise Ship

25. Wait For Your Boarding Number

When you check in at the terminal you will be given a card with a boarding number for your party.

Don’t ever think that you can board earlier than your group. You will be stopped!

26. Stop for A Photo


There are always photographers stationed along the gangway to take your embarkation photo.

Stop if you want or pass it by if you really can’t wait the extra few minutes to board!

We recommend you are not camera shy.

There are many photo opportunities on the ship, but the embarkation photo is one of our favorites.

Here is a Complete Guide to Disney Cruise Photo Packages.

27. Give The Disney Cast Members Your Name


When you board the Disney Ship you will be asked for your family name.

Make sure that you give it to them as you have a special surprise welcome!

28. Go To Disney Cruise Guest Services

If you need to book any specially ticketed events, such as Beverage Tastings.

You may still be able to pick up tickets.

29. Start Eating!


The food offerings start as soon as you board. You can head up to the pool deck to experience the buffet.

If you want a slightly less crowded space one of the restaurants will also offer a buffet selection or waiter service option.

It won’t be as huge a choice as the pool deck, but fewer people head here so you may get a more relaxing start to the cruise.

Guide to Disney Cruise Food

30. Make Sure You Do the Drill

Muster drills have changed a lot in recent times.

But you still have to comply with the instructions and attend your muster station. This is about safety and it is important.

Don’t be late for your drill. It inconveniences a lot of other guests and Cast Members.

31. Put Your Phone in Airplane Mode

One of the most expensive mistakes that you can make on any cruise is not checking your cell phone coverage.

You can end up with a very hefty bill if you use your cell phone onboard. This applies to calls, text, and data.

You could just put your phone in your room safe and not connect.

However, if you want to use the Navigator App we suggest that you simply put your phone into airplane mode.

32. Take Advantage of Free Wi-Fi


If you use your own cell phone provider data provision you will be paying a fortune.

All the Disney ships, except the Wonder, have new internet packages. The Disney Wonder will get the upgrade in October 2023.

Here is a Guide to Disney Cruise Internet Packages.

33. Enjoy the Sail Away Party

Disney knows how to put on a show and the Sail Away Party is no exception. Head on out to the pool deck for a very high-energy party.

You can also watch the port disappear into the distance by going up onto the deck above the pool deck.

Or if you have a balcony stateroom why not enjoy the Drink of the Day in your own private haven?

34. Take a Tour of the Spa


This is a great opportunity to see the Disney Rainforest and the Spa treatment rooms to plan what you would like to do in the spa.

There is always a free-to-enter spa raffle on the first day.

You may as well enter as you may win a free spa treatment or a discount.



35. Not All Disney Cruise Staterooms are Created Equal

Disney cruise lines have some of the largest and the best staterooms in the industry. Your choices range from an inside stateroom right up to the magnificent Walt Disney Suite.

Your choice mostly depends upon your budget, but even within the same category, there are some staterooms that are a better choice than others.

Here is our video which shows the smallest of the Disney cruise staterooms which is a Standard Inside Stateroom.

This is the only stateroom category that does not have a split bath.

Read our Disney Cruise Staterooms to Avoid to help you decide.

36. Disney Cruise Staterooms Have Split Bathrooms


Another unique thing about Disney cruises is the “split bathroom” concept. This is ideal for families.

What does it mean? There are 2 bathroom spaces in most of the Disney cruise staterooms.

One has a toilet and a sink. The other has a bath, shower, and sink. Each has plenty of storage space.

The split bathroom idea cuts down waiting time in the morning when everyone is trying to get ready for breakfast!

37. Disney Stateroom Door Decoration is Encouraged


Walk along the corridors of your Disney cruise ship and you will see some spectacular door decorations. Your imagination is the only limit to just how creative you can get.

The doors and walls in your Disney cruise stateroom are magnetic.

Decorations are available to buy, or get creative and make your own!

Just make sure that you do not cause any damage to the stateroom – use magnets, not tape.

You don’t want a nasty shock on your final account if you are fined for damaging the wall!

You might want to check out What Not To Do in Your Disney Stateroom

38.  There is Plenty of Storage


Disney cruise staterooms are very well-designed.

There is plenty of storage space for all your clothes and travel gear.

We always unpack as soon as we arrive so that we have everything to hand.

An invaluable packing item is these Packing Cubes make everything really easy.

You can keep items together. No more searching for socks or swimming stuff. Keep them all organized and you can then just transfer them to a draw in your stateroom.

All the Disney ships now have beds that provide enough space to store your suitcases underneath. You can unpack and forget about them for the rest of the cruise.

39. Yes You Can Do Laundry on a Disney Cruise

No one really wants to do laundry on vacation, but sometimes it just becomes a necessity.

There are several self-service laundries on all of the Disney ships. We always take our own laundry pods of detergent, but it is available onboard.

40. Interactive Television Choices

Of course, all Disney cruise staterooms have a television.

However, if you are sailing on the Disney Fantasy or the Dream you will have a much bigger choice of what to watch in your stateroom than if you sail on the Wonder or the Magic.

The newer ships of the Fantasy, Dream and Wish have on-demand television.

You have a huge choice of Disney movies and television to watch on demand. So if you really want to watch “Peter Pan”, “Toy Story” and “Mary Poppins” in your stateroom you can.

The stage shows from the Walt Disney Theatre are also shown on the television and repeated, so if you miss a show you can watch it in your stateroom.

41. Save a Hotel Key

It is a good idea to hang on to that old hotel room key. The reason? To make the lights work in the stateroom you have to put a credit card-sized card in the slow by the door.

You are supposed to use your Key To The World for this. However, we prefer not to as you are more likely to forget to take it with you and get locked out of your room.

42. Disney Invented Rotational Dining


Disney cruise lines are known for their innovative ideas. One of the very best is the concept of Rotational Dining.

What is this?

On each Disney cruise ship, there are 3 main dining restaurants.

All have their own very unique theme. Each night you will visit a different restaurant.

When you rotate between restaurants your servers will come with you!

This has a wonderful advantage in that your servers get to know you.

The Disney cruise servers are amazing and go out of their way to make sure that you enjoy the dining experience.

Your servers will get to know your likes and dislikes. They will even cut up your child’s food for them! Nothing is too much trouble for them.

For more information on how this works, you can see our Disney Cruise Rotational Dining Guide

43. Can’t Decide What To Choose on the Menu?

Overwhelmed by the great choices on the Disney cruise restaurant menus? No problem. You can order a couple of options and no one will mind.

If you want the salmon and the steak go ahead.

Two desserts?

Just be aware that your waistline may not forgive you for it!

44. Want Something Not on the Disney Cruise Menu?


Your Disney servers want you to have the best experience possible and will do everything they can to accommodate you.

If you enjoyed a particular dish one evening make sure that they know. If you give them at least 24 hours’ notice they may be able to get it for you again.

Just be considerate.

They will make it happen if they can.

So if you want that same entree or dessert every night just let them know.

45. Don’t Skip Animator’s Palate


Each ship has three rotational dining restaurants. They are all a little different from each other, apart from Animator’s Palate which is on all of the Disney ships.

Your first night in Animator’s Palate has a very special show for you. Be sure not to miss it.

46. The Disney Cruise Drinks are Free – Sort Of


Well, not all of the drinks are free, but you could sail on the whole Disney cruise without spending anything extra on beverages.

You just have to know which are free.

There is free soda from the dispensers on the pool deck which is available 24/7.

Soda, regular coffee, tea, iced tea, and milk are available for free in the dining rooms.

Your waiters will learn your preferences and bring them to your table to have them waiting for you for dinner.


Of course, there are many tempting drinks that are not free.

All alcoholic beverages and cocktails are charged for.

You may be tempted by the drink of the day. There is always an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic drink of the day available at a reduced price.

For the complete guide check out:

Disney Cruise Line – Are The Drinks Really Free?

47. Sometimes There Are Free Cocktails


Yes, you read it right.

On the formal evening of the Captain’s Dinner, there is a welcome reception with wait staff offering cocktails and wine.

The Ship’s Officers including the Captain will be there to greet you.

If you attend a Disney Vacation Club sales presentation it is used to be they gave out free cocktails. However, it is now many years since I have seen this.

In the last few presentations, I have been to they have only given out free bottled water.

You used to get a very nice gift when you attended but recently we have not seen this.

The presentation is fun and there is no sales pressure. You may be tempted though, so do your calculations carefully before you sign up!

There is usually a free draw to enter to win an onboard credit.

Also, you will probably be offered an onboard credit to attend a one-on-one sales consultation.

disney cruise suggested tips

48. Have a Celebration?

Always tell your servers if you have a celebration such as a birthday or an anniversary. They will arrange something special for you.

49. Endless Disney Cruise Ice Cream

Self-service ice cream is available for free on the pool decks of every Disney ship.

Why not make your own float with the free soda and ice cream?

50. Didn’t Finish That Bottle of Wine?


If you want to enjoy wine at dinner, but don’t think you can finish the bottle, Disney has a solution.

Your server will save your wine for you and the next day it will be waiting at your table for you.

Is The Disney Cruise Wine Package Worth The Cost?

51. Breakfast and Lunch are Not Just A Buffet


Every Disney ship has an amazing breakfast and lunch buffet served up on the pool deck.

However, what some people don’t realize is that there is a sit-down breakfast and lunch served in one of the restaurants every day.

52. Disney Cruise Special Dietary Needs? No Problem

Disney cruise lines are incredible at catering to any special dietary need you may have. We have sailed with family members who need vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets.

Just tell your waiters or mention your dietary needs at the buffet or specialty restaurants.

You can also register this in your Cruise Personalizer before you board. Disney cruise lines will do everything they can to help you.

Disney Cruise chefs are more than willing to create special meals for you.

53. Breakfast is with Character


If you are sailing on a Disney cruise which is 7 nights or longer, you will have the opportunity to have a character breakfast. This is included in the cost of your cruise.

As anyone who has been to Disney World or Disneyland will know, this is a huge benefit!

Character breakfasts usually cost $40 and up per person on land. On your Disney cruise, it is included in the cost of your fare.

You do have to plan ahead for the Disney cruise character breakfast . You need a ticket and places are limited. You need to log in to your Cruise Personalizer as soon as you can, to book tickets.

There may be some available from Guest Services. Go as soon as you board the ship. They are limited and you do not want to be disappointed.

Note that this service is currently suspended


54. disney cruise room service is free.


Room service on a Disney cruise is free.

There are some items that are charged for such as alcohol and soda, but most of it is free of charge.

Just remember to tip the crew member who delivers your food.

Make sure that you have some $1 bills handy.

However, if you forget, no problem.

You can add a tip to the receipt that you will have to sign.

55. Not Everything is on the Room Service Menu

There are some items that are not on the menu but are available from room service.

One of the most popular items which are not shown on the menu is the Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar.

Cake of the Day is on the menu, but the secret items are Dessert of the Day and Pie of the Day.

Obviously, these change every day, so we have a tradition of making sure we order these on sea days.

Disney Cruise Room Service Menu

56. Breakfast in Bed is On The House


Breakfast in bed can seem like an extravagant indulgence. However, on a Disney cruise, you can indulge as many times as you like.

It is all part of the service. Just fill out your breakfast selections on the card in your stateroom and put it on your door prior to 3 am the night before.

Then wake up to your breakfast choices delivered to your room.

The best way to enjoy breakfast is on your verandah. One of the best times we ever had on a Disney cruise was sitting on our verandah eating breakfast whilst going through the Panama Canal locks.

57. Milk and Cookies in the Evening

Yes, we know that you will probably have consumed more food than you want to admit by the evening.

However, there really is nothing quite like ordering milk and cookies before bedtime.

58. Order Coffee at Night


No, we are not suggesting that you get your caffeine fix just before bedtime.

However, if you order a carafe of coffee just before you go to bed at night it will still be warm enough in the morning for you to enjoy.

This means you won’t have to be disturbed by room service early in the morning, but you will be able to stumble out of bed and have your first cup of coffee when you wake up.



A Disney cruise is for all ages. You just know that the kids are going to have a blast with all of the features on board for them.

60. It’s A Small World Nursery

Disney cruise lines are one of only a few cruise lines that offer a babysitting service for the under 3s.

Starting aged 6 months and going all the way up to the age of 3 the It’s a Small World Nursery will care for the youngest cruisers on the ship.

There is an additional charge and you do have to book in advance. You can do this online in the Cruise Personalizer.

The charge is $9 per hour for your first child and $8 per hour for the second and any additional children. in your family.

61. The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab is Paradise for Kids

Your kids probably won’t want to leave the kid’s clubs. The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab are for children aged 3 to 12.

Who wouldn’t want to meet Spiderman or pilot the Millennium Falcon? There are lots of organized activities or they can just play with their new friends.

62. The Edge is the Place to be for Tweens


The 11 to 14-year-old set can often be the most difficult to please. Fortunately, on a Disney cruise, they have The Edge.

If you have an 11-year-old they have the choice of either being in The Edge or the Oceaneer’s Club.

63. The Vibe is the Place Teens Want to Be


Wondering what your teens are going to do on the Disney cruise ships?

The answer is to spend a whole lot of time in Vibe. Particularly if you are sailing on the Disney Dream or the Disney Fantasy.

The newer shops have a fabulous outdoor area for the teens which includes hot tubs and a sun deck.

64. Chill Spa is Open for Teens

Most spas are for the over-18s only. However, Disney has recognized that sometimes teens want to be pampered in the spa.

Check out the Chill Spa which is exclusively for the 13 to 18-year-old set.


65. ride the aquaduck.


One of the best features of Disney Fantasy and the Dream is the AquaDuck. A water coaster at sea!

The Wish has the AquaMouse.

This is a lot of fun for all the family, but of course, the wait times can be long.

To get your best chance of riding with almost no lines on embarkation day or wait until night time.

Most people are either watching the show or eating dinner in the evening so the lines are short.

66. The Disney Cruise Pools are Fun

disney cruise swimming pool

All of the Disney ships have two pools on the family pool deck.

The first is a toddler pool and the second is the family pool. Don’t expect to get any real swimming done in these pools!

The family pool is small and on sea days tends to be crowded.

67. Relax on a Pool Lounger


There are plenty of pool loungers around the pool and up on the deck.

Be considerate of others and do not reserve a lounger by putting a towel or your belongings on it.

Just not cool.

68. Towels are Provided

There is no need to bring your own pool towels on board or take towels from your stateroom.

There are plenty of pool towels up on the deck.

69. Catch a Movie on Disney Funnel Vision


One of the best features of the Disney cruise pool deck is Funnel Vision.

Disney movies are played all day and evening.

It’s fun to splash around in the pool and watch a Disney movie.

At night relax on a pool lounger and snag one of the blankets and watch a Disney movie.



Many people think that a Disney cruise is centered around the kids, but really this is just not true.

Sure there is plenty going on for the younger members of the group, but there are so many things for the adults to enjoy too.

70. Disney Dining for Adults

Disney has some of the best dining at sea.

All of the ships have dining which caters to the over-18s only.

Every Disney ship has Palo, which is an Italian-themed restaurant. Disney’s Palo offers dinner every night of the cruise and brunch on select days.

I think that the very best value is Palo brunch .

With a charge of just $45, you can eat your way through a huge selection of hot entree items.

Note that the buffet is currently not available at Palo Brunch but you can order all you like from the menu.


Remy is available on Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream.

Widely recognized as one of the best culinary experiences at sea, Remy is named after the lead character in the Pixar movie Ratatouille.

Dinner is available every night. The Champagne Brunch and the Dessert Experience are offered on select days.

Yes, it is pricey at $95 per person for dinner, and $200 if you want the wine pairing.

Enchante is the fine dining restaurant on Disney Wish.

71. Indulge at the Disney Cruise Spa

If you want to experience the ultimate in relaxation you can book a Disney spa treatment. There are lots of options offered including treatments for couples.

You can book ahead of your sailing to get the best reservation times.

Appointments do book up, so if you have something specific in mind, book online before you sail.

Remember though that all spa treatments will have an 18% gratuity automatically added.

72. The Disney Cruise Rainforest Room is Pure Luxury


Every Disney Ship has a Rainforest Room in the spa.

This is truly the place to be if you want to indulge in some luxurious downtime and relaxation.

The Wish has the largest Rainforest Room. It is also the only one which is open to the outdoors from above.

The Disney Dream and the Fantasy still have probably the very best Rainforest rooms on the Disney ships.

Each has two steam rooms, a dry sauna, and scented showers with multiple different programs.

A fabulous feature is the heated hot stone loungers with views of the ocean.

You can even relax in one of the two hot tubs which overlook the ocean.


The Disney Wonder and the Magic also have the Rainforest Room, but it is not quite so luxurious.

They have saunas, steam rooms, heated loungers, and showers. It’s a nice space but not as great as on the larger ships.

Why The Disney Cruise Rainforest Room is Worth It

73. Adult-Only Pools on Disney Cruises


There is plenty of space reserved for the over-18s only on the Disney ships.

This includes adult pools and hot tubs.

74. Bars and Lounges on the Disney Ships


There are plenty of options of places to enjoy a drink or two on all of the Disney ships.

One of our favorites is the Ooh La La bar on the Disney Fantasy. Guests can choose from an extensive champagne menu.

The French boudoir decor is completely over the top, but it’s a lot of fun.

Guide to Bars on the Disney Wonder

75. Disney Cruise Lines Alcohol Policy


Disney cruise lines have a very generous policy about how much of your own beer and wine you can bring on board. Many cruise lines do not let you bring anything at all.

However, on a Disney cruise, you can bring up to 2 bottles of wine or 6 bottles of beer per adult.

You can drink the wine in your stateroom and there is no charge.

However, if you want to enjoy the wine you brought to the restaurant there will be a $25 corkage charge.

76. Disney Cruise Wine Packages Can Save You Money


If you enjoy drinking wine on a Disney cruise the Wine Package may be the thing for you.

The Wine Package allows you to pre-purchase either a Classic or a Premium Package.

You choose the number of days from 3 to 7 nights. Each night you can pick a bottle from the Classic or Premium Wine list.

Prices start at $95 for a 3-night package.

The more nights you have, the cheaper the per-bottle price works out to be.

If you don’t finish the bottle that evening it will be stored for you and you can drink it later.

You can see more details at Disney Cruise Wine Package

77. Pick Up A Coffee Card


You can get free drip coffee on the pool deck or in the restaurants.

However, it isn’t the best coffee you have ever tasted.

If you enjoy a decent cup of specialty coffee you can pay extra for your drink of choice.

Ask for a coffee card. Each time you buy a drink you will get a stamp. When you have 5 stamps your 6th drink will be free.

It used to be that you could save these and use on your next cruise. However, now the card states that they are not to be used on a future cruise.

Time will tell whether or not the servers still allow it, but don’t bet on this trick still working.

Use your free coffee entitlement before your current cruise ends.

78. The Cove Cafe is a Must


One of our favorite areas on the Disney cruise is the Cove Cafe. It is a great place to sit and read a book and enjoy a coffee or something a little stronger.

There is a small selection of books and magazines, but bring your own as the selection really is small.

Cove Cafe is a very tempting place to pick up some snacks.

Check out the croissants in the morning. We challenge you to resist the selection of cakes and desserts in the display cabinet.

It is all included so you can indulge!


79. check your disney cruise navigator often.

The Navigator is where you will find out what’s happening on board the ship every day. The paper Navigator is now only delivered to your stateroom every night if you request this from your Room Steward.

If you want a paper Navigator you can pick one up at Guest Services. Or you can use the Disney Navigator App on your phone. Remember to download it before you get on board.

80. The Disney Cruise Shows are Amazing

This really can’t be overstated.

You will be amazed at just how good the shows are on the Disney cruise.

They are Broadway quality and you should definitely make time to see as many shows as you can.

There are two performances every evening. You can see the early one if you have late seating and the late one if you are dining at 5.45 pm.

81. Take Your Seats Early


All shows are performed in the Walt Disney Theatre. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house, but there are some which are better than others.

We like to be about five or six rows back in the middle.

However, if you do not arrive early the front level of seats is likely to be gone.

We prefer anything in the middle over the ones on the sides, even if it is quite far back.

Saving seats for others is really bad form.

Don’t do it.

82. Each Disney Ship Has Different Shows


Each ship has a different selection of shows, although there is some overlap with certain shows being staged on more than one of the Disney cruise ships.

On the nights when the big stage productions are not scheduled, there will usually be another entertainer such as a magician or a juggler.

Many of these entertainers have been performing with Disney cruise lines for many years and they are generally very good.

83. There May Be A Show For The Adults

Not everything is family-friendly! Often there is a late-night version of one of the entertainer’s acts such as a comedian or a magician.

Treat yourself and let the kids go to the kid’s clubs while you enjoy a night out.

84. Go to the Movies!

The Disney cruise movie theatres show new releases and classic movies.

Each of the Disney ships has at least one. Disney Wish has two!

85. Skip The Popcorn

Outside the Walt Disney Theatre and the Buena Vista Theatre, you will be tempted by the smell of popcorn and the lure of specialty drinks.

These items are not included.

If you want to take a drink into the show with you stop on the pool deck to get your drinks for free. You can even bring some snacks in with you if you want – that is if you aren’t already full from the buffet!

86. There is Something for Everyone


Every day there are lots of events scheduled.

Want to learn how to draw Mickey Mouse, make that dessert you just enjoyed in the restaurants or enjoy a wine-tasting event?

Most things on board are included, but you will have to pay extra for wine-tasting events.

87. The Art of the Theme Tour is Not to be Missed

This adults-only tour of the ship is well worth joining.

It is free and will take you on a tour whilst showing you some of the design secrets of the Disney ships.

There is so much attention to detail on the Disney ships and it is nice to hear some of the behind-the-scenes stories.



One of the highlights of a Disney Caribbean or Bahamian cruise is a port stop at Castaway Cay.

Disney cruise line has its own fabulous private island in the Bahamas. Here are some Disney cruise tips to make the most of your visit to Castaway Cay.

Disney Castaway Cay – The Ultimate Guide

88. Send a Special Post Card

Castaway Cay has its own post office. If you want to send a card with a very special stamp just stop at the post office. It is on your left just after you get off the ship.

89. There are Trams to Get You Around Castaway Cay

You can easily walk to the beaches, but there are plenty of trams to get you there if you want to save energy. We usually walk to the beach if it isn’t too hot, but we always take the tram back.

90. Pick Your Perfect Beach

The most popular beach is the Family Beach on Castaway Cay .

However, there is a beach reserved solely for the over-18s. Make your way to Serenity Bay if you want some peace and quiet.


Disney Castaway Cay Excursions and Activities

91. No Need to Get Back on the Ship to Eat

There is plenty of food on Castaway Cay. While it isn’t the finest food you will eat on your Disney cruise, the barbecue is perfectly fine. There is something about eating good barbecue food on the beach that makes it so much fun.

However, make sure that you have eaten breakfast. The barbecues are only open for lunch.

92. Special Dietary Needs on Castaway Cay

If you have special dietary requirements make sure that you let your waiters know on the ship. They will make sure that it is waiting for you at the barbecue.

93. Join in the Castaway Cay 5K Run

A very popular event on Castaway Cay is the 5K run. It is free of charge and ages 10 and up can take part.

You don’t have to sign up anymore.

Make sure that you get an early start though – it can get very hot on the island!

94. Try Something New

You can spend the day on one of the beaches, or you can try one of the Castaway Cay Port Adventures.

These range from snorkeling to parasailing, and kayaking to getting up close and personal with a stingray. You can book these ahead of time on your Cruise Personalizer, or when you get on the ship.

95. The Quest for a Castaway Cay Cabana

One of the most difficult reservations to get on a Disney cruise is a Castaway Cay Cabana.

Even though prices start at $399 this is one of the most sought-after things on a Disney cruise.

You can book them in your Cruise Personalizer, but as there are only 21 cabanas available, they sell out in minutes.

You really need to either be a Concierge guest or a Pearl Castaway Cay member to be in with a chance.

You can try your luck when you board the ship by putting your name on the waitlist.

You could get very lucky and someone may cancel. It happens, but just don’t bet on it!

96. Take Your Time

People tend to get back on the ship in the early afternoon.

Whilst we always recommend getting back on board in good time, you can wait until shortly before all aboard time on Castaway Cay.

This gives you maximum time on the island.

97. Be Safe

It is important always to wear sunscreen. Sunburn is never a good thing and it can ruin your vacation.

The combination of the sun sea and the perfect island can sometimes make you forget to keep reapplying sunscreen.

Just be careful.

We have written a Complete Guide to Castaway Cay where you will find lots more tips and ideas.



A Disney cruise is a great place to get to meet a huge variety of Disney characters.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the experience.

98. Check Your Navigator

There are lots of character appearances every day. The schedule will be posted in your Navigator every day. You can plan who you want to meet.

99. The Character Attendant is Your Friend

All Disney characters have an attendant to keep them organized and safe. If you have any questions always ask the attendant.

They can help with questions like when the next appearance will be and what costume the character will be wearing. They will also take pictures of you with your own camera.

100. Arrive Early

We think that it is much easier to meet characters on a Disney cruise than it is at the parks. However, you should still be prepared for a wait.

The characters often spend more time with guests than they would in the parks.

Usually, if you arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled appearance you will be towards the front half of the line.

101. Bring An Autograph Book

Make sure that you bring something for the characters to sign.

We have heard recently that Marvel characters will not sign anything which has been signed by a Disney or Pixar character, so you may need to bring separate books if you are swapping universes!

102. Look Around You

Often the best character sightings are ones that you don’t expect. We remember seeing Chip and Dale up on deck during the Panama Canal cruise.

Or sometimes you see characters in the hallways walking to the meet and greet.

103. Meeting the Princesses

You can never guarantee which Princesses will be on board, but they will definitely be available for a meet and greet.

Usually, you will see Tiana, Cinderella, and Belle. However, don’t guarantee to your 4-year-old they will see a specific Princess as they may not be on board.

There is always a Disney Princess ticketed event. You can sign up in your Cruise Personalizer or at Guest Services. Tickets are limited and go quickly. This is not an essential event as you will see them at other times.

104. Anna and Elsa are Different


Anna and Elsa are rather more difficult to find. The only way to see them is to get tickets for the meet and greet. You will not see them out and about on the ship.

Note this is temporarily suspended

105. Tea With A Disney Princess

The best way to have time with the Princesses is by booking the Disney Cruise Royal Court Royal Tea .

This amazing opportunity to meet the Disney Princesses includes plenty of time to meet your favorites whilst enjoying a traditional High Tea.

You will have to book ahead and be prepared to blow the budget. This experience is designed for those aged 3 to 12 and costs $210 per child and $69 per adult.

The children will walk away with some nice gifts and some great memories – but obviously, the cost takes some thinking about.

106. This Doesn’t Work Anymore

You might read online that if you take a shirt or picture frame and some markers to Guest Services it will magically be returned to your stateroom having been signed by the character.

Unfortunately, it seems as though too many people got to know about this Disney cruise tip, so they had to stop doing it.

107. Characters on Castaway Cay

Some of the characters make it out onto Castaway Cay (although you will never see a Princess on the island).

One of the coolest characters is Captain Jack Sparrow who will often make an appearance out on Serenity Bay.

Do you have any Disney cruise tips that you want to share? We are cruising again soon and will be adding to this list of Disney cruise tips!

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disney cruise tips

Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando.  In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.

Disney Cruise Line Suspends All Sailings for March 2020 - EverythingMouse Guide To Disney

Friday 13th of March 2020

[…] Best Disney Cruise Tips […]

Monday 3rd of December 2018

Great tips! I will definitely be making lots of note from this post to go towards my Disney cruise. Thanks for so many gems ?

Friday 30th of November 2018

Wow! What a list of tips and tricks! Thanks for sharing!

Such a comprehensive list!!

Thursday 25th of October 2018

Hi Allison, Thanks for writing this great list! It is very helpful. I have a couple of questions:

in the bottles of wine section, you list the price "per bottle?" and then you say "per day"? I am assuming you meant "3 bottles at $31.66 per bottle?

You talked about packing bathing suit, etc.. in you carry-on and you suitcase(s) will arrive later? I you have a carry-on and an airline approved size rolling suitcase, can you carry them on and to your room or do you have to have you suitcase delivered?

Thanks, Randy

Barbara Conner

Friday 26th of November 2021

@Randy, they are cleaning the cabins from the previous cruise and the halls are blocked -- so whatever you want to carry on with you - you will have to carry it until the rooms are ready and the halls are open - they are roped off while cleaning the cabins from the previous cruise. SOOOO anything you carry on is with you until you are allowed in your cabin. I just have my tote bag with me - all luggage goes at checkin.

Monday 5th of November 2018

Hi Randy. Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the Disney Cruise Tips! Yes you are right - it is 3 bottles which are $31.66 each. It is called the 3 Day Package or 4 Day etc so that is why I have used the words "per bottle" and "per day" to mean the same thing. However, you could drink all 3 bottles in one day or take 7 days to drink 3 bottles.

You can bring a Carry On Bag no larger than 9x14x22 on board. You carry that to your room yourself. Larger luggage that you check will be checked in at the port and will be delivered to your stateroom. Usually it is delivered no later than early evening. However, there will be a time when you are without your checked luggage so you should make sure you have essential items such as travel documents and medication in there if you need it. It's nice to put your swim wear in there too if you want to go to the pools on boarding the ship.

101 Great Disney Cruise Line Tips

disney cruise suggested tips

While Disney Cruise Line is a relatively hassle-free vacation, we have 101 tips & tricks that can save money and time. With our advice, your sailing aboard the Disney Magic, Wonder, Dream, or Fantasy can be an even better experience, and you can squeeze extra value out of the trip!

Our 101 Disney Cruise Line tips offer random ideas that cover all of the ships and an assortment of itineraries. They are based on our experiences aboard Disney Cruise Line and (unfortunately) some mistakes we’ve made while going from cruise newbies to Castaway Club Gold Members.

For those Disney Cruise Line seasoned pros who have even more experience than us, please leave any tips of your own that you think are helpful. In fact, if you have some really good tips, I might just steal them and put them into the post. 😉

With that said, let’s get started with the list of Disney Cruise Line tips & tricks…

  • Due to Disney Cruise Line’s popularity, its cruises are rarely discounted. Disney doesn’t make it easy to find deals (to maintain its image that it’s a “premium” vacation product), with only Military and Florida Resident discounts listed on Disney Cruise Line’s Special Offers page . However, last minute deals can be found on select sailings for “restricted guarantee” rooms. These are often unpublished on DCL’s site (so you need either a travel agent or to research via a third party site), and require a bit of flexibility as you cannot choose your stateroom.
  • On Embarkation Day, you can sign up for a free 50MB Connect@Sea WiFi package. Before doing this, be sure to disable all cloud and background services that might be running on your computer. Avoid watching video, stay off of photo-heavy websites (like this one!), and don’t use your package on port days (when free WiFi can be found ashore). By following these tips, there’s a good chance this free WiFi package will last your entire cruise.
  • Yes, there is pin trading aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships. You’ll find Cast Members with trading lanyards in various places, most notably in gift shops where there are also pin trading books or boards behind the counter (ask!). Buying pins from Amazon for trading before your cruise will save a lot of money. (Our other Disney Pin Trading Tips are also applicable for Disney Cruise Line.)
  • “Fish Extenders” are a common type of decoration that serious Disney fans like to hang on the fish located right outside their door. These extenders are used for groups to identify other members of that group, or just for Disney fans to share gifts and notes with other fans.
  • Want to dine at Tiana’s Place Restaurant from the Princess and the Frog ? Set sail on the Disney Wonder!
  • The nightly stage shows are broadcast on your stateroom TV. So, if you want to watch the shows, but don’t want to wear pants, you’re in luck! 😉
  • Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island, and it’s a wonderful mix of Imagineered details and tropical paradise. We recommend getting off the ship first thing at Castaway Cay and staying until the very end of the day, as it’s an exceptional experience. For more on the island, read our Castaway Cay Guide & Tips .
  • The flavors of soft serve ice cream change throughout the cruise. This used to occur daily, but on our last cruise, we had strawberry banana for a couple of days. Mango is our top pick!
  • Your stateroom TV has a station with Disney music on it. Perfect for turning on while you get ready for the day to get you in a “Disney mood.”
  • One of the best ways to save money on a future Disney cruise is to book while onboard a cruise. This offers up to a 10% discount, $200 on-board credit, and reduced deposit. You can even book a ‘placeholder’ cruise if you don’t know your precise sailing date!
  • Aside from Castaway Cay, Nassau, Bahamas is the port most frequently-visited by Disney Cruise Line. Rather than booking a Port Adventure, we recommend doing a self-guided tour of Nassau. We detail what we did in our 3-Night Bahamas Disney Cruise Line Report .
  • Disney Cruise Line used to have a really relaxed carry-on alcohol policy. This has since been restricted, but you can still bring two bottles of wine or a six-pack of beer per person.
  • Disney Visa cardholders receive 10% discounts on merchandise purchases of $50+, photo packages, and Castaway Cay Getaway packages. Discounts of 20% are offered on select spa packages while the ship is docked at a Port.
  • The “Mickey Mail” autograph service has been discontinued. We feel this is important to mention because we still get questions about it, and it’s a persistent ‘top tip’ you’ll still see pop-up if you’re on Pinterest.
  • On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships, there are 4 “mini-suite” rooms, which are larger than the other 8 Category 8A Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms. These are rooms 5020, 5022, 5520, and 5522.
  • In Disneyspeak, a travel agent is called an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.” Using them to book your cruise is a great way to save time and stress, and it doesn’t cost you anything! They can also find you deals (namely, last-minute ones) on cruises. They get their commission from Disney, so the authorized planners won’t charge you for booking the trip or helping to plan. Request a vacation price quote from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner here .
  • Often, Disney’s Port Adventures are offered via third parties that also sell the same or similar excursions directly or via other third party sites. Researching these Port Adventures before booking via Disney can save you a lot of money.
  • Disney Vacation Club members can use their points for Disney Cruise Line sailings, but this is an awful use of points in terms of value . You’re better off renting out your points , putting that money towards paying for the cruise, and pocketing the difference.
  • Online check-in opens on different dates depending on your Castaway Club status. Platinum Castaway Club members and concierge guests can check-in online at midnight, 120 days before sailing. Gold Castaway Club members can check-in online 105 days before sailing. Silver Castaway Club members can check-in online 90 days before sailing. All other guests can check-in 75 days before sailing.
  • As soon as you’re able to check-in, you’re able to book Port Adventures, cabanas, spa packages, Palo, etc. Book these as soon as possible, as some sell out.
  • On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships, there are eight over-sized 8A cabins with open floor plans that are laid out as an L-shape room (the non-split bathroom forms part of the “L,” making the living area square). These rooms are 5018, 5518, 6012, 6014, 6016, 6510, 6512, and 6514.
  • Don’t pack an inner tube or even this delightful sea dragon (I know, right?!). Disney Cruise Line doesn’t allow them…probably because they want you to pay their rental fees at Castaway Cay.
  • The locker room showers in the Fitness Center are always open for guest use, and make a workable option if there is “excessive demand” for your stateroom shower.
  • If a particular itinerary is a must-do for you, book it as soon as sailing dates are announced. While we have several tips about saving money, the cheapest prices you’ll find on many Disney cruises is when they’re released. With regard to pricing, Disney Cruise Line has more in common with airlines (in that prices can fluctuate based on occupancy projections) than Walt Disney World (which has a fixed price ceiling but offers discounts to meet occupancy targets).
  • There is a huge CVS located just outside of Port Canaveral where you can stock up on sunscreen, booze, and really just about anything else you might need on a cruise that you could’ve forgotten.
  • Cruising is not for everyone, but before you dismiss it out of hand, do some research. As I’ve written, I thought I was not a cruise person, but got hooked by my first Disney Cruise Line vacation .
  • A one-way rental car from Walt Disney World (there’s an Alamo at the Swan & Dolphin) can be cheaper than paying for Disney’s shuttle–do the math.
  • Some cruise ports, particularly those in the Caribbean, have problems with pickpockets who prey on tourists. Wearing a neck wallet ( this one is ~$2 and also offers RFID protection ) under your shirt can be a safe option to avoid being successfully targeted.
  • Booking two rooms can be cheaper than booking a single room that sleeps 4 or 5, depending upon the room categories. Price things out and do the math for yourself.
  • Castaway Cay has a post office drop-box that has an exclusive Castaway Cay postmark. You can purchase Bahamian stamps aboard your ship, and mail a postcard from here.
  • On cruises that stop in Grand Cayman, we highly recommend the “Adventure to Stingray City Sandbar” Port Adventure . This stingray encounter is unlike the one at Castaway Cay, and is an incredibly cool experience.
  • The “Art of the Theme Ship Tour” is offered on most cruises, and offers insight into the design choices, theming, and visual motifs the ship. It is not a behind-the-scenes tour, but is still well worth doing, and will give you a greater appreciation of the design of each ship.
  • If you’re willing to roll the dice on hurricane season, September can be a cheaper time to sail, particularly if you want until the last minute to book. January and February are also less expensive months, in our experience. Basically, any time school is in session–aside from holiday seasons and other special sailings–is your best shot at last-minute discounted prices.
  • Animator’s Palate is a distinctly Disney dining experience that brings some magic from the parks to the cruise ships. Do not skip this restaurant.
  • You can purchase a discounted beer cup aboard the ships, which will work out to be a good deal if you plan on drinking quite a bit and forget to bring your own alcohol.
  • On channel 5 starting at 6 a.m., there are tips specific to that day of the cruise. Something to put on in the background while you’re getting ready!
  • Standard staterooms have 3 power outlets. For even our party of 2, this is insufficient. Power strips are not allowed, but we have had no issue with our USB charging hub . (Perhaps we’ve gotten lucky, but I doubt it.)
  • Serenity Bay is the adults-only beach on Castaway Cay, and is most distant beach on the island. As compared to the other beaches, it is much quieter. We recommend hitting the family beaches for active entertainment (like water slides) first thing in the morning, and then heading to Serenity Bay (if you don’t have kids) to unwind and relax after lunch.
  • All on-board transactions completed with your Key to the World card, which is your room key and has your credit card stored in it. This makes Disney Cruise Line (potentially!) cash-free.
  • While Mickey Mail has been discontinued, characters at meet & greets will still sign items aside from autograph books. Popular items with cruisers are (still) picture frame mats and pillow cases.
  • There’s a free chat feature in the in Disney Cruise Line Navigator app, which is great for keeping in touch with your family without buying an internet package. Now, if only those cool emojis could be used in iMessage!
  • Babysitting (err, “kid’s entertainment”) is free for children over the age of 3, and there are a variety of age-specific activities available for all children, which are exclusive to kids.
  • Coffee is not served on Castaway Cay. Addicts take note, and plan accordingly. 😉
  • Get up for sunrise. Not only is seeing an explosion of color out at sea first thing in the morning beautiful, but you’ll also have a peaceful experience as the ship is devoid of other guests. (I also enjoy seeing all the maintenance and upkeep being done at these early hours–makes me appreciate the beauty of the ship even more!)
  • In addition to pricier laundry pickup and dry cleaning, there are 24-hour, self-service laundry facilities equipped with washers and dryers, along with detergent and complimentary ironing equipment.
  • You might want to bring foreign currency for port days, which can be ordered from your local bank with 2-3 day advance notice (normally). We don’t do this, instead using a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Whenever possible, we prefer not to carry cash in touristy places where pickpockets are a known issue. So long as you have a chipped credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you’re good to go pretty much anywhere in the world (just make sure the business accepts credit card).
  • There are a variety of themed cruises available throughout the year, including Star Wars or Marvel Days at Sea , Very MerryTime , and Halloween on the High Seas Sailings .
  • Bringing your own blowdryer is not recommended. The room offers one with the correct voltage so you don’t blow a fuse and Sarah reports that the in-room one is “satisfactory.” (Sorry, I have no first-hand experiences with it to share.)
  • Hidden Mickeys can be found aboard every Disney Cruise Line ship, from the Disney Magic to the Disney Fantasy, and in all areas of the ships–even the bars & lounges. For Hidden Mickey hunters of all ages, we recommend Hidden Mickeys Go To Sea: A Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line’s Best Kept Secrets . It’s a great guide to spotting cool details aboard the ships!
  • All four ships now have concierge lounges, along with a range of other concierge benefits . Everyone we know who has done concierge on Disney Cruise Line has loved it, but has cautioned that once you cruise concierge, it’s tough to go back.
  • We recommend the 3-in-1 Castaway Cay Getaway Package, which provides snorkel equipment for the day, an inner tube for the day, and bicycle rental for one hour. With this package, you basically pay full price for the inner tube and snorkel equipment, and get the bicycle rental for free.
  • There is no limit to what you can order at rotational dining restaurants aboard Disney Cruise Line. If you want multiple entrees or all the desserts , you can order them. It’s all included.
  • We recommend packing a swimsuit and change of clothes in your carry-on/day bag for Embarkation Day.
  • During the “See Ya Real Soon” show held on the last night of your cruise, stand in the middle of the atrium towards the iconic character statue. Typically, Captain Mickey Mouse will appear for a meet & greet in this location immediately after the show ends, and you’ll be right at the front of his line. Shortest wait for Captain Mickey all cruise!
  • You can schedule a free wake-up call from Baymax (characters rotate, but he was the one on our last cruise) by pressing the wake up call button on your stateroom phone.
  • Guests take Pirate Night seriously. Many kids and even adults go all out for it, getting completely dressed up. We recommend buying your kids pirate attire at a cheaper cost online , as what you’ll find on the ship is pricier. (Everyone gets a free Pirate Mickey bandana, which is enough for many adults.)
  • Shortest waits for Aquaduck (Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream) or AquaDunk (Disney Magic) will be early on Embarkation Day, late at night, or during port days. Get your fix of these slides then, and avoid it completely on days at sea.
  • Family photos on theme nights are a must. We recommend getting these in the atrium before you go up to the deck (or after the events are over, when the atrium will have fewer people in it). The lighting is harsh and over-saturated on the deck. Unless you have a powerful flash, your group might end up looking like Smurfs.
  • If you’re a soft serve ice cream fiend like me, always take the stairs when going up to the deck, so you can enjoy unlimited ice cream guilt-free. 😉
  • Shutters photography on Disney Cruise Line is similar in concept to PhotoPass in the parks, but with a number of significant differences. We’ve never purchased any photos on board (the pricing is too steep for us for average-quality photos), but here’s a good article answering frequently asked questions about photography on Disney Cruise Line .
  • We have had exemplary service on every Disney cruise we’ve taken, and we end up supplementing the base tips for our servers and stateroom host as a result. On the last night of the cruise, there’s often a wait in line at Guest Relations to do this. Bringing some cash (to put in Disney’s provided tip envelopes) for these supplements is a good way to bypass that line.
  • The Palo Brunch is unquestionably worth the money , in our opinion. While you still pay a surcharge, unlike dinner at Palo, you are not missing out on a good rotational dining experience, so the overall cost (upcharge + opportunity cost) is effectively lower.
  • Speak with your doctor before cruising if sea-sickness might be an issue. Failing that, Sarah uses Sea-Band Anti-Nausea Gum , which she says works well.
  • Fireworks at Sea on Pirate Night are not to be missed. If you have a Verandah Stateroom on the starboard side of the ship, you can see them from your balcony…although Disney’s official line on this is “don’t do it.” 😉
  • Several characters have dedicated meet & greets on Castaway Cay, but one of the coolest character encounters is seeing Captain Jack Sparrow on Serenity Bay’s beach, which typically occurs late morning.
  • Embarkation times vary, but we recommend being at the port and embarking as soon as your scheduled time slot will allow. More time on the ship and an “extra” meal is nice. Don’t arrive too early, though, as waiting around a crowded port is not exactly pleasant.
  • Remy is a fine dining experience from a Michelin-starred chef that is available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships. While the added cost is steep, so is what you’d pay at a real-world Michelin 3-star restaurant. In addition to the fine dining meal, Remy serves a a champagne brunch, a dessert experience, and the “Petites Assiettes de Remy” (a 6-course small plate experience with wine pairings).
  • Another upcharge experience is the Royal Court Royal Tea Party , which is a tea party with Disney Princesses offered on all four ships. In addition to the tea, two courses of food are served and keepsakes are given out to kids. The experience is pricey–and actually more expensive for kids than adults.
  • Aside from the tip, there’s no surcharge for room-service, so take advantage. Nothing beats a cup of coffee and meal to start the day on your stateroom verandah! (Assuming, of course, that you have a verandah.)
  • Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t purchase diamonds or other high-dollar items in ports. All it takes is a quick Google search to reveal countless horror stories about scams to scare you away from doing this. (Even Disney’s featured on-board merchants, like Diamonds International, are pretty shady.)
  • Sarah recommends the Rainforest Room Day Pass, which is relatively inexpensive (<$20). On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, this provides access to a dry sauna, two steam rooms, multiple “rain” showers, heated loungers, and two hot tubs with ocean views. (When she went on a girls cruise without me(!!), she says she and her friends spent practically all day in the Rainforest Room.)
  • Sarah also recommends the (alcoholic) beverage seminars for guests. She felt these offered good value for money (as compared to purchasing drinks on board the ship) and the experience was very fun. These can only be booked on board the ship and can sell out quickly.
  • Pack your library card. Not because your library has a branch on the ship (although you never know what they’ll add), but because the stateroom lights require a card to activate. Using your Key to the World card for this is a hassle.
  • If you’re doing a Land and Sea Cruise, do the Walt Disney World leg of the trip first. This will make the cruise feel like even more of a vacation, as you decompress from marathon days in the parks.
  • Skyline Bar on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is the coolest lounge aboard any of the ships. It’s chic and metropolitan–in the sense that there’s a rotating skyline (once per 15 minutes) behind the bar. The effect is really cool, and it’s worth sticking around long enough to see the full rotation of cities.
  • If you are not able to make reservations prior to your cruise for character meets, Palo, Remy, etc., check for availability as soon as you board the ship. They may have additional availability on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • While the Cabana Beach Retreats at Castaway Cay are pricey , they include a lot of perks and regular cruises highly recommend them. They’re also nearly impossible to book unless you’re a Gold or Platinum Castaway Club Member, as there is limited availability and they sell out quickly.
  • While we don’t normally recommend travel insurance, give it some thought when cruising–especially if anyone in your party is prone to getting sick, or you’re cruising during hurricane season. This post covers what to look for in a cruise insurance plan .
  • Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bars are available via room service or on the kids’ menus at every rotational dining restaurant. Yes, adults can order them, too.
  • In Nassau, Junkanoo Beach is easy to access by walking a few blocks from the port. However, it’s touristy. Walking a few blocks farther (~40 minutes total) will get you to Saunders Beach , which is much more secluded.
  • Some itineraries, such as the Alaskan Cruises on the Disney Wonder, offer exclusive merchandise available only on those sailings . (Speaking of which, this sounds like the ultimate bucket list cruise–seeing bald eagles, whales, and bears from the ship? Sign me up!)
  • Running the Castaway Cay 5K is a nice way to score a rare freebie: a runDisney Castaway Cay (rubber) medal. It’s casually organized and features no on-course entertainment, but is still a fun, one-and-done race.
  • Crew Members might advise you that the Youth Activities Band (Disney Cruise Line MagicBand) is “yours to keep as a souvenir,” what they might not say is, “but you’ll incur a fee if you do keep it.” This DCL MagicBand is useless, so purchase a different souvenir and avoid that charge.
  • All three buffets (Cookie’s, Cookie’s Too, and Serenity Bay BBQ) all feature the exact same cookout style buffet food, with one exception: Serenity Bay BBQ offers ribeye steaks. They’re not amazing, but they’re one of the better foods on the buffet, so if you’re an adult, eat there.
  • If you’re cruising without kids, choose the second dinner seating and earlier entertainment showtime. Both dinner and the show will be less crowded.
  • Midship Detective Agency (particularly the Muppet version) is fun even if you’re an adult, and it provides an excuse to really explore the various floors of the ships, which is a satisfying experience.
  • There’s a Disney Vacation Club Member Celebration on Embarkation Day, which provides free alcoholic drinks and a wealth of prizes. It exists to convince members to add-on (and will offer quite the compelling and emotional pitch), but is worthwhile for the free drinks and prizes.
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers princess and knight makeover packages on all 4 ships. On Pirates Night, the location transforms into Pirates League with packages for that.
  • If you do not have small children, you can safely skip the Sailaway Party and Pirate Night “skits.” While the former is a fun way for people of all ages to get in the spirit at the start of the cruise, both are basically smile and wave shows that won’t captivate adults.
  • Even if you do not have small children, don’t skip the nightly shows. The quality of these does vary, but they are produced at an exceptional level, have some funny moments, and will tug at your heartstrings. Remember: you’re paying a premium for the Disney experience and this is a big component of that Disney experience–might as well get the full value out of that!
  • While day-of upgrades are uncommon, check at the terminal when checking in whether any upgrades are available. If they are, the price will typically be far lower than what you’d pay at the booking stage. (Any upgrades that are available are on a first-come, first-served basis, which is another reason to arrive at the terminal early.)
  • Breakfast is not served on Castaway Cay, and the buffets do not open until lunch.
  • The hot new Disney Cruise Line dining experience is Tiana’s Place on the Disney Wonder. This is the first time the restaurant from Princess and the Frog has been built by Disney (what took so long?!) and it offers a menu with cajun cuisine plus live music, dancing, Mardi Gras beads, and more.
  • If you’re going on a European cruise and travel internationally at least occasionally, consider buying a MiFi unit and Orange Holiday SIM card. I own this Huawei 4G LTE Mobile Wifi Hotspot and highly recommend it. If you do not internationally at least on occasion, rent a MiFi instead.
  • If the Castaway Cay 5K is not enough running for you…well, you might be crazy. 😉 If so, every Disney Cruise has a jogging track on Deck 4 where you can run laps (2.5 laps = 1 mile).
  • You can take food from the ship ashore with you, but some ports require that it’s sealed.
  • If you plan on watching a first-run movie at the Buena Vista Theater, grab soda and snacks from Cabanas (or the deck) before the movie. There’s also a snack stand outside of the theater, but they charge for snacks and drinks there.
  • Many cruises have fan-made Facebook groups ( past example ) associated with them. Search Facebook for your cruise itinerary (and date), and you might find a closed group you can request to join.
  • Pack a sweatshirt. Sounds crazy, especially if you’re heading to the Caribbean, but the cruise ship can be cold inside. Likewise, the cool ocean breeze in evenings can mean you want another layer, even outdoors.
  • Since you won’t have internet–or will have very limited internet–on your cruise, we recommend printing this page for reference during your cruise. It’s also advisable to pack The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line 2020 as a reference during your cruise.
  • Finally, information and policies are constantly changing and sometimes inconsistent. For example, there’s a lot of info out there suggesting that the Pirate Buffet has been discontinued. While it’s true that this buffet does not occur on many cruises (for reasons unbeknownst to us) it still does occur on some sailings. Be mindful of policy changes and be prepared to roll with the punches.

disney cruise suggested tips

That’s it…for now! Even though planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation is relatively stress-free (as compared to Walt Disney World, for example) there are a lot of other secrets and lesser-known tips that can really enhance the experience and improve your cruise. Read as much as you can when planning your cruise—part of the fun of the voyage is building up anticipation, so a little extra research never hurts! 🙂

Planning to set sail aboard one of the Disney Cruise Line ships? Read our comprehensive Disney Cruise Line Guide to prepare for your trip, plan entertainment and other activities, and learn what to expect from your Disney cruise!

If you want personalized recommendations for Disney Cruise Line itineraries, ships, and more, click here to get a cruise quote from a no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner . They can find you all of the current discounts, and help you plan the details of your cruise!

Your Thoughts

Have you set sail aboard Disney Cruise Line? Do you have a favorite ship? Any tips of your own to add to improve the experience? Port Adventure recommendations? Upcharge or other add-ons you’d recommend? Anything to add about Castaway Cay, travel insurance, dining, spas, or anything else we’ve covered in this list of tips for Disney Cruise Line? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Written by Tom Bricker

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fyi, tip 10 is now unfortunately outdated, as the on board credit is no longer offered. but 10% off still is and it’s still worth it to me.

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You actually can use the emojis. You have to download their app and play it to unlock them. Even after that its difficult and annoying to use them, but they’re cute!

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My wife Renee & I went on the British Isles cruise on the Magic Sept 2, 2018. Visited Cobh (Cork) & Dublin, Ireland, Greenock, Scotland, & Liverpool, England. We booked excursions to the Blarney Castle in Cobh, walked around town in Dublin, (had to find the Guiness Storehouse as well). We highly recommend the Gourmet Glasgow excursion in Greenock. The gourmet guides name was Maddie. Took us around Glasgow to different, out of the tourist area restaurants, went a cheese tasting shop then had dessert at University Cafe in Glasgow. Such a fantastic time we had. In Liverpool, we booked the Titan Zip Line (videos can be found on youtube) excursion in Wales. So much fun. We enjoyed the British Isles cruise so much that we have booked the cruise again on Sept 8, 2019. Ports of call are Dublin, Belfast, Greenock, Liverpool. We stayed in Disney’s recommended hotel in London, the JW Marriott Grosvenor House. It was a pleasant stay. Everything in walking distance, the Underground stops are very close. The disappointing part was the ground transportation in and out of London from Gatwick. Too much stop & go traffic. Took to long to get to the hotel & out again. In 2019, we will be staying at a hotel at Gatwick airport. There is another Disney hotel there as well. Several trains run continuously in and out of Gatwick to London. Easy in, easy out, easy transportation to Dover from Gatwick. We highly recommend the British Isles cruise. We had a great time.

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In reference to #12 “You can also save a bit by purchasing duty-free alcohol on board the ships (rather than from the bars), and making your own cocktails in-room”. Don’t they hold your duty-free alcohol till the last night of the cruise?

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That’s what I was going to ask, too! I thought they would- I know they’ll collect any liquor you bring in from a port.

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Bring your own travel mug or cup on board with you. The sodas are free on the pool deck, but the cups are small. Having your own cup will keep you from having to run back again and again!

I would also suggest bringing plastic skirt hangers. We use those to hang our wet bathing suits on the clothes line in the shower. It helps them to dry faster since they aren’t doubled over. When we pack up to leave (such a sad thought), we just toss them in the recycle bin in our room.

My last tip is to stay the night before near the port. You can rest easy that you aren’t caught in traffic or delayed flights that could make you miss the ship!

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The hangers are a great idea! cruising next week, and I’m adding that to my list! Thank you!!

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I am planning to sail the Wonder out of San Diego in Sept 2018.my husband wants to book a veranda . I see there are veranda that have obstructed views. Is it worth getting a veranda vs a port hole if you can’t see anything unless you stand up and look over the railing?. I don’t like to white metal wall. Are all cabins like this with the white wall.? Anyone have advice on this? Thanks- Susan

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Oh I will be on this cruise too…. we are very excited for our Norway adventure!!

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Hi Cruisers! For first time cruisers who are definitely interested in booking a verandah room to Alaska, is there a best area to stay on the Wonder? Front, middle, back, left side right side? Thanks in advance!

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Not sure about room selection from a view standpoint, but I will tell you that the rooms towards the back of the ship can be loud when the ship docks. We were in a room on the 7th floor at the very back of the ship (Disney Fantasy) and when the ship would dock, it would literally shake the entire room and was loud enough that it woke up even our son who is a very sound sleeper.

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If you see something in the gift shop on board that you must have – buy it then. Unlike a park gift shop, the ship can’t restock during the week. I’ve found it’s especially an issue with unusual sizes in clothes or specialty merchandise. I can’t WAIT to reach your Norway trip report!

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My family is actually going to be on the same Norwegian cruise at the beginning of June, and I was debating the idea of getting a new camera. I previously had a Nikon DSLR camera, but am admittedly a novice and know very little about photography. The Nikon eventually broke and I have used my iPhone almost exclusively since. Based upon review of some of your other blog posts (which we’ve enjoyed very much and used extensively), do you still think the Sony RX100 is the best bet as far as point and shoot cameras (in particular as it relates to some of the shots I might try to get while in Norway/Denmark)?

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You mentioned that Disney Visa card holders receive a discount on photo packages…is that only if you purchase them on the cruise ship, or if you pre-order on the Shutters website?

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You’ll love Norway! I did a Norwegian Fjords cruise on Holland America and it was by far my favorite itinerary. Visit Norway has great information on their website (they used to make free brochures but stopped). Most ports we did something on our own rather than schedule a shore excursion – this is particularly easy for Stavanger and Bergen. Food is rather expensive in Norway, so we had our meals on board and then would snack in the ports (I had so many waffles!).

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We just went on our first Disney cruise in January. Our kids were 6, 5, and 2. Disney has got the elementary ages covered in regard to entertainment. Our 6 and 5 year olds didn’t want to leave the kids club. (“But Mom, Captain America is coming in 15 minutes! I don’t want to swim/ eat dinner/ go to bed!) That being said, it was a rough cruise for our 2 year old. That poor child was so bored, and we did everything that was appropriate for his age. His favorite time of the day was the one hour when the cast members brought out a small selection of toys for toddlers. If we went again with a pre-kids club age child, I would bring a bag of toys for them to play with. (We looked into the nursery program but it seemed better suited for infants. Our son unfortunately fell in the gap between infant and preschooler.) We will wait to cruise again until our youngest is at least 5.

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We went when ours were 3 and 4 and had a great time, they both were old enough to do the kids clubs. We can’t wait to go again, but just added another munchkin to our clan- so will definitely be waiting until he’s 3 so he can participate in the kids program, otherwise I totally agree- there isn’t much to do for a toddler

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I’ve been wondering about the kids clubs a bit. We’re doing a 3 day cruise in November, and I honestly did not plan to drop our 7 or 4 year old off at the daycare / club thing at all. Not trying that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just that it’s a short cruise and I look forward to exploring the ship and going on adventures / swimming / activities with them. That being said, are there big things the kids can’t miss at the kids club? Sounds like they do character visits, what are some of the other activities that kids would rave about? And do they post a schedule / itinerary, so that we can take the kids for things they are interested in and skip other stuff?

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We went in November 2017 with our 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old. I was worried about the nursery being more geared toward infants, but we were so wrong. Our 2 1/2 year old loved the nursery. They painted, played games, played with balls, colored etc. I also felt she got a little more 1 on 1 attention since she was at a fun age to actually play with. She didn’t want to leave the first night we left her and begged to go back the second night when our son went to kids club. We were shocked we didn’t think either of our kids would want to part from us. The second night my husband and I were at a complete loss of what to do without kids, since it wasn’t in our plan to not have either of them.

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On the Dream/ Fantasy, if you want to avoid the crowd for the fireworks and don’t care about the show portion of that, try going to the Currents bar area above the adult pool, and go to the railings on the starboard side. you still hear the music, there’s a great view, and there’s even some seating if you get there early enough!

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I would really, really like to visit Norway some time. Enjoy the cruise!

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Welcome to Norway! I hope you both enjoy your stay in our country. Please feel free to ask me anything you want to know about Norway or Norwegians. I have lived in this country all of my life so hopefully I can be of some help ☺️

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In terms of questions, do you have any recommendations for things to do in Stavanger, Alesund, Geiranger, or Bergen while we’re in port? The more specific the recommendation, the better (e.g. places to eat, quaint shops to visit, etc.) I have a pretty good idea of what points of interest are popular and highly recommended in each port, but what I’m lacking is a local’s perspective on hidden gems and that type of thing.

Now, I realize I just listed several places in an entire country, so I’m not expecting you to have comprehensive knowledge of all this, but anything you can offer would be most appreciated! 🙂

Stavanger: Det lille hjørnet is a tiny café with great ambience serving coffee with cool crema designs. Sabi Omakase is a sushi restaurant which recently received a star in guide Michelin. It is supposed to be one of a kind amazing. Bergen: Klosteret kaffebar (small pub/café). Geiranger: I have never been there, but the view from Eagle Road looks truly spectacular. Ã…lesund: I love the view from the top of Aksla, the small “city mountain”.

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I would definitely recommend Kafe Spesial in Bergen. A good menu with good beers and not too expensive for Norway. Also would highly recommend getting the funicular and walking around the top of mt Floyen – there are plenty of trails and some really spectacular views. Enjoy Norway, it is incredible, we were there in february and everything was covered in snow, so I imagine your experience will be slightly different, but I would love to go back and visit in the warmer months.

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I’m so happy to see this post! We just booked our first EVER cruise for April 2018. I’ll definitely be reading this post a few times.

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A note on number 13 regarding the Disney Visa and DVC discounts on merch. We routinely forget about the discounts and on our last cruise realized we had again forgotten it on the last day. The crew member at the register was able to “return” all of our purchases from throughout the cruise and re-ring them all together (so all those less then $50 purchases were also included). I don’t know if that is standard operating procedure, it could have been a one time – employee going above and beyond- type of situation. But it couldn’t hurt to ask if you find yourself in that situation.

I’ve heard of this happening at Walt Disney World as well. So, while it might not be “official” policy, I don’t think it was a one-off exception, either.

102. If you or the kids collect the smashed pennies, the only DCL penny machines are located in the terminal prior to departure. You will not have a chance to get them once you board your cruise as you depart through a different area. 103. If the above applies, bring change with you. There is not (or wasn’t the last time we went) any place to get change in the DCL departures terminal.

Thanks for this tip–I had no idea (although that does make sense).

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Flying Off The Bookshelf

101 Disney Cruise Tips & Tricks

disney cruise suggested tips

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here .

Ready for your Disney Cruise? Cruising is definitely a different kind of vacation than any other you will take, and Disney Cruises can have some differences than other cruises you might be familiar with. If this is your first ever cruise or your first cruise Disney Cruise, these Disney Cruise tips & tricks will help you with everything you need to know. We’ve got tips about packing, boarding the ship, eating, enjoying the entertainment, and more so you can have best possible cruise experience!

There’s TONS here (and honestly more I probably could have added!), so read through it and then keep it saved to refer back to as you get ready for your cruise! I’ve done my best to break it up into section that will correspond with the stages of your cruise: planning and preparing, being on your cruise, and leaving your cruise.

Tips & Tricks for Booking Your Disney Cruise

1. book your cruise early.

Disney Cruise prices don’t tend to fluctuate. The earliest prices you can get are often going to be the best prices you can get (unless you get a great last minute deal). Prices generally only continue to go up as the cruise gets closer. Some cruises also sell out!

Also, understand how pricing works. Cruises during high-demand times (like summer and holidays) will be more expensive. Cruises on newer ships (like the Wish ) will also be more expensive.

2. Use a travel agent to book your cruise.

Travel agents are free to use and can get you the best deal. While there aren’t often big discounts for Disney Cruises, many of them do offer onboard credit, giving you money to spend on the ship.

3. Check-in online as soon as you can.

This will give you best options for port arrival times, excursions, exclusive dining reservations, and more.

4. Be prepared with documents for your online check-in.

You will need things like pictures of everyone in your party, passports, and possibly more. Gather and upload as much as you can before your actually online check-in time to cut down on the stress.

5. Book the earliest port arrival time you can.

You want to maximize the time you get to spend on your Disney Cruise! Booking an earlier port arrival time will allow you to get on the ship and start having fun hours before the ship actually leaves. You’ll be able to select your port arrival time once you check in online.

6. Download the Disney Cruise Line App.

Well before your cruise, download the app. It won’t do much before you leave, but once you link your reservation you’ll get a fun countdown. Plus, then you’ll have it all ready once you board the ship when you will REALLY need it.

7. Book everything you can online ahead of time!

Shore excursions, kids club reservations (if needed), spa appointments, specialty dining—many of these things will get booked up quickly, so book things early as much as you can. If you can’t book something ahead of time, visit Guest Services as soon as you board the ship.

8. Join a fish extender group before your cruise.

A fish extender is an pouch extension you place on the fish outside your door (a hook where Disney places your mail). You can join a fish extender group for your particular sailing on Facebook ahead of time, and then throughout the cruise you will exchange gifts with other people on your sailing by leaving the gifts in the fish extenders. This isn’t an official Disney activity, but instead a cruise tradition that fans have started, and many people love participating in it.

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips & Tricks for Disney Cruise Packing

9. use the luggage tags provided by disney..

When you arrive at port, you will hand your bags over and then be able to board without the hassle of the luggage. But make sure you have the luggage tags Disney sent you on your bags so they know where the bags go!

10. Pack a separate embarkation carry-on bag.

Include essential documents, medications, and swimsuits (if you want to hit the pool soon after boarding). Pack anything you might need until early evening, because sometimes your regular bags will take a few hours to appear in your stateroom.

11. Don’t worry about beach packing towels.

Disney provides towels both on the pool deck and at Castaway Cay.

12. Don’t worry about packing bath products.

You won’t need to pack shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or body lotion (unless you have something super special you can’t live without). Disney provides great products in each stateroom, so no need to have it taking up space in your luggage.

13. Pack sunscreen!

You will absolutely need it. Reef safe sunscreen is always best to get in the ocean with. Our favorite is this Sun Bum spray , the Sun Bum face stick , and this COOLA scalp spray . (PS — all of these products smell so good which is the best part!)

14. Bring seasickness meds.

Be prepared if you are worried about seasickness. Bring medicine or anything else you might need. But also know that Disney ships have high-tech stabilizers and they do their best to make it a smooth ride.

15. Bring a jacket!

Even in the Caribbean it can get breezy and cool at night, and you might find some of the restaurants or theaters a little chilly too.

16. Bring an excursion bag.

Pack a small and easy-to-carry bag that you can take with you onto Castaway Cay or any other ports and excursions. You can include things like sunscreen, water, essential medications, your Key to the World card (your room key), ID, and anything else you might need off the ship.

17. Pack a lanyard.

Many people pack lanyards to keep their ID and Key to the World (room key) card on. This makes it easy to grab on your way out the door and easy to keep up with.

18. Pack a reusable water bottle.

Even though cups of water are free on your cruise, bottles of water aren’t and they can add up fast.

19. Pack your alcohol!

Drinks on a Disney Cruise can be pricey, so if you know you are going to want some, you can bring some with you. Each guest 21 years or older can bring two unopened bottles of wine or champagne or six beers in their carry-on luggage.

20. Use packing cubes!

Honestly, this is great advice for any trip, but packing cubes can help you fit more into your bag, keep everything organized, and are super easy to unpack into the drawers in your stateroom. I love these packing cubes and use them on every trip I go on.

21. Use a good packing list.

Use a packing list to make sure you’ve remembered everything! See this post for all our Disney Cruise packing tips .

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips & Tricks for Boarding Your Disney Cruise

22. fly in the day before your cruise.

You definitely don’t want to be stressing about flight delays on the same day you have a cruise to board!

23. Don’t get to the port too early.

Ideally, you’ve booked the earliest time you can for arriving at port. But don’t arrive too much earlier than that or they may turn you away or you’ll just have to sit around and wait.

24. Get your WiFi up and running for the Disney Cruise app.

When you board the ship there will be cast members in place to instruct you on using the app. Note that you have to pay for extra WiFi, but the app is always free to use. The app will only work when you connected to the Disney Cruise ship WiFi.

25. Start figuring out the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app early.

You can use the app to see the schedule for each day, your dining rotation, chat with members of your party, and more.

26. Guest Services can help you with special bookings.

If there are special activities you were unable to book before your cruise or if you want to try to get a specialty dining reservation, head to guest services when you get on the ship and see if they can help you. Sometimes there are reservations available that hadn’t been available online.

27. Rent the baby gear you need.

If you need baby gear like a pack n’ play or a stroller, you can rent them for free at Guest Services. These are on a first-come, first-serve basis though, so do this as soon as possible once you get on the ship!

28. Head to lunch!

When you board the ship, head to lunch. While many people head to the buffet at Cabanas (or Marceline Market on the Wish), you can also eat at one of the sit-down restaurants that is offering lunch.

29. Get your muster drill done.

Recently, Disney has changed the way their muster drill works. Instead of everyone gathering at their station at once, you just have to go and check in at your station using the app during your first few hours on board. Go ahead and get it done so then you’re free to have fun!

30. Check out the Kid’s Clubs!

Your first afternoon on board, all of the kid’s clubs should be having open houses. This means you can go explore the space with your child and get all checked in with a cast member so that drop off is easy once you’re ready to actually use the kid’s club. (Pro Tip: Even if you don’t have kids, stop by just to use their awesome hand washing stations!)

disney cruise suggested tips

31. You can go to the pool as soon as you get on the ship!

If you’ve packed your swimsuit in your carry on bag (or worn it under your clothes) you can head straight to the pool when you get on board and hopefully find it less crowded than it will be later.

32. Remember that your room may not be ready right away.

Rooms tend to be ready mid-afternoon, so you may not have access to your room as soon as you board. (Remember, they JUST had an entire cruise get OFF the ship that same morning!)

33. Your luggage may take some time to show up in your room.

Usually luggage will show up in the afternoon, but sometimes it can be into the evening. So be prepared with the things you will need in your carry-on bag.

34. The ship will feel like a maze when you first get on.

But don’t worry because soon you’ll get the hang of it. There are maps and signs to help you know your way, and spend some time on this first day just wondering around the ship getting the lay of the land (or uh…ship).

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips & Tricks for Your Disney Cruise Stateroom

35. decorate your door with custom magnets.

This is a fun Disney Cruise tradition, and there are lots of small shops online that sell these magnets. We also love our door decorations because it makes it easier for us to find our room.

36. Pack a magnetic hook.

The doors in your state room are metal, so magnetized hooks are helpful for keeping things like lanyards, purses, etc.

37. Don’t use an over-the-door shoe organizer.

Disney has begun asking guests not to use these because they can damage the door.

38. Unpack your suitcase.

You can store empty luggage under the bed. Cruise staterooms are too small to have open suitcases lying around!

39. Disney Cruise rooms have TWO bathrooms.

This is one of my favorite features about the rooms. There is one bathroom with a sink and shower/tub, and one bathroom with a sink and toilet. This makes sharing a bathroom with family members in a small space much more manageable.

40. Your stateroom host will prepare kid’s beds.

If you have kids and need to use the fold-out beds, your stateroom host will pull them down for you each night and make them up for you each morning.

41. Get to know your state room host!

They are so kind and are there to help your experience in your stateroom be the best it can be.

Tips & Tricks for Disney Cruise Dining

42. you will be assigned restaurants on a rotating basis for dinner..

This is known as rotational dining, and you don’t want to miss it! They are truly special dining experiences. You can find your dining rotation on your Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.

Looking for more dining info? These might help:

  • Complete Guide to Disney Magic Restaurants + Dining
  • Complete Guide to Disney Wish Restaurants + Dining

43. Your rotational dining is included in the cost of your cruise.

The only thing you may have to pay for at a standard dinner is if you order an alcoholic drink.

44. There are two different dinner seating times.

Most families with young kids prefer to be assigned the earlier dinner seating, while families with older kids or parties traveling with just adults tend to book the later dinner seating.

disney cruise suggested tips

45. Guest Services can change your dinner time if you need to.

If you need to change your dinner seating time for some reason, talk to Guest Services about it as soon as you board the ship.

46. Your waiters will move restaurants with you each night.

This means they will really get to know you and your preferences. Maybe when you enter they’ll already have drinks out if you get the same thing every night, or if you have a special dietary need they will always be prepared for that.

47. Get to know your waiters too!

We love talking to ours and getting to know where they are from, how long they’ve been working on Disney Cruises, and just chatting! Getting to know the cast members on board really makes the cruise experience even more special.

48. You can order more than one item.

If more than one appetizer, dessert, or even entrée sounds good to you, remember that you are allowed to order more than one!

49. Quick service options are available for breakfast and lunch.

There are dining options available on the pool deck and in either Cabanas or Marceline Market (on the Wish). These are included in the price of your cruise, and are likely where you will want to grab lunch. (Although you can also choose a table service restaurant for either meal as well.)

50. Room service is included in the price of your cruise!

So take advantage for any meal or for late night snacks! Be prepared to tip though.

51. Order Mickey Premium Bars through room service!

Room service is the only place you’ll be able to find Disney’s popular ice cream treat. And truly there is nothing better than sitting on your verandah with a Mickey Premium Bar!

52. If you want to book premium-adults only dining, do so early!

Each ship has at least one adults-only dining experience. These are an additional charge. Most of them offer options for both brunch and dinner. Each ship has a version of Palo. The Dream and Fantasy also have Remy, and the Wish has Enchanté.

disney cruise suggested tips

53. You’ll have to pay for specialty coffee.

If you want something other than the standard coffee at the restaurants, there is a coffee bar in the adults only area of the ship. The coffee here is an extra charge, but you can save money if you grab one of their coffee cards. Buy 5 drinks and the 6th is free.

Tips & Tricks for the Disney Cruise Kids Clubs

54. there are kid’s clubs for all ages.

It’s a Small World Nursery is for children under 3, The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab is for kids ages 3-12, The Edge is for kids 11-14, and The Vibe is for teens ages 14-17. Each club has age appropriate activities and special events that occur throughout the day.

55. It’s a Small World Nursery is an additional charge.

It is $9 per hour for your first child, and $8 per hour for each additional child.

56. It’s a Small World Nursery needs to be booked ahead of time.

While the other kid’s clubs allow kids to stop in whenever they want, the nursery will need to be reserved ahead of time.

57. The Oceaneer’s Club will lock your child’s Magic Band on.

Your child will need a Magic Band for their time in the Oceaneer’s Club (you will be given one), and the cast members will lock it on while they are in there, which is a great safety measure. If they don’t want to wear the Magic Band for the whole cruise, you can use small scissors or ask a cast member for help cutting it off. Then it will just get relocked each time your child comes into the club.

disney cruise suggested tips

58. Kids in The Edge and The Vibe are free to come and go as they please.

Tweens and teens do not have to be checked in and out by an adult. However, if you have a child in an overlap age (11 or 12) who can participate in both The Edge and The Oceaneer’s Club, you will need to check them in and out of the Oceaneer’s Club still but not The Edge.

59. Scuttle’s Cove is the kid’s club on Castaway Cay.

Kids that would normally go to the Oceaneer’s Club on the ship can be checked into Scuttle’s Cove on Castaway Cay, so parents can enjoy some of the adults only areas and some kid-free beach time. Just remember to bring their Magic Band onto the island!

60. Teens can go to Teen Hideout.

There is a Teen Hideout on Castaway Cay for teens ages 14-17.

disney cruise suggested tips

Looking for a vacation book? You might like these books set on cruise ships !

Tips & Tricks for Disney Cruise Activities, Entertainment, & Shopping

61. check your disney cruise line navigator app each day..

You’ll be able to see what going on during the day on the ship and what activities you might want to participate in. You can favorite the activities and it will create an itinerary for you.

62. Disney Cruises will have activities going on ALL THE TIME (and they often repeat).

So don’t worry if you miss something. Usually for games/trivia/etc. the event will happen more than once during the cruise.

63. Your dining time will be opposite your nighttime entertainment time.

This means if you have the early dining you can go to the late show and if you have the late dining you can go to the early show.

64. Pack your own snacks!

If you think you are going to want to snacks during shows and movies, you can bring your own. The snacks outside the theaters are not included in the price of your cruise, so you would have to buy them separately. I also think it is helpful to have some granola bars or similar snacks with you, because while food on the ship is plentiful sometimes a snack that isn’t a cookie can be harder to find.

65. Shop early!

If there are certain items you want, pick them up early. Generally, merchandise does not get restocked during the cruise, so what they have at the beginning of the cruise is what they will have for the whole cruise.

66. The shops will not always be open!

Usually, they can only be open when the ship is at sea, so plan your shopping times accordingly.

disney cruise suggested tips

67. Be prepared for Pirate Night!

Pirate Night is a beloved tradition on Disney Cruises! You can bring you own pirate attire to wear, and you’ll find special menus at dinner, characters dressed in pirate outfits, and special nighttime entertainment. Don’t have pirate attire? No worries! On our cruise everyone got a pirate bandanna to wear at dinner.

68. Don’t miss the fireworks!

Disney’s fireworks at sea are truly magical. (And fun fact: Disney Cruise Line fireworks are made from biodegradable materials so they are environmentally friendly!)

Tips & Tricks for Disney Cruise Characters

69. characters are out all the time on disney cruises..

This makes it really easy to meet them. Just walk through the atrium at various points during the day and you will see so many different characters. Generally the times they are out will show up in the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app, but you may find some surprise characters too.

70. Some character meet and greets may require a reservation.

This is usually for things like princess meet and greets. These aren’t an additional charge, but you will still need to book your spot, and you should be able to do so through the app or with Guest Services.

71. There are also character experiences you can pay for.

Some cruises offer special character experiences, like a character meal or a princess tea, for an additional cost.

72. Some of your dining rotations will include a character element/show.

Some of the dinner restaurants will include a special show with characters. For example, Rapunzel, Flynn, and the ruffians show up at Rapunzel’s Royal Table on the Disney Magic. On the Disney Wish, Frozen characters perform at Arendelle. And of course the shows at Animator’s Palate are always a favorite!

Tips & Tricks for the Disney Cruise Pool Deck

73. towels are provided on the pool deck..

So there is no need to bring your own towels!

74. The pools will have lines to get in when it is crowded.

The lifeguards will let a certain number of people in, let them be in for a certain time, and then have them get out so the next group can get in.

75. Try to ride the popular water slides during less popular times.

Later afternoon and evening or when the ship is docked are great times to try for the slides.

disney cruise suggested tips

76. Hit the pool either early or later.

If you want a spot by the pool, plan to be out early in the morning. But you can also sometimes wait until later in the day! We found the pool a lot less crowded in the afternoon than in the morning! I think a lot of families have kids eager to get to the pool and by the afternoon they are ready to move on to something else or head in for nap time.

77. There are several dining options available on each ship’s pool deck.

All pool deck dining is included in the price of your cruise. You’ll find things like pizza, burgers, shawarma, and BBQ depending on what ship you are on. There is also a drink station on the pool deck.

78. The pool deck can get hot in the sun!

We had to make sure to walk in the shade on the pool deck on the Disney Magic because the areas exposed to the sun got so hot. So be prepared!

Tips & Tricks for Castaway Cay

79. make sure you have your id and your room key when you leave the ship.

You will need them both to get off and get back on the ship at Castaway Cay and at any port.

80. Towels are provided.

Be sure to grab them as you exit the ship.

81. Walk to the beach from the ship.

If you walk along the path instead of taking the tram you’ll have a chance to see characters along your way! Then you can take the tram back in the afternoon when you are tired.

disney cruise suggested tips

82. Get off the ship early and find a spot to camp out during the day.

It’s best to find your spot before it gets too crowded. We like to find chairs near the water structure where we think the kids will play the most.

83. Take advantage of the bike riding and the snorkeling.

These were some of our favorite experiences on Castaway Cay! You will have to pay to rent bikes and snorkeling gear. (For more on what do on Castaway Cay, see our Guide to Castaway Cay .)

84. You can send a postcard from Castaway Cay.

If you want to send a postcard from Castaway Cay, you can stop by the post office. You will need cash to pay for it though!

85. Lunch is served at Cookies and Cookies Too.

You’ll find a big buffet with all kinds of options and it is included in your cruise price. You’ll also find soft serve ice cream here (but it’s only open during lunch hours).

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips & Tricks for Gratuities and Other Expenses

86. some things are not included in the price of your cruise..

While so many of your experiences and most of your dining is included in the price of your cruise, some things are not: port excursions, alcoholic drinks and specialty beverages, spa treatments, specialty dining experiences, and gratuities/tips.

87. Always pack some dollar bills.

You can use these for tips for bag porters, room service, and specialty beverages.

88. Disney will walk you through the gratuities process.

At the end of your cruise, you will find information about gratuities in your stateroom. Disney Cruise Line automatically calculates gratuities for you and charges you for them. There are slips of paper with the tip amount included that you can hand to your servers and stateroom hosts to personally thank them.

89. You can add to the standard tip amounts.

If you would like to add to the standard tip amount Disney calculates, you can visit Guest Services and they will add the additional tip and print new slips for you to hand your servers and statement host.

Tips & Tricks for Disembarkation Day

90. get your pictures at shutters before disembarkation day..

BEFORE disembarkation day, make sure you stop by Shutters to view your photos and decide on any photos you want to buy. This is best done the afternoon of your last cruise day.

91. Put your luggage out in the hallway the night before for Disney to transport off the ship.

The night before your disembarkation day, have your luggage out in the hallway by around 10 p.m. with the luggage tags you are given. This way, Disney will take your bags off the ship for you and have them waiting for you at the port the next day.

92. Pack a carry-on bag for disembarkation day.

Keep a carry-on bag with your clothes for the next day, necessary toiletries and medication. Also don’t forget shoes for the next day!

93. You will be assigned a breakfast restaurant and time.

It will be early, so be prepared. It will also be the same restaurant where you had dinner on your last night. You’ll still have your same servers, but the menu will be more limited than it is for the rest of the cruise.

94. You can also have breakfast at the ship’s buffet.

If you don’t want to dine at your assigned location, Cabana’s (or Marceline Market) is usually open with a limited breakfast buffet.

95. You will be able to leave the ship when your luggage tag group is announced.

Watch the screens around the ship to know what luggage tags have been announced. Each tag is printed with a recognizable character, so they are easy to remember.

96. If you do not have your bags out in the hallway the night before, you will be responsible for taking them off the ship.

Note that you will have to take them with you to breakfast, because once you leave the stateroom for breakfast you are “checked out” of your room so they can begin preparing it for the guests that will board later that day. (Generally you have to out of your stateroom by at least 8:00 a.m.)

Miscellaneous Disney Cruise Tips & Tricks

97. you are not allowed to bring an iron..

There is a laundry center on each ship where you can do laundry and find irons to use.

98. You are NOT allowed to bring extension cords or power strips.

We found that there are plenty of plugs in each stateroom though.

99. Internet is available on the ship but it is very expensive for not very much.

Honestly, one reason we love cruising is that it is a way to really disconnect! But remember that the WiFi will always work for you Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.

100. The Senses Salon & Spa is not run by Disney Cruise Line.

Rather it is a third party vendor. If you have an issue with the spa, you will need to contact them about it directly. Also, be prepared for them to try to sell you products.

101. Book your next cruise while on board!

If your put down a $250 deposit for your next cruise, you can save 10%. You don’t even have to have a specific sailing date, just put down a fully refundable deposit for any future sailing, and it can be applied when you book. The sailing must take place within two years though.

You May Also Like

  • Disney Cruise vs. Disney World
  • What To Pack for a Disney Cruise: Complete Packing List
  • Things To Do on Castaway Cay: Complete Guide to Disney’s Private Island
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The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Disney Cruise: 80+ First Time Disney Cruise Tips

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Disney cruises are a magical way to get a dose of Disney while also seeing different parts of the world. Whether you’re new to cruising or just new to Disney Cruise Line, planning a Disney cruise can be a little overwhelming. Between figuring out what to pack, checking in and booking onboard excursions, we have you covered with these first time Disney Cruise tips from start to finish. 

Keep reading for over 80 tips for Disney cruises for first timers (from a travel agent!)

Disney Wish Castaway Cay Disney Cruise Tips

Table of Contents

General information on disney cruises.

Disney Cruise Line currently operates five cruise ships: The Dream, Fantasy, Wonder, Magic and Wish. The Wish is Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, which had its inaugural sailing in 2022.

Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of sailings, including:

  • Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, New Orleans and Galveston
  • Baja Mexico cruises out of San Diego
  • Alaskan cruises out of Vancouver
  • New England and Eastern Canadian cruises departing from New York City
  • European Cruises including the Mediterranean, British Isles and Norwegian Fjords
  • Transatlantic and Panama Canal Cruises
  • Starting in 2024, Disney Cruise Line will also be sailing around Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand

Wondering what’s the best Disney cruise for first timers? A 4-night cruise is always a good place to start if you’re unsure about cruising for 5+ nights. 3-night cruises can feel rushed, but a short Disney cruise is better than no Disney cruise!

Planning a Disney cruise for summer 2024? Summer 2024 Disney Cruise Line itineraries were just released, and you can book at summer 2024 Disney cruise starting on March 30, 2023. This includes the new Lighthouse Point , which is Disney’s private oasis on the island of Eleuthera that will debut in the Bahamas in June of 2024.

Disney Dream Cruise Ship

Tips for Booking a Disney Cruise

Booking a Disney Cruise is very involved, from choosing the right sailing to picking the best stateroom. Below is some information to get you started with planning.

  • Use a travel agent who specializes in Disney. A Disney focused travel agent knows the ships and ports of call best. They will help you pick the best room, walk you through the pre-cruise processes and answer questions along the way. 
  • You can search Disney cruise itineraries by visiting disneycruiseline.com , calling Disney Cruise Line or contacting your travel agent. 
  • A deposit is required to secure your cruise , and it’s typically refundable prior to final payment at 90 days. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions before making a deposit. 
  • Disney Cruise room types include inside rooms, oceanview rooms, verandah rooms, concierge rooms and suites. The suite sizes and locations can vary by ship. 
  • Oceanview and Verandah rooms both have split bathrooms and they also have a bathtub. (Something you don’t typically see on other cruise lines!)
  • Inside rooms are the least expensive and smallest room types.
  • Not sure which location of the ship is best between forward, aft and midship? Midship rooms are typically known for experiencing less motion than aft (back) or forward (front) rooms.  Motion on the ship affects people differently, however, so what works best for one person in terms of deck number and location may not be an ideal room choice for someone else. 
  • Guaranteed (GTY) rooms are generally made available for certain room categories at a discount as inventory starts running low. It means that your category is guaranteed, but your actual room number and deck will be assigned prior to departure. 
  • If you’d like an elevated experience, Disney Cruise Line concierge rooms are available as well. These offer things like specific concierge lounges, larger rooms, complimentary alcoholic drinks and booking excursions and experiences early.
  • Standard cabins only sleep a maximum of 5 people. For families of 6+ , either 2 connecting cabins or a 1+ bedroom concierge suite are required regardless of your kids’ ages. 
  • If you need a passport for your cruise, be sure to apply for it at least 3 months before, unless you do expedited processing. 

If you’re not currently working with a travel agent, feel free to contact me to get started. Not only do I provide Disney Cruise tips and tricks, but I also assist with each step and actions required along the way.

Family Verandah on Disney Wish Tiana Room 9558 Disney Wish

Pre-Cruise Tips

  • Excursions and onboard experiences can be booked starting at 75 days out from your cruise (at midnight) for first time cruises. It will be earlier if you have Castaway Cay Club status or are cruising concierge. 
  • Online check-in dates depend on your Castaway Cay member status and room type. Pearl and Concierge guests can check in as early as 40 days prior to sailing. Platinum is 38 days, Gold is 35 days and Silver Castaway Cay members can check in 33 days prior to sailing. Everyone else can check in 30 days prior to sailing, starting at midnight. In order to get an earlier port arrival time, checking in at midnight is recommended, but it’s not required. Have images of your documents and headshots saved in a folder on your phone or computer to work through the process more quickly.
  • Upon checking in, you’re assigned a Port Arrival Time (PAT.) This is the time you can arrive at the port before boarding. You’re also assigned a boarding group #, which determines when you can actually board the ship once you pass the initial checkpoints at port. 
  • Disney Cruise Line bus transportation is available from the airports or hotels to port at select locations. Check here to find out if it’s available for your sailing. You can call DCL to have it added up to 3 days before sailing (or ask your TA to do it for you!)
  • Royal Gatherings and special meet and greets for Marvel and/or Pixar Day at Sea sailings are also available for booking 30 days out at midnight.
  • Passports are recommended for cruising, but for many sailings that start and end in the US they’re not required. Find the Disney Cruise Known Before You Go overview here for sailing requirements and acceptable proof of identification for cruising on Disney Cruise Line. 
  • You can prepay gratuities prior to sailing, otherwise they will be added to onboard expenses at the end of your cruise. As of February 2023, prepaid gratuities are $14.50 per person per night. 
  • Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app on everyone’s phone before you sail. This will make it easier to access the itinerary and activities when you get onto the boat. 
  • To engage with other cruise goers and stay informed, join the Facebook group for your cruise . You can usually find this by searching Disney [ship name] and the date of sailing. 
  • Disney Cruise Line Fish Extender groups exchange items like ornaments, snacks, etc and are usually managed by the Facebook groups. You can buy a fish extender here to put outside of your cruise door. 
  • Disney cruisers are big on decorating their doors, and cruise door magnets are a fun and easy way to do it. 
  • You can schedule a Disney Cruise Line pre-cruise call with Minnie and Mickey or Goofy. To book your DCL character call, go to My Reservations and select “Request Call.”
  • Vaccinations and covid tests are no longer required for DCL sailings as of November 14, 2022. 

Characters at Castaway Cay Disney Cruise Line Tips

Packing Tips for Disney Cruises

When packing for a Disney Cruise, our biggest tip is to not over pack. Cruise cabins are smaller than traditional hotel rooms and you will likely need less than you think. Below are a handful of packing tips for Disney cruises.

  • Pack anything you need for the first day in your carry-on , including prescription medicine, identification documents and port arrival forms. We recommend bringing a swimsuit or change of clothes, sunscreen and anything else you need until your luggage is delivered.  
  • Make sure you have the identification documents you used for online check-in. You will not get on the cruise if you forget these! I always recommend taking a picture of birth certificates as a backup as well.
  • Each adult 21+ can bring up to 2 bottles of wine or a 6 pack of beer or hard seltzer onboard. Another one of our lesser-known Disney cruise tips is that you can also bring unopened bottles of water and packaged snacks. Just make sure any alcohol, bottled water and snacks are unopened and in your carry-on bags. (Note: So many people ask about alcohol packages on Disney Cruise Line, and there isn’t one.)
  • What should you wear on a Disney cruise? Disney cruises tend to be more casual than other cruise lines. Casual clothes like shorts and tees or a swimsuit and cover up are great for during the day. While we tend to dress a little nicer for dinner, you can also get away with wearing shorts and t-shirts unless you’re dining at the adults only restaurants. 
  • Itineraries with 7+ nights typically have a formal night and those with 4+ nights typically have a dress up night. Call DCL or ask your travel agent to find out what night this is. (But again, with Disney cruises being more casual, you won’t be out of place if you don’t participate!)
  • Don’t forget to pack your Disney gear! Minnie ears, Disney shirts and princess dresses are all encouraged on Disney Cruise Line. 
  • Some extra things we like to pack for a Disney cruise: refillable water bottles, magnets for your door and inside the room, and activities/ fidget toys for the kids to have at dinner.

See Disney Cruise Line packing tips for more tips on packing and what to bring your cruise carry on.

Booking DCL Excursions & Onboard Experiences

Like all cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of excursions at each port. In addition, Disney cruises offer several free and paid activities on the ship for both adults and kids. You can find more information on both below.

  • You book them on any day under onboard activities and they will be available for the duration of the cruise. 
  • If you don’t purchase the photo package, you can still purchase individual pictures before you leave the ship. 
  • Photos are available for download up to 45 days after your sailing at disneycruise.disney.go.com/photos/ .
  • Disney cruise offers a specific list of excursions, and they can change by sailing. You can find the list of Disney Cruise Line Port Adventures here . 
  • If you need towels for an excursion, they’re provided when you get off the ship. 
  • If you have to make changes to excursions or onboard experiences , you can go to Guest Services or cancel directly in the app. Just be sure to review cancellation policies as you will be charged if you don’t cancel within the specified timeframe. 
  • The shows on the Disney Cruise Line are Broadway style and offered two times a night. The first show is typically at 6:30pm and the second show is typically at 8:15pm. Shows differ by ship and sailing. 
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on Disney Cruise Line is offered for ages 3+ and includes a full makeover, hair and nails. You can pack your own outfit or purchase something there for an additional charge. This can be booked in advance under onboard activities or when you arrive on the ship. 
  • Disney Cruise Line offers a great spa, salon and barber shop for adults. You can book these in advance under onboard activities or head to the spa when you arrive to schedule a time. (I got a haircut and style at the Tangled Salon on the Disney Wish and had such a good experience!) 

One of our biggest first time Disney cruise tips is to take full advantage of the included activities offered on the ship. You can easily have an amazing time without spending any additional money. 

Disney Cruise Embarkation Day Tips & Overview 

Wondering how the Disney cruise boarding process works? The highlights are below. 

  • When you arrive at the port, the porters will take your luggage except for carry-ons. (I recommend having a few dollars on you for a tip!) 
  • When it’s your port arrival time, you’ll go through screening so they can check carry-ons, Port Arrival Time (PAT) form and documents for identification. 
  • Have your PAT document accessible at all times since they’ll ask for it multiple times as well as your docs (ID + Birth Certificate or passport.)
  • When it’s time for you to board your ship, your boarding group number will be called over the loudspeaker. There’s typically a holding area to wait until your boarding group is called which is similar to airport gates. (Note: Your Disney Cruise boarding time will vary depending on how quickly they move through the boarding groups. On our most recent cruise, we had a PAT of 11:15am and our boarding group was called at 11:45am.)
  • When you get on the ship, you can do a number of things including lunch at the buffet or available table service restaurant, check out the kids’ clubs, use the pool etc. (One of our biggest Disney Cruise embarkation tips is to explore and check out the areas you may not otherwise get to access during the cruise, like adults only dining, kids’ clubs, etc.) 
  • Rooms are typically ready around 2pm and luggage will arrive after that. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips for During Your Cruise

There were a handful of things we didn’t realize on our first Disney cruise. These tips for first time Disney cruisers include a handful of things we learned on the cruise. 

  • The full itinerary , character greetings and activities will be available in the Navigator app when you arrive at port. Be sure to review the daily schedules on your first day. One of our Disney cruise hacks is to “favorite” the activities you want to do so that you get reminders throughout the cruise. (This applies for things like character greetings, family crafts, adults only activities and more.)
  • The Sail Away Party is a can’t miss activity on Disney Cruise Line. It’s a fun party with singing, dancing and so many characters as the ship sails away. 
  • Pirate Nights take place on most Caribbean Sailings and have fun activities, characters dressed in pirate gear, a special show and fireworks at night. The Disney Cruise pirate night menu is also available for most sailings, which is a special themed dinner with items like crab cakes, shrimp and jerk chicken. 
  • If you’re looking for free adults only activities on Disney Cruise Line, there are things like adults only trivia, crafts and more that are only for 18+. You can also use The Cove, which is an adult only pool and relaxation area on Disney Cruise Line.
  • You can communicate on the ship using the chat feature between those in your stateroom. To communicate with those outside of your stateroom, you need to get their chat ID number. 
  • Wi-Fi on Disney Cruise Line is an extra charge and options vary by ship. To avoid additional cell phone charges, put your plan on airplane mode with the onboard Wi-Fi.
  • Character meet & greets typically take place in the ship’s grand hall/ atrium or in the kids’ club areas. Lines typically go quickly, and you likely will not wait more than 15 minutes for a meet and greet. Try to arrive a few minutes early to get in line. 
  • Take a screenshot of your charges in the app before leaving the ship, as it’s the only way you can review the detailed charges. Visit Guest Services to resolve any discrepancies before disembarking.

disney cruise suggested tips

Dining Tips for Disney Cruise Line

One question I get a lot is, how does dining work on Disney Cruise Line? Each cruise line has its own approach to dining, and Disney has some unique features that we feel sets it apart. 

  • Disney Cruise Line has rotational dining each night for dinner, which means you will rotate to different themed restaurants each night of your cruise. You can request a specific dining rotation prior to your cruise by calling DCL or asking your Travel Agent to do so. You won’t find out the confirmed dining rotation until you board the ship.
  • There are two Disney cruise dining times . Main dining is at 5:45pm and second dining is at 8:15pm. Main dining fills up first, but you can be added to a waitlist if you don’t initially get the seating you want.
  • Smaller groups are typically sat with other families. You can request a private table, but it’s not guaranteed. DCL usually aims to put people of similar ages/ families together.
  • There’s a buffet on Disney Cruise Line that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a variety of options for every age and diet. On most ships, the buffet is called Cabanas, but on the Disney Wish it’s called Marceline Market. 
  • The pool decks offer unlimited soft serve and fountain drinks as well as a variety of lunch options.
  • Standard tips for servers and room hosts are automatically calculated per person. Envelopes and tickets with the total amount of gratuities are provided on your last night. You can add additional cash to the baseline tip for the amazing staff at the end and then hand it to the servers at your last meal.  Note: When you purchase an alcoholic drink at dinner or in a lounge, 18% gratuity is automatically added up front.
  • The bars throughout the ships typically serve specialty coffees in addition to alcoholic drinks. Punch cards are available for a free coffee after you purchase 5. 
  • Lounges on Disney cruise ships are open to kids during the day, and they are adults only in the evenings.
  • Room service on Disney Cruise Line is included with your rate. It includes everything from coffee and pastries to dinner and Mickey bars. A $1 per item tip is recommended for delivery. 
  • Adults only dining on Disney cruises is also available. These specialty dining experiences are available for an additional fee, and you can book them when your onboard activities booking window opens. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips for Cruising with Kids on Disney

There are so many amazing Disney cruise activities for kids, that it’s no surprise it’s one of the best cruise lines for families. Below are a few tips for going on a Disney Cruise with kids. 

  • Kids must be potty trained to use the regular pools, but all Disney Cruise ships have a splash pad for younger kids. 
  • Life vests are provided on board and at Castaway Cay for kids.
  • Strollers are available to borrow at Castaway Cay, and some ships also have them available as you leave for excursions. 
  • With the exception of the nursery, the kids’ clubs on Disney Cruise Line are included with your rate. They include: Oceaneers Club for ages 3-12, Vibe for ages 11-14 and Edge for ages 14-17. 
  • Disney Cruise Line kids’ clubs are open for all ages during Open House on the embarkation day. It’s a fun way for the whole family to explore these areas. 
  • Your kids ages 3+ will get a wrist band to access the kids’ clubs during the cruise.  They charge you $12 up front, and the charge is removed when you return it.
  • The nursery is available on a half hour basis for kids up to (and including) age 3. The current rate is $4.50 per half hour for the nursery on DCL. You can sign up for the nursery in advance on the Disney Navigator app or book when you arrive on the ship. 
  • Your room host will set up your pull-down beds based on your family’s needs. Pack-n-plays and bed rails are available upon request.
  • If you’re going on a Disney cruise with a baby or toddler in diapers, a diaper genie will also be provided in your room. Baby food can be requested as well.
  • The minimum age for infants on a Disney cruise is 6 months for most sailings.

Toy Story Splash Zone Disney Wish- Disney Cruise Tips with Kids

Disney Cruise Disembarkation Tips

Disembarking is always the saddest part about a Disney cruise. Below are a few tips so you know what to expect when disembarking a Disney cruise. 

  • The night before you disembark your Disney cruise, you’ll get luggage tags with a Disney character. Place them on your luggage and leave them outside of your door for pickup by 10:30pm.
  • If you have an earlier flight the next morning, you can use express walkoff and take your luggage yourself, versus leaving it outside the night before. (Pro Tip: Check the recommended departure flight times for Disney Cruise Line to ensure you have enough time to get to the airport.)
  • Disembarkation day breakfast is usually at the same restaurant you ate at the prior night, which your servers will confirm. Those with Main Dining have breakfast around 6:45am, and those with Second Dining typically have breakfast around 8am.  You can also have breakfast at the buffet on your Disney cruise disembarkation day. It’s usually open from 6:30- 8:30am. 
  • The ship will typically clear customs around 7:30am, pending any issues. At that time, an announcement will be made over the loudspeaker that guests are able to disembark. 
  • Guests should plan to bring checked bags to breakfast and vacate the ship directly after breakfast.  You’ll pick up your luggage after disembarking in the area with the character that matches your luggage tags. 
  • There isn’t technically a set disembarkation time for Disney cruises . At most ports, guests are asked to clear the ship by 9am and should exit by 9:30am at the latest.

Disney Cruise Line Placeholder

If you loved your Disney cruise experience (as I’m sure you will!) be sure to check the Navigator app for an offer to put down a deposit for a placeholder for 10% off a future cruise. You can reserve up to 2 placeholders by paying a $250 fully refundable placeholder deposit that will go toward the cruise. (Pro Tip: We usually do 2 placeholders just in case we invite family or friends- knowing that we can cancel the 2nd for a refund if we don’t use it.)

You can then apply the placeholder(s) to the same cruise for up 24 months from your current sailing. Be sure to also select your travel agent in the drop down if you want to work with them again! After purchasing your placeholder, you’ll receive an email with a reservation number to book your next cruise. This is a great offer if you think there’s even a chance you will sail again on Disney Cruise Line. 


Pre and Post Cruise Plans

  • We always recommend flying in the night before your cruise and staying nearby. If you experience flight delays (which is so common right now) you could risk missing the cruise disembarkation if you fly that day.
  • If you have a late flight out on the evening of disembarkation day, many rental car companies have free shuttles from port if you want to explore for the day.
  • If you’re traveling out of Port Canaveral, you can tack on a visit to Disney World or stop at Kennedy Space Center on the way back to MCO airport. 

If you book your Disney cruise with a travel agent, they can also help with your pre-cruise and post-cruise travel plans and logistics. Another reason to book with a TA!

Have you been on a Disney cruise before? I’d love to hear any tips for planning a first Disney cruise in the comments.

Related Blog Posts

  • Disney Very Merrytime Cruise Tips
  • Tips for Cruising with a Baby or Toddler
  • Disney Cruise Packing Tips

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15 Essential First Time Disney Cruise Tips – For Stress Free Travel

disney cruise suggested tips

Hi all! Are you a new Disney cruiser? Wondering what to expect on board? Then you’re in the right place! Welcome to your cruising guide, complete with 15 first time Disney Cruise tips! 

In this post you’ll find everything you need to know to have an amazing first Disney Cruise! 

disney cruise suggested tips

15 First Time Disney Cruise Tips

1: download the disney cruise app.

This app is definitely a necessity for your cruise. It allows you to message other cruise-goers while on board – which is so helpful. It also has lists of your dinner locations and all of the day’s activities and shows!

Before your cruise departs, you can also use the app to browse menus, port excursions, and reserve activities. 

2: Pack first-day essentials in a shoulder bag

When you first arrive at the cruise terminal, your suitcases will be taken from you. This is great, so you don’t have to carry them on board yourself. 

However, although you will board the ship in the early afternoon, and probably get access to your stateroom around 1:00/1:30, your luggage may not be delivered to your room until the early evening (sometimes as late as 6:00/6:30.) 

Because of this, it is necessary to pack important items in a shoulder bag to carry onto the ship with you. Be sure to have your bathing suits, camera, medicine, electronics and a change of clothes for dinner (if you’re going to the early seating.) Often your bags will arrive earlier than expected, but don’t rely on it.

3: Go to the late dinner seating

If you aren’t traveling with young kids then I highly recommend the 8:00 seating. If you’re cruising in Europe, the late seating is at 8:30. The early seating, 5:00/5:30, is packed with young children (of course). Therefore may be less enjoyable for families with older/no children. You’ll also be so busy on the cruise that 5:30pm will feel like the middle of the afternoon and way too early for dinner.

4: Arrive to dinner 5 minutes late

People will start lining up for dinner outside of the dining room about 15 minutes before the doors open. There is no reason to do this. Instead, go to dinner five minutes late to avoid the rush! Your waiter will still meet you at the door and it will be a much more relaxed process. One of my favorite parts of a Disney Cruise is the rotational dining. There are three main restaurants on board, and throughout the cruise you’ll dine at each one. The best part is, your waiters come with you! You get the same waiters every night, and they are always so kind and accommodating.

5: Alert cruise staff in advance if you don’t want to dine with other families

Sometimes on a Disney Cruise you’ll be assigned a dining table with another group of travelers. This happens most often if your group is small and there is space to seat another small family with you. Since your waiter moves with you from restaurant to restaurant, this means the other family will move with you as well. While some people really enjoy this, and find that it’s a great way to make friends, it’s definitely not ideal for everyone. Personally, when we travel we prefer to sit with just our own family.

If you do not want to dine with other travelers, be sure to alert customer service in advance! If you forget, and are seated with another family the first night, you can always talk to the concierge or the dining room staff and they can (most often) arrange another table for you.

6: Order room service – it’s free!

Although there is always food available on the ship during the day (in the dining rooms, the pool deck and at the upstairs buffet, Cabanas), room service is another convenient option. It’s especially great at night when all of the restaurants and snack bars are closed. 

Unlike on some other popular cruise lines, on Disney Cruises, room service is free. The menu is pretty extensive and you can get anything from a full meal to dessert to snacks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. This is fantastic for when it’s 2am and you realize you need a pizza and some cookies!

7: Dine at the adult-only restaurants

Cruise guests who are over the age of 18 have the opportunity to make reservations for the ship’s adult-only restaurant. This is either Palo or Remy, depending on the ship. These meals are not included in the cruise fare, but they are delicious and definitely worth the extra cost once (or twice) during the cruise. 

You can dine at Palo and Remy for brunch or dinner, and I highly recommend both. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up, enjoy the beautiful atmosphere of the restaurants, and have dinner with no kids. I recommend dining at Palo or Remy on a day that you are not excited about the dinner menu on your restaurant rotation. Be sure to make your reservations before the cruise begins, or as soon as you arrive on board. These restaurants have limited seating and the reservation slots are often taken quickly.

8: Pack your own alcohol

Disney allows each adult (21+) to bring up to two bottles of wine/champagne or six beers on board on embarkation day and at each port. To note: Alcohol has to be in your carry on . Do not pack alcohol in your checked suitcase or it will be confiscated.  

Being able to bring your own alcohol is extremely helpful as Disney Cruises do not have an all inclusive alcohol package. There are often many ports of call on each cruise itinerary. Therefore, you will be able to restock your alcohol supply regularly.

Be advised that the drinking age on board is 21. This is true no matter what the drinking age is in the country/port you are visiting. On some cruises parents can sign a drinking waiver, if you have kids over 18 but under 21. This waiver will allow 18-20 year olds to drink with their family, but never alone.

Your ‘ Key to the World Card ‘ will not allow you to purchase alcohol, or be served alcohol, on board if you are underage and don’t have the alcohol waiver. Read Disney’s alcohol policy here .

disney cruise suggested tips

9: Take advantage of the Kids Clubs

Parents, definitely let your kids go to the kids clubs! Bring them on the first day so they’ll meet other kids and make friends for the entire cruise. The kids clubs are great, and they’ll be having so much fun that they’ll be entertained for hours on end. The ships are very safe, so you really have nothing to worry about – even if your kids are out late.

Disney has clubs for all ages, even teens, and it’s a really great way to make sure your kids are having a great vacation. It’s also a great way to ensure that you can have some time to yourself to enjoy the ship and adult-only areas!

10: Go to the 18-21 club!

If you’re between the ages of 18 to 21 (really like 25) then there’s a ‘club’ for you too! Disney organizes meet-ups for young adults so that making friends and having fun on the ship is easy. I’ve been going to these for the past few years and I’ve always made fast friends to hangout with for the rest of the cruise. Definitely go to the first meet-up, because after that a lot of people will break off into groups and not go to the meet-ups on other nights . 

11: You can book your own Port Adventures outside of Disney

On our first cruise we signed up for a port adventure through Disney Cruise Line. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, it’s more that we’re not huge fans of large group, tour bus activities. Often, the Disney port adventures are crowded. You’ll likely be packed onto a bus with tons of other families while wearing a Disney Cruise tag around your neck. These adventures can also be pretty pricey. However, although they aren’t necessarily for me, they are convenient. Especially if you don’t mind the ‘typical’ cruise tour format. There are also tons of adventure options to choose from, so for many families Disney port adventures are preferred.

Besides the one Disney Cruise Line port adventure, we’ve always booked our own private tours/excursions at each port. So far, they have all been fantastic! 

12: Use Tours by Locals and other sites for port tours + activities

I recommend booking private drivers/tour guides though Tours by Locals (or other websites like AirBnb Experiences). With these tours, a driver will meet you at the port and take you to all of the tourist sites, restaurants, shops, museums, etc. that you want to visit. You won’t be stuck with tons of other families, and you’ll plan your time around exactly what you want to do. These tours are much more flexible. If you’re looking to be able to customize your experience then I highly recommend them. Additionally, I love that these private tours allow you to connect with a local and learn about their favorite parts of their city! We’ve used Tours by Local on tons of Disney Cruises, and they’ve been great every time. 

13: You don’t have to get off at the ports

Of course, on a cruise, most everyone will want to get off and explore the ports, but keep in mind that it’s not required. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling with older or younger family members/friends who may prefer not to leave the ship for extended periods of time. We took a cruise with our grandparents and it was wonderful for them to be able to stay on the ship. They enjoyed the quiet, relaxed, and almost empty ship while we went on a day long tour.

14: Book spa treatments onboard

If you want to get a  spa treatment on the ship, and are flexible with the date and time, then book it on board! There are daily spa specials offered at non-peak times that are totally worth taking advantage of. Normally, these treatments will be offered while the ship is docked at a port. Head to the spa on the first day of the cruise to see the daily specials and spa treatment offers.

15: Ask for sea-sick medication

You do not need to bring your own sea-sick medication, especially if you aren’t sure if you’ll get sea-sick. Medicine is available on board, and it is free if you need it. The medicine works great, but it may make you drowsy.

So there you have it! I hope you found these 15 first time Disney Cruise tips to be helpful! Disney Cruises are so much fun, and there are so many different itineraries to choose from! Additionally, depending on the length of the cruise and the type of stateroom you choose, they can be very affordable for families. We highly recommend booking a Disney Cruise for your next vacation, it will definitely be unforgettable!

If you enjoyed these first time Disney Cruise tips, please share this post on social media!

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These tips are so helpful! So glad to have this info. Great post!

This is extremely helpful as I am planning our trip on Disney—Thank You

Thank you so much, I’m so glad you found it helpful! If you have any questions please let know. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

Sounds like such a fun family vacay! Thanks for sharing!

These are great cruise tips! I’ve only been on 2 cruises but can relate to all of these as well even though they weren’t disney cruises (especially packing your own alcohol!) I didn’t know that room service was free though that’s something great to keep in mind

This actually sounds really fun. I’ve never done a cruise, even though I’ve done heaps of them. I think I should give it a go one day.

I’ve been waiting to go on a Disney cruise for a while and I love these tips! I think the one about excursions is especially helpful. I like the idea of taking a step back from all the people and taking a tour yourself.

Nice tips. I’ve never been on a cruise so I’ll have to keep these in mind! Bringing your own alcohol is a must 🙂 🙂

I’ve never been on a cruise, but these are some great tips! I’ll keep them in mind in case I ever go on one!

This looks like so much fun! Thank you for the tips!

Fantastic tips! Love the use the Tours by Locals tip, that’s a great one! Definitely saving this for later

These are so helpful! I’d love to do a Disney cruise one day, so I’m definitely pinning this for later. It seems like a lot of fun!

Sounds like a nice trip and you had a lot of fun!

Such a happy adventure! Thanks for the learning! I’m greatly inspired!

I’ve never been on a cruise but you’ve totally sold me on them! These are great tips, thanks for sharing them.

These are great tips! I have only been on Carnival Cruises but I think I’d enjoy a Disney cruise, too! Also, I had never heard of an alcohol waiver. Good to know for future trips.

I was so ill when my family went on a disney cruise – from sea sickness and a cold I’d got beforehand. It’s nice to see that it can actually be fun when you aren’t a rashy disaster!

Thanks for the great guide! I’ve never been on a cruise so I wouldn’t really know what to expect from one. I’m saving this guide because a Disney one sounds fantastic!

Hannah | https://getlost.blog/

Awesome post! I found it to be super informative. I seriously want to get into a cruise ship now!!!

I have been dying to go on a Disney cruise! This looked so fun!!

This is a very comprehensive list. Great for anyone thinking of a Disney cruise!

I’d love to go on a Disney cruise – it’s my ultimate cruise bucket list!

Francesca x // glutenfreehorizons.com

I haven’t been on a cruise for so so long but these are super helpful! The Disney ones especially look insanely fun! Love this.

Great advice! Esp about the free room service- I had no idea! We’re planning for a 2024 Disney cruise 😉

So exciting! If you have any questions please let me know 🙂

Hi! I’m a huge disney frantic, so I really enjoy reading up on your post. I’m planning a disney cruise right now, so I’m super excited and pumped up thanks to your post! (:

That’s fantastic news! I hope you love your Disney Cruise. If you have any questions, please let us know 🙂

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The Disney Cruise Line Blog

An unofficial disney cruise line news, information, weather, and photo blog..

The Disney Cruise Line Blog

Tip Calculator

To use the Gratuity/Tip Calculator enter the number of nights of your cruise and the number of people in your sailing party. 

Ultimately, tipping is at your discretion, but for convenience the calculator’s default tips are set to  Disney Cruise Line’s suggested amounts .

The following positions are not part of the gratuity calculator:

  • Extras added to rotational dining meals such as alcoholic beverages
  • Adult dining locations such as Remy, Palo, Palo Steakhouse and Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement, which are not part of rotational dining
  • Food or drink in shops and outdoor or poolside eateries
  • Room service
  • Port Adventures
  • Senses Spa & Salon
  • Any other additional services

Disney Cruise Line offers multiple options to pay for your suggested gratuity:

  • Pay the suggested gratuity in advance by contacting Disney Cruise Line or your travel agent no later than 3 days before your cruise begins
  • Pay by automatically having the suggested gratuity added to your onboard account prior to the end of your cruise

If you wish to charge the amount of a gratiuity or pay the gratuity in cash, please contact Guest Services, once onboard the ship.

We recommend pre-paying your base gratuities and adding a cash tip handed directly to the individual. We typically write thank you notes to the various tipped positions to go along with the additional cash tip. Remember, Disney Cruise Line is simply recommending a base amount, for the most part, the cast works extremely hard to ensure you have a great experience. Tip them well.

Please note,  Disney Cruise Line increased the recommended base gratuities in July 2022 ahead of the launch of the Disney Wish. Previously, the recommended base gratuities were last updated in January 2019 .

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18 Essential Disney Cruise Line Tips and Tactics

This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy .

Before our first Disney Cruise, I was like you. I wanted to know all of the Disney Cruise Line tips and tricks to help me prepare for this epic family vacation.

Not only did I want to understand what a Disney Cruise entailed, but I yearned to learn all of the details about Disney dining, the layout of the ships, and the many activities that are offered onboard.

This article features 18 of the most essential Disney Cruise Line tips that I now know every first-time cruiser needs to know.

The desire for knowing these tips may be due to the natural planner in you.

The other part is likely wanting to know how to get the most fun and enjoyment out of this expensive vacation (anyone with me?).

Either way, use our 18 awesome Disney Cruise line tips to help get the most out of your Disney Cruise Line vacation!

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan: image of a family standing at port on Disney Cruise

Table of Contents

18 Essential Disney Cruise Line Tips

1. understand ‘ship’ terminology.

Cruising is a category of travel that requires some preparation as a first-timer, especially when it comes to cruise terminology.

First of all, the Disney Fantasy, Dream, Magic, and Wonder are all referred to as ‘ships’, not ‘boats’.

“Embarkation” means getting onto the ship for the first time during your cruise. “Disembarkation” means getting off of the ship at the end of the cruise.

“Port” is the left side of the ship as you face forward. “Starboard” is the right side of the ship as you face forward.

Likewise, “Forward” is the forward part of the ship, and “Aft” is the back of the ship.

These terms will be referred to frequently during your cruise by both staff and signage as you explore your way around the ship.

Additional planning tip: If you’re ever feeling lost while onboard, just look down at the hallway carpets below your feet.

Find one of the frequently placed maps on the carpet. If the map is right-side up you are headed forward, if it is upside down you are headed aft (backward).

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan: image of Boys sitting in porthole on Disney Cruise

2. Study the ship’s layout ahead of time

Once aboard, the Disney Cruise Line ships are massive, breathtaking, and somewhat overwhelming.

Because of this, study the ship’s layout ahead of time and have a plan for where you are going to go immediately upon boarding.

Despite how prepared I thought I was, we had absolutely no idea where to go or what to do when we first stepped foot on the ship.

Further, there is no one directing you or giving you options on where to go once onboard. It is up to you to determine where to go.

I suggest printing off a map of the ship .

Learn what level and location the lunch buffet is on and go there for lunch immediately after boarding. (This is one of the Disney Fantasy cruise tips that no one told me ahead of time.)

Additional planning tip: Each Disney Cruise Line ship offers a walking tour that will be listed in the Personal Navigator.

Disney Cruise walking tours are a great way to start off your cruise. You will learn the layout of the ship as well as hear stories and trivia behind the designs of the Disney Cruise Line fleet.

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan

3. Get a good viewing spot for the Sail Away Party

The best place to watch the Sail Away Party is on the deck above where the actual party takes place.

The balcony here is much less crowded and overlooks the stage giving you a better vantage point.

Likewise, by being on the upper deck, you will also have a better view of the surroundings while the ship departs from the cruise terminal.

Additional planning note: You should know that during the Sail Away Party, wait staff will be walking around serving drinks. Though you are feeling festive, be aware that they are NOT free.

4. Utilize the daily Personal Navigator

Another one of the top Disney Cruise Line tips is to utilize the daily Navigator.

The Personal Navigator in an invaluable newsletter that lists the day’s activities and events, as well as a lot of other valuable information.

When your stateroom attendant provides turn-down service during dinner each night, they will place a paper copy of the next day’s Personal Navigator in your stateroom.

See some fun examples of recent Personal Navigator’s here.

Additional planning tip: After dinner, go to your stateroom to pick up the new Personal Navigator. While waiting in the theater to help pass time before the evening show, read over the Navigator and plan out your next day’s activities.

Discover the best Disney Cruise line secrets, tips, and tactics! Top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With a Plan, shares everything you need to know about taking a family vacation on a Disney Cruise! Hop aboard the Disney Fantasy, Magic, Wonder, or Dream and have the best family vacation! #DCL #DisneyCruise #DisneyCruiseLine #Disneycruisetips #DisneycruiseFantasytips #cruisetraveltips #Disneycruiseplanning #disneysecrettips #familycruiselines #familytravel #travelwithaplan #Disneycruiselinetips

5. Take advantage of freebies

Knowing what’s included in your Disney Cruise is one of the best pieces of Disney Cruise advice!

After all, there are a lot of all-inclusive perks included in your Disney Cruise Line fare. This includes things like onboard meals, activities, and shows. Other fun freebies include:

  • Soda pop. Coke products are free 24 hours a day from dispensing stations located on the pool deck.
  • Soft serve ice cream. Soft serve ice cream and cones are free 24 hours a day from dispensing stations located on the pool deck.
  • Room service. Room service is included in the cost of a Disney Cruise (minus gratuities, of course). This can be a great way to relax on vacation. Whether it’s ordering a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for bedtime, or placing an order the night before for a wake-up breakfast, you can’t go wrong.

6. Be aware of extra charges

With the price already being very expensive, it is important to be aware of extra charges and other ways to save on a Disney Cruise.

Although Disney Cruise Line offers several all-inclusive perks and freebies, there are quite a few extras to be aware of as well. Extras include:

  • Shore excursions
  • Spa treatments
  • Adult-only dinners and character meals
  • Golf simulator
  • Movie concessions . There are concessions located outside of the Buena Vista Movie Theater. The fresh popcorn, canned soda, and candy is tempting and fun but has a steep price tag.
  • Coffee bar . All Disney ships have a coffee bar, the Cove Cafe. These are adult-only spaces and serve specialty drinks, signature coffee, and tea. Though the drinks are not included in the price of the cruise, all the little snacks and pastries are.

Click here for our FREE Disney Cruise Budget Planner printable worksheet! Don’t miss out on planning for any and all expenses for your upcoming Disney Cruise!

7. Know the carry-on alcohol policy

Taking advantage of Disney Cruise Line’s generous carry-on alcohol policy will save you a lot of money.

Each adult can bring on 2 bottles of wine or champagne, OR 6 12 oz. beers on board. This can be done at both embarkation and at each port visited.

You may walk around the ship carrying your own wine/beer, as well as bring it into the restaurants. Ask your room attendant or any bartender around the ship for an empty glass to use to pour your personal wine into.

Disney Cruise Tips:  Come prepared for Pirate Night!

8. Don’t skip out on Pirate Night

Every Disney Cruise has a Pirate Night complete with a Pirate-theme evening show, deck activities, and fireworks. It is a tradition that on this night, children and other guests dress up in pirate garb that they have brought from home.

Even if this sounds corny to you, it is a blast and the majority of cruisers participate in dressing up. You will not look or feel like a ‘nerd’ if you get dressed up; nor will you feel out of place if you do not dress up.

Additional planning tip: On Pirate Night, a red bandanna is placed in your stateroom for each member of your party.

Even if you didn’t bring a full costume, find a way to accessorize your outfit with the free bandanna. I used mine as a hair tie, the kids’ as a headband, and my husband wore it on his head.

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan

9. Take advantage of character meet-and-greets

There are many opportunities for character meet-and-greets during your Disney Cruise itinerary.

Even when you don’t expect it, Disney characters will be positioned around the ship waiting to greet your children. Our kids got a handshake from every character without ever having to wait in long lines.

If you are looking for character experience versus Disney-themed rides, I would totally recommend a Disney Cruise over 1 day at Magic Kingdom .

Additional planning tip: note : One of the best opportunities to get up-close-and-personal with Disney characters, is during Disney VIP Character Breakfast .

The character breakfast is an additional cost and can be reserved prior to cruising.

Popular Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto stop at your table (and pose for photos) 1 by 1 while you and your family are eating breakfast.

Related post: 12 Reasons Why a Disney Cruise is Better Than A Disney World Vacation

10. A heads-up about the pools

Don’t get too excited about the pools on a Disney Cruise.

The pools are quite small, shallow, and crowded. Though busy, the pool area itself is great, but the pools mostly allow for wading, not actual swimming.

For this reason, consider taking advantage of any excursion off of the ship that is advertised as a “ Beach Day “. This way, the kids get the experience of swimming in the ocean versus relying solely on the pool.

11. Bring a crossbody purse

Bring a cross-body purse to carry your family’s Key to the World Cards in.

Another option is to purchase lanyards prior to the cruise or from the gift shops on the ship.

Lanyards are only given for free at check-in to Disney Castaway Members – those guests who have taken a previous Disney Cruise.

Additional planning tip: Key to the World cards go with you everywhere. They serve as your room key and onboard credit card, as well as uniquely identifies you and your dining rotation to the crew.

12. Ward off becoming ill

Bring over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen and stomach medications with you onto the ship.

If you go to the ship doctor and they have a hunch that you are sick, they will quarantine you.

13. Attend the Captain’s Reception

Go to the Captain’s Reception on the evening that it is held during your Disney Cruise itinerary.

It is so fun to get dressed up as a family and to see all of the other families mingling in the atrium with beautiful live music playing in the background.

Additional planning tip: There are free, unlimited cocktails for adults, and soda and juice choices for kids during the Captain’s Reception.

14. Eat breakfast on the ship before leaving for excursions

Take note that you cannot bring fruit, yogurt, or other perishables off of the ship with you when going to a port or on an excursion.

Many people attempt to do this in order to have free options from the ship available to them while in port.

Do not skip breakfast on the ship expecting to be able to take portable breakfast items into port with you. Perishable items will be confiscated pon getting off of the ship. This rule is in accordance with international travel laws.

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan: image of Grand Cayman port adventure on Disney Cruise

15. Disney Cruise Line tips: Be early, not on time

One of the best pieces of Disney Cruise advice is to attempt to be early for events and activities, not just on time.

On port days, I suggest getting to your excursion meeting place 10-15 minutes early because the Disney Cruise Line cast members line up and seat people according to the order in which you arrive.

Arriving early means you remain at the front of all of the lines as you exit the ship, board the shuttle, and check-in for your excursion.

For this reason, instead of being on time for your excursion meeting time, consider being early.

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan: image of Castaway Cay on Disney private island

16. Know what to expect on Castaway Cay

While Disney’s Castaway Cay in the Bahamas is a tiny island, it’s literally packed with so much to see and do.

You will most definitely want to study the do’s and don’ts of spending a day on Castaway Cay to make sure that you optimize your time here.

When debarking off of the ship to spend the day on the island of Castaway Cay, there will be beach towels to grab once off of the ship. After grabbing a towel for every member of your party and head straight to save lounge chairs.

Editor’s note: We took the Castaway Cay island shuttle and got off at the second stop, which is Pelican Plunge. This stop brings you close to the slides, snorkeling areas, bike rental, and main dining area.

18 Top Secret Disney Fantasy Tips and Tactics  featured by top US family travel blog, Travel with a Plan: image of Disney Cruise-Farewell party

17. Don’t miss the See Ya Real Soon Farewell Party

Not to be missed is the See Ya Real Soon Farwell Party that is held in the Atrium of the Disney Cruise ships on the morning of debarkation.

Watching Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang singing and wishing you farewell is simply the icing on the cake to this already amazing vacation.

18. Believe it!

If you’re still trying to decide between a Disney Cruise vs. Disney World vacation , a cruise would be our choice!

After all, every good and amazing thing you’ve heard about a Disney Cruise is 100% TRUE.

Soak up every detail of your surroundings and be ready to embrace the magic of this unforgettable family vacation!

What is your favorite tip that you’ve experienced or read about in terms of a taking Disney Cruise? I’d love for you to comment below! Jen

If you like this article on essential Disney Cruise Line tips, click here to read our Related Posts:

  • Disney Cruise Advice: What We Learned & Why We Booked Again
  • 50 Disney Fantasy Cruise Tips: Know Before You Go
  • Disney Cruise vs. Disney World Vacation: 12 Ways A Disney Cruise is Better
  • Disney Cruise Fare: What’s Included and What’s Not?

*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*

Pin it!

Jen Brommer is a family travel expert. She has been featured as an authority on several notable travel websites and is a member of the Family Travel Association (FTA), Midwest Travel Network, and TravMedia global media network.

A prominent content creator and influencer on Instagram, Jen has over 150K unique monthly blog readers from countries all over the world. She has spent the last 16 years planning fun, and hassle-free family vacations for her family of 5.

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Disney Cruise Advice: Tips & Tricks Onboard the Ship

LAST UPDATE: 2/14/24

On this page we have collected some useful Disney Cruise advice, tips, and tricks that can help you save time and have more fun while you are on a Disney Cruise. Read the advice below and you’ll have a much better idea what to expect, even if you’ve never been on a cruise before!

Thanks to Marjorie Treger and to MouseSavers.com readers Jeff Evernham and Aileen B, who contributed some great tips.

Disney Cruise Advice & Important Things to Know

Embarkation, first-day bag packing list, staterooms and what’s in them, knowing what’s going on & planning your day, oceaneer club and oceaneer lab, edge and vibe, port days/shore excursions, useful things to pack, things you don’t need to (or should not) pack, disney cruise wear, phone and internet.

  • Spa: Treatments, Products & Fitness Center


Additional tips & tricks, trip reports.

Other useful Disney Cruise information pages:

  • For discounts and tips on saving money on the cruise itself , visit our Disney Cruise Discount page.
  • For tips and tricks that will help you plan your cruise , visit the Planning Tips & Tricks for Disney Cruises page.
  • For advice that will help you with excursions, tours and activities  while in port, visit the Tips & Discounts for Port Excursions page.

“Embarkation” means getting on the ship for the first time during your cruise; “disembarkation” or “debarkation” means getting off the ship at the end of your cruise.

“Port” is the left side of the ship as you face forward; “starboard” is the right side as you face forward. “Forward” is obvious; “aft” is the rear of the ship.

Cruise lines are required to ensure that every passenger knows the safety procedures and has been physically shown where they need to muster in case of emergency. A mandatory muster drill is held in the afternoon of embarkation day, usually around 4:00 pm. Everyone must attend in order to learn the location of your lifeboat station and other safety information. The drill takes 20 minutes or less and you do not have to bring your life jacket with you.

Make sure you turn off the cellular service on your phone while you’re at sea, so you don’t end up paying through the nose for “cellular at sea” service . There is a Disney Cruise Navigator app that you can use on most iPhones and Android phones without needing to pay for internet access. The Navigator app includes activity schedules and menus, and has a kind of text message feature that seems to work much better these days. We found that notifications were showing up quickly when people messaged using the app (our experience was with iPhone, we don’t know how well Android works).

“Cay” is pronounced “key” by locals – so unless you want to sound like a novice, remember this for Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island).

Disney asks you to select a P ort Arrival Time (PAT) when you do online check-in prior to your cruise. This arrival time was not rigidly enforced in the past, but lately, Disney has been enforcing people’s PATs pretty closely, especially during the early part of the boarding process. If you get to the terminal before 12:30, you will probably not be let in to the terminal until your time arrives. After 12:30 or so, Disney seems to just let people into the terminal as long as the check-in line isn’t completely full.

Bottom line: if you want to get on the ship as early as possible, definitely be ready to check in online on the morning your check-in opens! See below for when you can check in online:

  • If you are staying at an official Walt Disney World resort or at Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport the night before your cruise, AND you booked that hotel as a package with the cruise, AND you are using Disney’s bus service to the port, your port arrival time is less important, and you may not even see an option to select one when you check in. From a Disney hotel, they’re going to assign you a bus, and generally you’ll just get there when you get there and the terminal staff will be ready to process and embark that whole busload of passengers. If you’re staying at the Hyatt, there will be multiple buses and you can take the first bus they’ll let you on. In either case, it’s rare to experience much wait no matter what your port arrival time is. But if you are offered the option to pick a port arrival time at checkin, pick the earliest reasonable time, just to be on the safe side. It can’t hurt, and it might save you some waiting.
  • If you are staying in a concierge level stateroom or suite , you can check in and receive your port arrival time 40 days before embarkation day. That said, your shore-side concierge will likely offer to check you in on the first day you’re eligible, so effectively you can just let them handle it and they should get you the earliest arrival time (unless they know you won’t be arriving that early).
  • If you are a Pearl member of the Castaway Club (25+ previous Disney cruises), you can check in and receive your port arrival time 40 days before embarkation day. 
  • If you are a Platinum member of the Castaway Club (10-24 previous Disney cruises), you can check in and receive your port arrival time 38 days before embarkation day.
  • If you are a Gold member of the Castaway Club (5-9 previous Disney cruises), you can check in and receive your port arrival time 35 days before embarkation day.
  • If you are a Silver member of the Castaway Club (1-4 previous Disney cruises), you can check in and receive your port arrival time 33 days before embarkation day.
  • If you have never before taken a Disney cruise, you can check in and receive your port arrival time 30 days before embarkation day.

When you arrive at Port Canaveral, you’ll hand off your bags to the dock workers. Tipping is theoretically optional, but it’s customary to tip them at least $1-$2 per bag, and we tend to tip on the high side for very helpful or friendly porters. Keep your carry-on/day bag with you. Get in line to go through check-in (during which time you’ll show your port arrival document several times), then get in line to go through security (you go through a metal detector and your carry-ons go through an x-ray).

The first people who will get on the ship are Group 1, which will usually be concierge level guests. Shortly after noon, announcements will be made for general boarding by group number. You’ll present your port arrival document as you board, have a family photo taken (or bypass the photo and get on the ship that much faster), and then your family will be announced as you arrive in the atrium of the ship. After that, the ship is yours!

Most people will head straight to lunch, and if you’re hungry, that’s a great idea. If you’ve brought your swimsuits in your day bag, this is a perfect time to enjoy the pool (or AquaDuck on the Dream or Fantasy and AquaMouse on the Wish), because the ship is still relatively empty and a lot of people will not have thought ahead. If you still need to make spa appointments, change your dinner rotation, sign up for shore excursions, book Palo, Remy or Enchanté, or book any specialty character meals or tea parties, now is the time to do that. You can also get your kids’ wristbands for the kids club. If it’s your first time on the ship, this is a good time to get a map and wander around familiarizing yourself with everything.

If you are a concierge level guest, there is a special concierge embarkation lunch, or you can go to the concierge lounge, where you can relax and enjoy a snack. You’ll be personally assisted with any bookings or changes you’d like to make (dining rotations, spa appointments, etc.)

At about 1:30-2:00, your room should be ready. Your bags will be delivered at some point in the afternoon (up until about 6:00 pm).

On the embarkation day, you won’t get access to your room until 1:30-2:00 pm, and you may not get all of your luggage until 6:00 pm (or occasionally even later), so its recommended you carry a bag that contains everything you’ll need between boarding the ship and dinner. If you want to swim or ride the AquaDuck or AquaMouse, for example, you will need all your swim stuff.

Here’s our checklist for packing our day bag. Some people like to use a rolling carry-on, but we prefer a small duffel. It’s your call; whatever you feel comfortable lugging around for an hour or two. You can also pack a small backpack for everyone to spread out the load.

  • Flip-flops or water shoes (the deck can get hot )
  • Reading material, iPad, videogames or other entertainment
  • Camera, if you aren’t using your phone
  • Medications you might need between noon and dinnertime
  • Change of clothes for dinner, if what you wear to board the ship isn’t reasonable (though it almost certainly is fine, as long as it’s not a swimsuit).

The TV in your stateroom offers limited live TV programming, but a pretty extensive selection of Disney-owned movie and TV content. There is the Disney Channel, ABC and ESPN, all owned by Disney, plus some 24-hour news channels (MSNBC & Fox) and a small selection of basic cable channels. You can watch a huge variety of Disney movies and a few other family-friendly titles “on demand” (no extra charge).

Disney no longer provides the cordless Wave Phones; if you need to contact other members of your party, you are expected to use the Disney Navigator app on your phone. If you don’t have a compatible phone or don’t want to carry your phone, you have to fall back on the tried and true “let’s meet in XXX at YYY” or put a magnetic white board on your room door to exchange messages. Note that the kids club staff will only be able to contact you via the Navigator app, so if you don’t carry it around, you can’t be informed of issues with your kids.

Fire codes prevent cruise ships from having irons in staterooms, but irons are available for your use in the laundry rooms. Speaking of laundry, you can charge the cost of self-service laundry to your room key by swiping it through the readers on the washers and dryers.

Inside staterooms have no window (except the “ secret porthole ” rooms on the Wonder and Magic that are classified as inside but have an obstructed porthole). Inside staterooms on the Dream and Fantasy ships do have the “virtual porthole” that provides some light. It can be turned off with a switch by the bed. Bear in mind that on the Wonder, Magic and Wish (or on the Dream and Fantasy with the virtual porthole turned off), inside staterooms have no external light coming in to wake you up in the morning or give you a sense of what time it is. So if you’re anxious to get up and go in the morning, make sure you set an alarm or request a wake-up call.

A portable hair dryer can be found in a bag in the bathroom or in a desk drawer (call Guest Services if you can’t find it). It must be plugged into a European (220V) outlet at the desk. If you happen to be in a stateroom that also has a built-in hair dryer in the bathroom attached to the wall, we recommend leaving it alone; they don’t work well. Use the one in the drawer.

There is no longer a paper Navigator schedule given out in your stateroom, or even available from the front desk. You can only get the activity schedule via your phone or via the TV.

You can download the Navigator app for Apple or Android devices before you arrive at the embarkation port and then, once onboard, connect to the ship’s Wi-Fi network—complimentary for app use only. Downloading the app does not enable general-purpose internet access – you have to pay extra for that. In addition to giving you the ship’s daily schedule, the app has some information that isn’t in the paper Navigator, including menus for the various restaurants and some other useful tidbits. 

The Navigator app also has the all-aboard time and the local number of the ship’s agent, who is your contact if you have an emergency or are running late and might miss the ship (or have missed the ship). It’s not a bad idea to write those things down on a separate piece of paper to carry with you when you’re in port, just in case you lose your phone or the Navigator app gets flaky. If you have an emergency and don’t have your phone or the info on paper, you can call the port and ask them who the port agent is for your ship, and then call Disney’s port agent to let them know what’s happening.

The Navigator app now has a FREE text messaging feature. The messaging feature is available on all five ships. You do not need to buy a data plan to send messages to other people in your party, assuming they also have a device that can run the app. We didn’t really use it much in previous years because there could be 20-30 minutes between sending and message and the recipient getting a notification on their phone, but on our most recent cruise everything worked fine. Also, if you get the newer internet service that you can leave on all the time (currently available on the Wish, Magic, Dream and Fantasy) it will work with iMessage, WhatsApp and other messengers, and it will work with SMS text messaging if everyone’s phone has Wi-Fi cellular enabled.

Onboard Entertainment & Activities Tips

If you’re curious to know what movies will be shown on your sailing before you get on the ship, call  Disney Cruise customer service (800) 951-3532 about two weeks before your cruise and ask.

Want to ride the AquaDuck water coaster on the Dream or Fantasy or the AquaMouse on the Wish? MouseSavers.com reader Bill V has this tip: “If you enjoy the AquaDuck during the day, find an EVENING to ride it as well! Riding it at night, with the red-and-white lights strobing around the tube at each of the supports, is a completely different experience than the daytime, not to be missed! Also, the lines are truly non-existent if you go during dinner or show times, far shorter than even the times when most passengers are ashore when the ship is docked–my daughter rode it one evening over a dozen times in less than 90 minutes, usually walking on with no line whatsoever.” (This advice would apply to the AquaMouse on the Wish as well.)

Some special activities require advance sign-up at Guest Services. For instance, “Tea with Wendy,” (or “Tea with Alice” or some other character) is sometimes offered on some 7-night cruises, but has limited seating, and on cruises near Christmas, there is a build-your-own-gingerbread house activity, but they have a limited number of kits available. Check for those activities (they’ll generally be listed in the Navigator app) and sign up as soon as you can. Certain popular character meetings are also now requiring advance sign-up, usually on the first day.

Theater snacks : the theaters where the movies and shows are presented have concession stands selling expensive goodies such as canned sodas, bagged popcorn and candy, which can be charged to your room key. If you want to keep costs down, go up on the pool deck to the self-serve beverage station and get FREE sodas (or lemonade, tea, etc.) to bring into the show with you. You can also usually get FREE cookies from one of the counter-service locations on the pool deck and bring those along (or order cookies from room service, for only the cost of a tip). Concierge level guests on the Dream and Fantasy can get snacks, including cans of soda and sometimes popcorn, from the lounge. The snack bar at the theater has a refillable popcorn bucket that can be refilled for the rest of your cruise at a much cheaper price, so if you like popcorn, it’s a good idea to get one at the beginning of the cruise. Some people have brought popcorn buckets from previous cruises or from Walt Disney World and had them refilled, though that may or may not be official policy.

Embarkation Day

Once you’re onboard on embarkation day, you can eat lunch in one of three locations (or the concierge lunch if you’re in a concierge stateroom): the buffet, the pool deck food outlets (burgers, pizza, etc.) or a dining room (on the Magic, the primary lunch dining room is Lumiere’s; on the Wonder, it’s Triton’s; on the Dream and Fantasy, it’s Enchanted Garden; on the Wish, it’s been 1923 or Arendelle). The primary dining room lunch is a la carte with a normal lunch menu similar to the menu served on sea days. It has a tendency to fill up pretty quickly, so if you want to eat there, get on the ship as early as possible. There is also a lunch just for concierge guests in a different dining room.

Note that if you head for the inside dining room, you will encounter multiple crew members who will try to herd you to the buffet, which can handle more people. Just tell them you’d prefer the interior dining room. 

Breakfast and Lunch

During the cruise, there are usually two or three breakfast and lunch locations with different hours (check the Navigator app for hours). You can choose from one or more full-service restaurants with open seating (just show up when you want during opening hours, and they’ll seat you), or eat at the buffet.

Dinner Rotations

Your dinner arrangements — meaning your restaurant rotation schedule, and whether you have the early or late seating for dinner — are assigned before you embark on the cruise. You can find your restaurant rotation by checking the “My Plans” section of the Navigator app. It will also show your table number and seating time, as well as the recommended dress code and menu. If you have trouble using the app, Guest Services or any of the dining locations can help you get that information. 

If you want to change your seating or your restaurant rotation, do that as soon as you embark. The location on the ship where changes can be made will be listed in the Navigator app, or just go to Guest Services and they can point you in the right direction.

If you go to your assigned restaurant for dinner each night, your servers will be the same for every night of your cruise. On longer cruises they’ll get to know you, and may even have your “usual” beverage waiting for you at your table. If you are served something you don’t like, tell the servers and they’ll bring you something else. And if you want to indulge, they’ll be happy to bring you two desserts (or two appetizers, or even two entrees)! In true Disney style, if you have a special event you are celebrating, make sure your servers know. You will get appropriate special treatment (usually a special dessert, and perhaps some singing).

We recommend not rushing to dinner. If you show up five minutes or so after they begin seating you’ll walk right in. If you show up early you’ll just have to wait in line! Don’t wait too long, though: in order to get everyone served in a timely manner, each server really needs to get all the orders from all their tables at once. If you come too late, it throws off their timing, necessitating multiple extra trips to the kitchen and long delays for everyone. Also, if you won’t be at the regular rotation dinner one night, it’s helpful to tell your server or head server in advance, so they won’t wait for you to arrive to start service for the other tables.

We also recommend having the Navigator app open to your dinner reservation and table number the first time you arrive at each restaurant, so you can be seated more easily. But if you remember your table number, you can just tell the servers.  

Each restaurant has a “special” menu that is only offered at that restaurant, which will be used on one of the nights you visit each restaurant (the same night as the show, if there is one for that restaurant). On the other nights, you’ll get “standard” menus that are the same at all three restaurants (they change every night, but each of the three restaurants gets the same menu). 

Dinner Shows

The following restaurants have special shows and menus on one night of your cruise . These shows are one of the unique entertainment experiences on a Disney cruise, so try to see them if you can! Ask at Guest Services or ask your server which night it will be for your rotation. Move your Palo, Remy or Enchante reservations or change your dinner rotation if you have to. 

  • Animator’s Palate (Magic, Wonder, Dream, Fantasy) — On the Magic & Wonder, this show allows everyone in the family to design a character and see it animated. It’s pretty neat! On the Dream & Fantasy, the show involves interacting with an animated character (Crush the sea turtle from Finding Nemo). On longer (7+ night) cruises on the Dream & Fantasy, they may also do a version of the “draw your own animated character” show on the second night you visit Animator’s Palate.
  • Tiana’s Place (Wonder) — A rollicking dinner show with the characters and songs from The Princess & The Frog.
  • Rapunzel’s Royal Table (Magic) — A fun musical show with characters and songs from Tangled.
  • Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure (Wish) — An elaborate show where you’re a guest at an engagement party for Anna and Kristoff, hosted by Wandering Oaken. Enjoy songs and characters from the two Frozen movies.
  • Worlds of Marvel (Wish) — A loud action spectacle involving Ant-Man and the Wasp (and some guest Marvel characters) takes place during dinner. Most of the action is ostensibly taking place elsewhere on the ship (you watch it on screens on the walls of the restaurant), but live-action Ant-Man and the Wasp appear near the end to wave at diners.

Premium Restaurants

If you enjoy fine dining, we definitely recommend making a reservation for Palo, Remy or Enchanté, particularly on a 4-night or longer cruise. There is a small extra cost (larger for Remy and Enchanté) but it is well worth it for the cuisine, the atmosphere, and the opportunity to enjoy a nice dinner without the kids. The Remy and Enchanté dinners are especially elaborate, and are similar to meals that cost much more at Michelin starred restaurants or Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World. Palo can be found on all five Disney ships, though the menu is slightly different (and more steakhouse-oriented) on the Wish. Remy is only on the Dream and Fantasy, and Enchanté is only on the Wish.

Alternatively, consider booking the Palo, Enchanté or Remy brunch (offered usually only once or twice on most cruises). We find the premium brunches particularly fabulous and might even prefer them to dinner in Palo.

Palo, Remy and Enchanté are very popular, so book them as early as you can . If you’re not able to get a reservation in advance, check the Navigator app or ask a crew member to find the location where you can go and request a reservation onboard.

If you want to skip one of the regular rotation restaurants in order to dine in Palo, Remy or Enchanté, our suggestion is to call Disney to find out the dining rotations for your cruise and pick a night that is the second visit to a restaurant, since the first night is very likely to be that restaurant’s special menu (and will have a show, if there is a show at that restaurant). For example, if your rotation is “Enchanted Garden, Rapunzel’s Table, Rapunzel’s Table, Animator’s Palate”, pick the third night, since it is the most likely to be a “standard” menu.

Keep in mind that the dinner rotations and timing of Animator’s Palate, Tiana’s, Rapunzel’s, Marvel or Arendelle shows are subject to change, and in our experience the folks at the Disney call center don’t always have accurate information about when the show will happen. The people actually on the ship know, so if you want to be sure your premium dining doesn’t happen on a dinner show night, go to Guest Services or the dining reservation location listed in the Navigator app on the first day of your cruise and ask. If there’s a conflict, they can either reschedule your premium dinner or put you on a different main dining rotation.

Alternate Dining Options

There are always plenty of options for food: check the Navigator app to know which restaurants are open at what times.

In the past, Disney has opened up the buffet area (Cabanas or Marceline Market) for dinner on most nights of the cruise (usually all but the first night), but as a table-service venue, not a buffet. There’s no specific time, you just show up and choose from a limited menu that includes some of the same foods served in the main dining rooms (but without all the hoopla). Of late they haven’t been doing it, but all indications are that this is a temporary post-pandemic measure because of logistics issues, so it could restart any time. If you’d prefer a quieter dinner at your own dining time, ask if it’s an option on your cruise.

There are fast-food locations up on the pool deck, serving kid-friendly fast food. We think the burgers and other sandwiches on a bun are edible, and the mini-wraps are quite good. The pizza is not a highlight – the toppings are fine, but the crust is sub-par, except on the Wish, where it is pretty good. The Wish also has a barbeque window, and a Mexican food window with choose-your-own ingredient bowls, tacos and burritos (think Chipotle), and both of those options are quite good. The fruit is fruit; nothing wrong with it. The soft-serve ice cream is not very creamy, but it makes a nice snack on a hot day, and they usually rotate in some unusual flavors like mango or strawberry over the course of the cruise.

On most ships, there are some small snacks available most of the day. In the adult coffee bar, there have generally been free mini-desserts available during the day, and little antipasto nibbles during the evening, but we didn’t see them on the Wish. In the adult lounge area on the lower decks, there is usually a (small) hot snack buffet available for part of the evening, either in the pub or the hallway between the various lounges. Usually there’s something like a build-your-own nacho bar, plus some sort of hot savory like pigs in a blanket or egg rolls. Again, this little mini-buffet has not been present on the Wish. In the pub on each ship, there are about 4-6 extra-cost hot snacks & entrees you can order. Typically at least one of the pool deck food stations will be open until midnight, usually pizza. From midnight until breakfast time (6:30 or so) room service is the only food option.

On Alaska cruises, there have usually been some snacks on the front of the ship on the pool deck on the glacier-viewing day , including hot soup in small bread bowls, cookies and hot cocoa. They also usually do a special barbecue lunch that day on the deck behind the buffet, typically sausage, fish, and steak. Sometimes they have been known to serve elk or another Alaska specialty. Make sure you go out to the deck to check it out; we met many people who had no idea the cookout was happening and just ate regular buffet food instead of the fresh-grilled options just a few steps away.

Concierge guests have access to snacks and beverages (bottled water, soft drinks, coffee drinks) in the concierge lounge.

Kids’ Meals

There are kid’s menu options at all the table-service meals , but children are not limited to eating from those menus. Your servers will bring your kids whatever they want, including full adult appetizers, meals and desserts, and in fact if there’s something on the ship they can get or make, they’ll usually try to accommodate you even if it’s not on the menu. In other words, if all your kids want is french fries, that’s not a problem, assuming you’re OK with it.

It’s worth noting that asking your server to bring you something from another restaurant is not a trivial undertaking . They will almost certainly do it, because they really want guests to be happy, but don’t spring a request on them unless you really can’t find anything else for your kids to eat. And if possible, let the service staff know early if your child has specific food issues. If they know in advance that your child will only eat french fries and chicken fingers, they can have those ready each night.

If you have kids in the Oceaneer Club, they will be offered lunch and dinner if they are in the Club at the appropriate time. There are not usually a lot of choices, but what they’ll offer is going to be pretty simple and kid-friendly, like chicken nuggets and apple slices.

Two key things to be aware of: one, they usually don’t serve the kids dinner on the first night of the cruise (the day of embarkation). So if you have Palo or Remy reservations for that night, you’ll need to feed your kids yourself. Fortunately that’s easy: all you have to do is get food for the kids before or after your reservation from one of the fast-food restaurants on the pool deck. Two: be aware of when the kids are served. Meal times may be too early for your liking if you leave your kids in the Club.

Also, keep in mind that the Disney crew members will not make your kids sit down to eat. They will make sure every child is informed that food is being served, but they can’t and won’t make your children stop playing to eat, and there is one opportunity to eat for each mealtime. There are no snacks served in the club between meal times. It’s a good idea when you pick up your kids to check if they ate and if they are hungry.

Dine and Play Program

Please note : The Dine and Play program is temporarily suspended, but may return at any time. Ask about it onboard if you’re interested.

The Dine and Play program allows children to get their meals quicker and adults to check in a child for Youth Activities without leaving the dining room. The Dine and Play program is offered for families assigned to second dining, and is open to children ages 3-12. 

Here’s how it works: You arrive in the dining room and inform the server that your child would like to participate in Dine and Play. The dining room team brings the child’s meal first while serving the adults at a more leisurely pace.

About 45 minutes after seating begins, Youth Activities Counselors arrive in the dining room and sign in the child to Disney’s Oceaneer Club, eliminating the need for you to escort the child to Deck 5.

Adults are then able to enjoy the full dining experience with the knowledge that their children are having a great time in a safe, fun and comfortable environment.

Alternative approach: You can ask your server to feed the kids as fast as possible, and then have an adult walk them over to the kids club and check them in. It only takes a few minutes to get to the club and back. Some parents have told us their kids prefer this method over using Dine & Play, as you can get the kids to the club whenever they’re ready and there’s less waiting around.

Room Service

Room service is not a strong suit on Disney Cruise Line. The food, in our experience, is merely adequate. It is free (though a tip is welcomed) and convenient, though. Selection is mostly very basic and very middle-American: sandwiches, basic soups, chicken wings, a few salads, a cheese plate, burger, pizza or topped flatbreads. 

If the buffet or top deck restaurants are open, we suggest sending someone to the buffet or top deck instead of ordering room service . The selection in the buffet is much better and the food better prepared. The top deck restaurants have a more limited selection, but sending someone to the top deck for food has always resulted in hotter, fresher food when we’ve done it. That said, if you’re worn out, or come back really late from a port excursion, it’s nice to know they will bring you food any time.

Mickey bars (Mickey head shaped ice cream bars) and Smuckers Uncrustables (packaged peanut butter & jelly sandwiches) are not on the menu, but have usually been available on request.

Special orders are limited , but if you want something simple that is not on the menu, but is made with components used in items that are on the menu, such as a grilled cheese sandwich, plain salad without dressing, plain hamburger patty with no bun or just an order of french fries, they will usually make that for you on request.

Room service breakfast in the regular staterooms is a very basic Continental offering of various baked goods, cereal, milk, hot drinks and juice. There is nothing hot and no real protein, so if you like eggs and bacon in the morning, head for the buffet or whichever dining room is serving breakfast (it’s listed in the Disney Cruise Navigator app). We do sometimes use room service to get coffee delivered in the morning. Though lately we just have them deliver hot water, because we prefer the Starbucks Via packets to the ship’s reconstituted coffee product.

Guests in concierge staterooms and suites can order dinner from the rotation restaurants during regular dinner hours . Ask your concierge staff for a menu. All courses of your meal are brought at once, which doesn’t do good things for the quality of the meal, but it’s still better than the regular room service offerings. Concierge level guests can order hot breakfasts in their suites and staterooms during the cruise.

Many common beverages (including sodas) are available FREE most of the time , but there are situations where you could be charged for them. Here are the basic rules:

  • The self-service drink station on the pool deck offers milk , juice , tea (hot or iced) , coffee, hot cocoa , lemonade, plain water and fountain sodas  at no extra charge 24 hours a day.
  • The dining rooms (including Palo, Remy and Enchanté) offer milk , juice , tea (hot or iced) , coffee , hot cocoa ,  lemonade, plain water and fountain sodas  at no extra charge with meals. All other drinks can be ordered, but cost money.
  • Castaway Cay offers milk , juice , tea (iced only) , lemonade, plain water and fountain sodas  for free. All other cold drinks (except iced espresso drinks) can be ordered at a bar, but cost money. No hot drinks are available. 
  • Room service offers milk , juice , tea (hot or iced), plain water and  coffee free. All other drinks cost money. 
  • All bars (including espresso bars) charge for all beverages , except plain tap water.
  • Bottled water, canned and bottled soda and soft drinks , alcoholic beverages , mocktails , smoothies, shakes  and espresso drinks (and related drinks like chai lattes) always cost money no matter where you order them.
  • The fountain sodas are all Coca-Cola products (which could change any time, but Coca-Cola has had a strong partnership with Disney for many years). The bars have a wider selection of canned and bottled beverages available, at a charge.

Consider bringing your own bottled water if you think you’ll drink a lot of it on shore excursions, Castaway Cay, etc. Bottled water on the ship or Castaway Cay is expensive. Consider packing a small carry-on suitcase with just bottled water. Then on the way home you’ll have room for all those things you didn’t plan to buy. (If you are staying on concierge level on the Dream or Fantasy, bottled water is provided in the lounge without cost.)

Disney allows each adult to bring up to two 750 ml bottles of wine or six 12 oz beers onboard at embarkation and at each port visited. Bottles must be sealed and they must be in your carry-on luggage.  Spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, etc.) are not allowed (they will be confiscated and given back to you at disembarkation).

Sealed bottles or cans of non-alcoholic beverages can be carried on in any amount that will fit through the x-ray machines (carry-on bag sized, in other words). As for coolers, Disney officially says that you can only take aboard small (12″ x 12″ x 12″ max) soft-sided coolers for keeping things like insulin and breast milk cold. In practice, soft coolers can be any size that’s small enough to fit through the x-ray machine (again, basically the size of a carry-on bag), but no hard-sided or wheeled coolers.

Disney, like all other cruise lines, does not allow any beverages in checked bags , because checked baggage is stacked up and handled roughly during the loading process, which could cause containers of liquids to break and/or leak onto other people’s luggage. They do screen for those items. If they find disallowed items, the items will be confiscated and given back at the end of the cruise.

Coffee and Tea

Regular American-style coffee on Disney ships is unfortunately not good. The “drip” coffee they serve throughout the ship is made in a machine that looks vaguely like a coffee urn, but actually produces instant coffee on demand by mixing liquid concentrate and hot water. When it’s made in a properly-calibrated machine it tastes like OK instant coffee (not as good as Starbucks Via, but better than Folger’s Crystals). If the machine is out of calibration, it can be really weak or very strong.

If you like your coffee with cream and sugar or just aren’t picky about coffee, you may be fine with the reconstituted coffee . If you like quality coffee, you may want to order espresso drinks (at extra cost), which are available at most bars and sit-down restaurants and at the bar in the Wish, Dream & Fantasy’s buffets. You might also consider bringing Starbucks Via packets if you like them. In our experience the Via is much better than the reconstituted stuff.

If you’re a tea drinker, the news is better: there are a wide variety of Twinings tea bags (regular and herbal) at the main deck drink stations and in the dining rooms. And in the dining rooms, they almost always serve tea properly, with acceptably hot water and a small pitcher of milk upon request.

The iced tea served everywhere is unsweetened reconstituted iced tea from a soda machine (Fuze brand from Coca-Cola), but you can make your own iced tea by brewing fresh hot tea and adding ice and water, and that is much better. Our recipe: put two regular black tea bags in a cup of hot water, steep three minutes, stir in sugar if desired, then pour over a full cup of ice. Add water to taste.

Most bars on the ship have espresso machines , including the adults-only Cove Cafe on the pool deck and the all-ages Promenade Lounge on deck 3 (Wonder & Magic), Vista Café on deck 4 (Dream & Fantasy), and all bars and lounges on the Wish. Espresso is also available in the main dining rooms, the premium restaurants, and the Dream, Fantasy and Wish buffets. All espresso drinks cost extra, generally about the same price as on land. If you are a regular consumer of espresso drinks, be sure to get a coffee card. Each time you buy a latte, cappucino, etc. they will mark the card. Your sixth beverage is FREE! If you don’t fill your card during the cruise, hold onto it — it can be used on a future cruise, even on a different Disney ship!

Wine Packages and Refillable Beer Mug

Disney doesn’t have any “all you can drink” packages available. You don’t really need one for sodas, since they’re included (except at bars). Alcohol and other specialty beverages are always a la carte. There are, however, two programs that could save you some money (albeit with a few caveats).

Wine Packages

This is an opportunity to pre-pay for a certain number of bottles of wine, which you can enjoy at any of the sit-down restaurants. If you don’t finish one, you can get it recorked for the next night (and they’ll take it to the next restaurant in the rotation, or you can get it brought to you at Palo, Remy or Enchanté), or you can take it with you to your room. If you don’t end up drinking them all, you can take the remainder home. Your server will usually suggest buying one bottle per cruise night, but you can buy more or less if you like. The wines are all from a set list, which changes from time to time, and usually includes about 10-12 white wines and 8-10 red wines. There are two tiers, with the more expensive one including fancier bottles of wine. The wines on the list change regularly, but we think the choices are all pretty good, with a few real winners on each list. Disney pushes these packages aggressively: a brochure will be on the table your first night, and one of your servers will offer a sales pitch the first night.

We went to the trouble a few years ago to price out all the wines on the list and compare to the average cost per bottle from the packages . The price per bottle in the packages was about $2-3 cheaper than the average price of the bottles included in the package. However, the packages typically have only 5-7 selections that sell for more than the average price, and 12-15 selections that sell for less than the average price. So if you pick random bottles from the list, you’re very likely to end up spending more (or at least not much less) by buying the package. To come out ahead, you have to consistently order from the few bottles that are higher priced.

Frankly, our opinion is that it’s not worth the trouble, at least as a money-saving strategy . If buying your dinner wine in advance will help you relax, then go ahead; you certainly won’t lose much money unless you happen to always pick the cheapest wine on the list. And if you really love a particular wine or wines that you know are higher-priced, and you plan to only drink those, the plan will save you a few bucks per bottle.

Refillable Beer Mug

This is a large 21 oz glass souvenir beer mug that you can buy at any bar for $17 (last we checked). When you get it filled (at any bar or restaurant), you get 21 ounces for the price of a 16 ounce draft beer. One nice thing is that you don’t have to cart the mug around; they’ll give you a little token you can trade for a mug at any time. So you give the token to your server and get a mug of beer, and when you’re done you can give them the mug and ask for the token back. At the end of the cruise, just stop by any bar to get a nice clean mug to take home. The selection of draft beers is pretty good, and in addition to the standard American beers, there are always a few craft beers like Widmer or Full Sail and even sometimes a cider like Strongbow. (Disney Cruise Line advertises this as a 21 oz glass, but we heard from a reader who measured it and found it actually held 20 oz when filled to the rim.)

Purely as a money-saving strategy, it’s hard to get your money’s worth out of the mug unless you really like beer. However, if you like the idea of having a Disney Cruise Line souvenir beer mug, and the price seems reasonable, then the extra beer is basically FREE. Make sure to tell your spouse that when you buy it.

Disembarkation Day

Breakfast is served on the day of disembarkation. In fact, you’ll have an assigned restaurant and time for breakfast for disembarkation, or you can choose to eat at the buffet instead. It will be a much smaller selection than during the cruise: welcome back to the real world!

Regular guests do not have access to room service on disembarkation morning. Concierge level guests can order a standard Continental breakfast from room service on disembarkation morning.

Most kids find the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, for ages 3-10, to be the best part of a Disney cruise. There is a lot to do, with great hands-on organized activities going on all the time.

Signing in and out is a relatively easy process considering what needs to be done to protect the children. However, you may have to wait in line either to drop them off or pick them up. Plan at least 5 minutes for the pick up or drop off process. If your children are 8 years old or older, they can be given the ability to sign themselves in and out on their own.

The Navigator app will tell you what’s happening and where your kids are at any given time. Check the app to see if your children will be out of the Club at the time you want to sign them out – for instance, they could be up on the deck playing basketball. Using the app to plan will save you a wasted trip. Also, when the kids are moving from one location to another, they will not allow you to sign them in or out, so there can be a 10-15 minute window where you have to wait.

You can keep your child signed in to the Oceaneer Club while at Castaway Cay. They will take the kids off the ship to special play areas for supervised games and activities throughout the day. If you do this, be sure to bring your phone with you. The Wi-Fi covers much of Castaway Cay and the app tends to work OK. But if you want your kids to join you for some time on the island, make sure you know their schedule of activities. They eat lunch fairly early, and are taken back to the ship before the beach closes.

Edge is the “tween” club for ages 11-14. Vibe is the teen club for ages 14-17. A 14-year-old can access both Edge and Vibe, but they will have to register for both. Disney will sometimes be slightly flexible about the age groups for these clubs, and will sometimes allow a child that is a little younger than the target age into the older teen club if they have space in the club your child wants to attend, especially if they have a friend or sibling in the older club. This is not guaranteed, but it’s worth asking.

The Disney Cruise offers many opportunities to meet characters . You will see most of the popular characters at some point or another on the Disney Cruise. Greeting times are available in the Navigator app. The lines for character greetings usually start forming about 15 minutes before the scheduled greeting time, so if you can get there 10 minutes beforehand, you won’t have a long wait once the characters arrive.

Some popular character meetings and meals may require advance booking . There’s no charge for the character meetings, but certain breakfasts or teas with characters may have an additional fee. You should book these as early as you can online; the bookings open on the same schedule as  booking excursions and Palo/Remy/Enchanté . You can also call or stop by guest services on the first day and ask about tickets; they may hold back some slots for onboard booking. Thanks to Sarah B and Rachel P for info.

Bring your kids’ Disney costumes, if they have any. The cruise is a great opportunity to get pictures of your daughter dressed as Belle with the “real” Belle herself, without her having to wear the costume all day.

If you’re on a 7-night cruise, you may have an assigned Character Breakfast on one of the days of the cruise. You’ll get a chance for photos with all the main Disney characters, including Mickey and Minnie!

Most of the character greetings will include a Disney professional photographer , so if your own photo doesn’t turn out you can still buy a memento from Shutters, the onboard photo location.

Read our tips, tricks and discounts on Port Excursions !

The list below is mostly based on reader suggestions. We have to admit, we have taken Disney cruises at various times without these, and everything went just fine. So don’t go too crazy with overpacking! But some of these are good ideas for specific needs.

  • Water shoes – Always a good idea if you’ll be snorkeling or wading where there are coral reefs and sharp rocks. Also handy to protect your feet on hot sand, concrete or the pool deck; the sun can make the deck very hot and you’ll want some of these or some simple flip-flops while hanging around the pool. You can wear water shoes that are secure and not likely to come off on the AquaDuck, AquaMouse and AquaDunk, but flip-flops or water shoes that slip off easily will need to be stowed before riding.
  • Safe Sea lotion – This is a lotion that protects against jellyfish, sea nettle, and seabather’s eruption , caused by jellyfish larvae that are sometimes called “sea lice.” There is actual independent research that backs this up – we’ve read it and are satisfied that it works. We want to reassure people that large jellyfish are kept out of the lagoon at Castaway Cay by netting under the water, so we’ve never heard of anyone getting a serious sting there, but people do occasionally get seabather’s eruption. At other beaches in the Bahamas and Caribbean jellyfish stings are not common, but they do happen. The peak season for jellyfish is summer (June-August) and they’re rare in winter. We actually had a very minor issue with seabather’s eruption on one trip to Castaway Cay (on some skin that didn’t have lotion; we failed to note that you need to apply some underneath the swimsuit for full protection), and we can attest that while it’s not the end of the world, it’s quite unpleasant and worth avoiding. Certainly the lotion is a cheap form of insurance, and there are formulations that include sunscreen, which you’ll need anyway. Another option is to bring some jellyfish after-sting gel  just in case, or some sources recommend hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine cream .
  • Body Powder – If you’ve ever tried to wipe beach sand off your body, you know it tends to stick in an annoying manner. It turns out it sticks to your skin because of residual moisture, and if you just rub your skin with water-absorbent powder (i.e. scented cornstarch), the sand drops right off. We used to recommend a very useful little mitt that contained cornstarch-based body powder for wiping off sand. Apparently that mitt isn’t made any more, but you can get the same effect by just sprinkling the powder on a towel and wiping with that. Do make sure you’re getting plain cornstarch powder, or at least talc-free powder. Talc is not good to breathe.
  • Robe – if you like to wear one in your room, you’ll need to bring your own unless you’re in a concierge room. Some people have had luck asking their stateroom attendant, but it’s not guaranteed they can get you one.
  • Pop-up Hamper – We like the rectangular kind with a circular opening on the top, as opposed to the ones that look like a big round cloth-covered spring. The squarer ones seem to hold their shape better. They only weigh 8 ounces, fold down to a small circle, and fit nicely into hotel and stateroom closets.
  • Dry box/case – Basically, a small waterproof box or pouch on a lanyard. Used by scuba divers and snorkelers, these are handy for any beach visit, because you can keep your ID and some money around your neck, instead of sticking valuables in your shoe and leaving them on the beach (yeah, everyone knows about THAT hiding place!)
  • Clothespins – These have a variety of uses, from weighing down a shower curtain that wants to stick to you, to anchoring your beach towel to a lounge chair. You can clip your curtains together if you want to minimize light leakage in the morning. Oh, and you can use them to hang laundry up to dry, too (there’s a retractable clothesline in the bathtub).
  • Night light – Particularly if you are staying in one of the Inside cabins on the Magic, Wonder or Wish, this is nice to have. It’s pitch black in those rooms when the lights are off. If you don’t want to use up a wall plug, you can get a USB light that plugs into an empty USB charger port. (It’ll also work in a laptop USB port, but not all laptops keep power to the USB ports when they go to sleep, so you’d want to check that first.) An LED flashlight or headlamp can also be handy if you need to get up in the middle of the night and don’t want to turn on lights.
  • Magnets – The stateroom doors are metal (except for the doors in the concierge section of the Dream and Fantasy). You can stick magnets on them to decorate your door, and it makes it easier for your children (and you) to identify your room. Don’t bring anything you can’t bear to lose: these do get taken sometimes. Please note that you are not allowed to use any type of adhesive on your door, including removable gel adhesives that supposedly come off clean. You will be charged for any damage to the door.
  • Multi-USB charger – When we have a lot of things to charge while travelling, normally we bring a  travel power strip , but as mentioned below, power strips are generally not allowed on Disney ships. Now we bring a multi-charger, which can charge 4 or more devices from one outlet. We’ve used Anker brand as well as Amazon Basics, and they’ve both been perfectly fine. You’ll need to also bring the USB cable for each device. We’d recommend getting at least a 40W model if you have anything more than just a phone or two. A 60W model typically has six outlets and might be just the thing if you have a lot of tablets and phones to charge, or you want a spare port to plug a USB night light into. Note that on the Magic and Wonder, they’ve installed a few more USA-type power outlets near the desk, and there are a couple of USB charging ports at the desk and on the alarm clock next to the bed. The Wish staterooms have tons of USB charging outlets at the desk and next to the bed, including two USB-C ports, so you can probably get by without a USB charger on that ship.
  • Irons are NOT ALLOWED as they are a fire hazard. Fire is a huge danger on cruise ships. If you take an iron it will be confiscated from your luggage. Irons are available for your use in the laundry rooms.
  • Rolls of quarters – In the past, these were needed for the self-service laundry onboard, but now you just swipe your room key for use of the washer, dryer, soap and dryer sheets. The cost is charged to your account.
  • Over-the-door shoe organizer – Some people have used these to store toiletries or other small items. Disney now asks that you do NOT use them as they “scratch and/or disfigure stateroom doors and trim.” You will be charged for any damage.
  • Seasickness medication – Unless you KNOW you get seasick on cruise ships, don’t bother bringing this. If you do get queasy, the ship’s health center or the guest services desk will give you FREE over the counter medication (generic meclizine, the ingredient in Bonine or non-drowsy Dramamine). If you get super-queasy the health center can get you prescription medication (for a fee).
  • Beach towels – They are provided when you get off the ship on beach days.
  • Power/outlet strip – These are not allowed on the ship. MouseSavers.com reader Christina N reports: “… they confiscated these from my bag and from others. They do not allow them as it blows circuits in the room.” Technically, they only ban extension cords, and power strips with surge protectors, but in practice people have reported having just about any kind of multi-outlet strip or adapter confiscated, because the people doing the screening don’t want to figure out whether your power strip is one of the “bad” ones. One thing not many people know is that there’s an open outlet behind the TV in most cabins on the Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy. The TVs are on a pivoting arm, so it’s easy to pull them out and expose the spare plug. Many smartphones and smaller tablets can be charged through a USB cable connected to a laptop, so if you take a USB cable you’ll only need one outlet, to plug in the laptop. Or you might want to pack a multi-USB charger like the ones mentioned above. And over time Disney has been adding USB charging ports to the outlets near the desk, so you might not need a power strip depending on how many devices you have.
  • Extension cords – the only extension cords allowed on the ship are ones you can borrow from Guest Services ($50 deposit required; refunded when you return the cord). There are a limited number and availability is first-come, first-served. If you need one for a CPAP or other medical device, one will be made available, but all of the ships now have a plug next to the bed, so you shouldn’t need an extension for a CPAP. On the Wish, there are US-style plugs next to one side of the bed, and a European plug on the other side. So if you have a CPAP or other device that goes next to the bed, and you really prefer to sleep on a specific side, make sure you have the correct plug adapter and your CPAP power supply handles both 110 and 220 volt current (almost all of them do, but you should check).
  • Hairdryer (maybe) – Hairdryers are provided, but the ones provided might not be up to your standards. If you’re not picky, don’t bother packing one.
  • High chair / booster seat – Both are provided on request in the dining room.
  • Pack and play crib – These are provided onboard (request when booking your cruise).
  • Stroller (maybe) – There are some strollers available to borrow onboard (deposit required) and on Castaway Cay. However, there are a limited number and it’s first-come, first-served. If you have a little one, it’s not a bad idea to bring a small umbrella stroller along.

During the day and most evenings on the Disney Cruise Line, you can wear casual clothing. At dinner, you are asked to stick to “cruise casual.” Most men wear a collared shirt (aloha shirts and golf/polo shirts are fine) and long pants (chinos or dress slacks) or nice shorts. Most women wear a skirt, dress, nice pants or dressy capris. Disney requests no swimwear or tank tops at dinner, but in practice, dressier tank-style tops will usually be acceptable. People who show up to the main dining rooms in swimsuits are almost always asked to change.

There are times when dressing up to some extent is either required or encouraged:

  • When having dinner at Palo, Remy or Enchanté, the dress code is basically “business casual plus.” Men are required to wear long pants suitable for professional work (which could include “nice” jeans), collared shirts and dressier shoes. Some men wear suits or even tuxedos. Women can wear pretty much anything “nice” that isn’t swimwear, casual t-shirts, shorts or sportswear. Semi-formal or even formal wear would not be out of place. At Brunch or Tea at either restaurant, the dress code is “cruise casual,” which basically means no shorts, swimsuits, tank tops or flip-flops.
  • On 4-night or longer cruises, there will be one or two “optional dress up” nights that you can interpret how you will. Dressing up is not required, but some folks will make an effort to change for dinner. On our most recent Disney cruises we’ve seen a handful of tuxedos on dress-up nights and a few dozen men wearing jackets. A fair number of women were dressed in nicer outfits. Lots and lots of people were just in normal “cruise casual” outfits, so if you don’t like to dress up don’t feel like you’re under any obligation to do so. On the other hand, if you like to dress up, it’s a great opportunity. The crew and the Disney characters will be in nicer clothes, there will be photo stations where you can get a picture of the whole family in nice outfits, and you won’t feel overdressed in a gown or tux.
  • Some people like to wear dressy or semi-formal clothing on the nights when they dine in Lumiere’s (Magic), Triton’s (Wonder) or Royal Palace/Royal Court (Dream or Fantasy), since those are the restaurants with the fanciest theming but this is not by any means required.
  • Similarly, a few people like to dress in 1920’s inspired clothes when dining in 1923 on the Disney Wish. This is just a fun thing to do and not in any way required.

Where to Buy Disney Cruise Wear

If you’re looking for Disney-themed casual cruise wear (aloha shirts, etc.), a good place to look is DisneyStore.com . Unfortunately they only offer resort wear on a seasonal basis (usually spring and summer), but even in the winter it’s always worth looking to see if they have anything in the sale section.

DisneyStore.com  carries a significant amount of Disney Cruise Line clothing and other logo merchandise as well.

  • See current discounts and offers for DisneyStore.com.

Your phone should still be able to reach a tower on land as long as the ship is in port, but once you are at sea, we strongly advise you to turn off international roaming and data roaming, to avoid having your phone accidentally use the “Cellular@Sea” service, which is very expensive. You can (and should) leave wi-fi turned on, so you can use Disney’s Navigator App to see the current schedules and menus and so forth.

You can also use the Disney Navigator App on your own phone to send messages to other people in your party. To get message notifications as quickly as possible, make sure that notifications are enabled for the Disney Navigator app, as well as background updates. Basically in our experience, the Navigator app needs to have all permissions set to “on,” including Location, Bluetooth, Notifications, and Background Update. You can (and perhaps should) turn those off again once your cruise has ended.

If you absolutely must use your phone to call or text while at sea, service may be available on Disney ships through the “Cellular@Sea” service. It is a very expensive form of international roaming and the ship must be 8 to 10 miles out to sea before you can access it. Most phones will just connect to Cellular@Sea without needing any special setup, but be aware that the service includes phone, text messaging, and data . If your phone is set to auto-update, you could end up on the hook for a large data charge because it decided to download a 100MB game update or something. Definitely turn off your cellular data, or set it to not use cellular data when roaming.

US phones will work in most international ports if you have turned on international roaming. You might need to arrange with your provider for that feature to be turned on in advance, but most providers have it set up by default. Depending on your provider, roaming may be very expensive (potentially over $2 per minute, and $10 or more per megabyte of data). Check with your provider for special international roaming packages, which may save you money if you plan to use your phone a lot.

Wireless internet service is available on all Disney ships . All internet is over satellite, and you shouldn’t expect speeds or responsiveness similar to what you get on land, though it’s usually good enough to send messages and emails and use Facebook and other social media.

Internet service on Disney ships is paid for by the day, and is theoretically “unlimited .” It’s pretty fast for cruise ship internet, but still slower than most land-based systems. You’re sharing bandwidth with all the other passengers and crew, so right after you leave a port, expect the internet to crawl as everyone starts posting pictures of their excursions to social media. If you have cellular internet service that works in that country (and is reasonably priced), you may want to post your pictures before you leave port via cellular rather than via wi-fi. If your cellular is flaky, get to the top deck and walk over to the side of the ship closest to land. Alternatively, wait until dinner time, when the wi-fi speeds will pick up considerably.

Prices are (so far) pretty reasonable for cruise ship internet, with a basic single-device plan that lets you use Facebook and similar apps (but not email or web) for $16/day (when purchased for the whole cruise), a fancier plan that includes email and web (but no streaming) for $24/day, and a premium plan that includes music streaming for $34/day. Video streaming is not supported on any plan , so no Netflix or Hulu. Plans cost a little more if you only buy a plan for individual days rather than the whole cruise, and there is a small discount for adding additional devices.

Spa: Treatments, Products and Fitness Center

Spa treatments are very popular and fill up early , so book them as early as you can . If you’re not able to get an appointment before you embark, go to the Spa when you get onboard and you’ll probably be able to arrange one in person.

We don’t recommend having any spa treatments done on the first (embarkation) day , because people are touring the Spa all afternoon and evening, making it busy and not very relaxing. It’s a good day to set up your future appointments, but not as good for actually having treatments done.

The changing rooms in the spa have fluffy robes for your use. Sadly, the robes are all “one size fits most” and aren’t big enough for many people. You then can choose a locker that contains a clean pair of spa sandals. The lockers allow you to set your own combination for secure storage of your personal items. We don’t find the sandals they provide very comfortable (again, they’re “one size fits most”), so we just wear a clean pair of sandals or flip-flops to our spa appointment.

You can change into your robe in the open locker room or in one of the toilet cubicles. Once you’re in your robe and sandals, an attendant will escort you to a quiet waiting room, where you can enjoy some water while you wait for your treatment. After your treatment you’ll be escorted back to the locker room, where you can use one of the spacious showers if you wish. Basic toiletries, disposable combs, etc. are provided. On the Dream and Fantasy, there is a dry sauna in the locker room that you can enjoy after your treatment for no additional charge.

If you are considering a Cabana Massage on Castaway Cay, here are a few things to consider first:

  • The cabanas are rustic. There is no running water in them, so your massage therapist cannot wash her hands during your treatment. There is no air conditioning (there is a ceiling fan) or heat so it can be unpleasantly hot in the summer and uncomfortably cool in the winter.
  • Your feet and lower legs will almost certainly be covered with sand by the time you get to the cabana, and there’s really no facility for removing it. (There is an outdoor shower near the waiting area, but you’ll then proceed across the sand to the cabana… you’ll get sandy again, trust us.) So the sand inevitably becomes part of the treatment. How you feel about having sandy oil rubbed into your skin is a matter of preference. And remember, the massage oil dissolves any sunscreen you’re wearing, so you’ll need to reapply it afterward, which enters the mix with the sand.
  • When you envision this experience, you might think you would be relaxing to the sound of the ocean waves. Nope. The cabanas are located right above the lounge chairs along the beach (though visually separated by some plants), so you will hear the chatter of people sitting right below you.
  • The Cabana Massage is billed as featuring “breathtaking views of Serenity Bay.” Well, that’s true for the massage therapist, but you’ll be lying on a table, and you won’t see the scenery from there.
  • The Cabana Massage is more expensive than a regular massage in the ship’s spa, yet in many ways you are getting less for your money. If you have a massage on the ship, you’ll have access to showers, a locker room, robes and sandals, etc. With the Cabana Massages, you get none of that.

The Rainforest

The Rainforest is a lovely, relaxing co-ed spa area on each ship.

  • On the Magic and Wonder , the Rainforest includes three tiled steam rooms (each a different temperature), some open showers with different scented “rain” programs and a few heated loungers.
  • On the Dream and Fantasy , the Rainforest has a dry sauna, a hot steam room and a hammam (a large, tiled steam room that is less hot than the regular steam room), four scented showers with multiple “rain” programs, numerous heated loungers with views of the sea and two hot tubs on a private deck overlooking the water.
  • On the Wish , the Rainforest has a dry sauna, hammam, a cryotherapy (cold) room, showers with rain programs, heated loungers, and a nice sun deck ( much larger than the one on the Dream & Fantasy) with two hot tubs and plenty of sun beds. The sun deck is tucked into the nose of the ship, one deck below the promenade, so there’s no ocean view, but you can see the sky and relax in the sun or the shade according to your preference.

You can purchase a day pass or a longer pass for the length of your cruise. A limited number of passes are sold on each sailing. Tip: the Rainforest Room is closed until around 5 on embarkation day, so you won’t typically get a lot of usage on the first day of the cruise. You may find it’s a better deal just to pay day-by-day, or ask if you can buy a shorter pass. The single-day passes for the sea day(s) will go first, followed by the full-cruise passes. A pass for the Castaway Cay day or other port day might be available same day, and could be a good alternative if you’re not interested in that port.

When you want to use the Rainforest, just tell the front desk staff at the spa and they’ll give you a wristband that opens the door to the Rainforest area. They will hold your room key while you are in the Rainforest. You then proceed to the locker room, where you can choose a locker and get a robe and sandals, if desired. A swimsuit must be worn since the Rainforest is mixed-gender.

Towels and drinking water are provided.

The spas on the Disney ships are operated by Steiner, a huge British spa company that runs spas for cruise lines and resorts. The staff do a great job performing the spa treatments, but Steiner trains them to offer product upsells at every reasonable opportunity. The result is that they almost always give cruise passengers a sales pitch on spa products. The products themselves are fine, but they are expensive and getting a sales pitch after your relaxing treatment can be annoying.

You’ll be given a “health form” before your treatment, asking about various health issues. Any issues you write on that form are used to help them sell you stuff (“Oh, I see you have very dry skin. You should try this cream.”). For that reason, unless you have an allergy or injury that directly affects your treatment , we recommend leaving the form as blank as possible .

Some people have tried writing “no sales pitch” on the form, but that is frequently ignored. Here are some other approaches we’ve used with success:

  • A polite and friendly “no thank you” when they start showing the products or going through their list of recommendations is our first line of defense. That’s often the end of it! But if they start offering a second sales pitch, we make a concerned/confused face, pause for a moment, and say, again politely, “I’m really not interested, thanks.” The subtext you want to get across is that by not paying attention to your clear and polite “no,” they’re running the risk of affecting your overall satisfaction, with all that implies about things like tips and guest comment cards. You don’t need to make this explicit; the concerned face and second “no” usually does the trick.
  • If they start the sales pitch while we are getting a relaxation treatment such as a massage or wrap, we usually just stay silent. We keep our  eyes closed and don’t respond to questions. Usually they quit talking, because it becomes quite awkward for them. But if they persist, we say politely, “Sorry, I’m trying to relax, and silence really helps me with that. Thanks!”
  • If we are getting a haircut or pedicure, it’s harder to ignore the sales pitch. So instead we act very enthusiastic about every product they are pushing. Usually they’ll use one or more of the products on us during the service. If they offer samples we take them, with sincere thanks. When we go to check out, there is always a big stack of “suggested” products at the front desk. When they ask us what we’ll be buying, we say “oh, I want to see how the stuff I tried today works out, so I’m not buying anything right now.”
  • Remember that no matter what happens, you can always change your mind about the add-on products when you check out. Until you sign the purchase slip, you haven’t purchased anything. Just say, “after thinking it over, I don’t need any products right now. Could you take these off the bill? Thanks.”

Fitness Center

A well-equipped Fitness Center can be accessed through the Spa on all of the ships. It’s usually open from early morning to fairly late – check the Navigator for specific hours. There is no charge to use the Fitness Center. The locker rooms, sauna and showers for the Fitness Center are shared with the Spa. Towels, robes and water are provided, and you can borrow an iPod shuffle if you don’t have your own iPod with you.

You never are expected to add any extra tip over and above the automatic gratuity amounts, which are listed below . You may , if you wish, add more, and you can even adjust certain tips down if you feel it’s warranted. Many people add extra gratuities purely because the service staff on a Disney cruise are extremely helpful and work very hard, but again, no one should ever make you feel like you are required to tip more.

Disney provides suggested tip amounts for the crew members who will assist you throughout the week: your server (takes your food orders for each dinner), assistant server (takes your drink orders at each dinner and delivers the food), head server (in charge of the overall dinner experience, special dietary requests and special occasions), and stateroom host/hostess (takes care of your room). As on all cruise lines, tips are the primary source of income for people working in these positions.

The suggested gratuities for your servers and stateroom host are automatically added to your stateroom bill. If you want to adjust the amount, you can go to Guest Services. Toward the end of the cruise you will be provided with slips indicating the tip amounts, which you can present to your servers during your last dinner on the cruise and leave in your room for your stateroom host. (They will get the money in their accounts whether you give them the slips or not, it’s purely a symbolic way of thanking them for their service. Don’t feel you need to do it if you don’t enjoy that kind of interaction.)

If you are staying in a concierge room, a separate form is provided to add tip for the concierge staff, with a suggested “average” tip amount. You can use your discretion to adjust it up or down based on how much help they provided your family. 

If you dine at Palo, Remy or Enchanté, many people add an additional tip to the per-person charge, though the basic charge is considered by Disney to cover the gratuity.

An automatic gratuity is added to all beverages ordered in bars and lounges; soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and bottled water from room service; and alcoholic beverages/smoothies/bottled water ordered in the dining room. There will also be a line where you can add an additional tip at your discretion.

You can add room service tips to your room bill. Even if your order costs nothing, you’ll be asked to sign a slip, and there is a space for tips on that slip. A dollar or two per item ordered is pretty common, but entirely optional.

You are allowed to give tips to crew members in cash, if you like, and they’re happy to take it in any major currency. If you have a meaningful amount of foreign currency (more than a few dollars worth) after your cruise that you’re unlikely to use anytime in the near future, feel free to leave it for your room host in addition to the automatic gratuity; they’ll be happy to get it.

As the skippers say on the world-famous Jungle Cruise, “You all have been outstanding on this cruise, but now I need you out standing on the dock!” Sadly, your cruise will eventually have to end, and Disney needs to get a few thousand people and their bags off the ship in the space of about 3 hours, so “efficiency” is the word of the day.

A few days before the end of your cruise you should be reminded to check the disembarkation instructions in the Navigator app , and you might get a paper form listing your specific disembarkation instructions. Disembarkation can feel very complicated and rushed, but it’s not that bad once you know how it works.

The first important decision is whether you want Disney to take your big luggage off the ship for you. If you have a lot of bags, or they’re unwieldy, you probably are going to want to have the bags moved for you, but if you can handle your own bags in one trip, that makes things immensely less complicated. These days we always choose to handle our own bags, but there are times we wonder whether it’d be easier to have Disney do it, usually when we’re wrestling our big roller bags down the gangplank. It’s worth trying it both ways if you go on multiple cruises, because you never can tell which one will feel easiest for you.

Whether or not you handle your own bags, you’re supposed to be completely out of your room on the final morning by 8:00 am so they can start cleaning and resetting it for the next guests (sometimes this time can change depending on the disembarkation port – check the sheet they give you or the app to make sure). This can make things logistically complicated, since if you want to do a table-service breakfast, it will be on a fixed schedule based on whether you are on the early or late dinner seating. The first breakfast seating starts early enough to get done before 8:00 am, but the later one does not. So if you plan to do table-service breakfast and you’re on late seating, you will have to take your luggage with you. Most people on late seating line up their bags in the hallway leading to the dining room. Don’t worry, no one will take your bags; your fellow guests are all far too tired. You can take smaller bags into the dining room and park them next to the table as long as they aren’t in the servers’ way. If you are planning an early breakfast in the buffet or you’re having sit-down breakfast on the earlier seating, you can just leave your bags in your room and then come back and retrieve them by 8:00 am.

Option 1: Disney Handles Your Bags

If you decide to have Disney haul your big bags to the terminal, then you’ll need to put most of your bags out the night before (typically by 10:30 pm – check the app to make sure). You need to hang on to at least one or two small bags to hold the stuff you can’t pack early, like toiletries and your pajamas. Make sure not to pack the clothes you’ll need to wear the next morning! You’ll get a set of luggage tags to put on the bags you’re putting out, and there will be a guide showing roughly when each group of bags will be ready to pick up in the terminal. For example, if you have bag tag “Donald Duck”, the sheet might say that your bags will be ready between 8:30-8:45 am. If you need to leave early to catch an flight or something, make sure you’ve got the earliest time they can give you. You can go to Guest Services to change your bag group if needed. On disembarkation morning, they will make periodic announcements about every 15 minutes, as each set of bags gets delivered to the terminal. They ask that you not leave the ship until your bag group gets called.

If you’re out of the room, but they still haven’t called your bag group, you’ll need to find somewhere to wait . In our experience, the lounges in the adult area of the ship are the most likely to have empty seats available, especially the main adult show lounge on the Magic, Wonder, Dream & Fantasy (Fathoms/Azure/Evolution/The Tube). Those are on deck 3, so you can just walk to the atrium when your group is called. On the Wish, there are fewer options on deck 3, so you may end up needing to go to another deck or sit on the floor. On the other hand, if you’re still in the dining room when they call your bag group, there’s not really any harm in waiting until you finish breakfast to disembark, assuming you don’t have transportation waiting for you. Typically they want everyone off by 9:30 am or so, so that’s your hard deadline.

When you get into the terminal, if you’re in a hurry, it’s not a bad idea to ask for a porter’s help. They’re usually lined up in the luggage area with carts, and they know the terminal well and will know if there’s any shortcuts or faster ways to get you into a cab or shuttle. They work for tips, and a typical tip is $1-2 per bag; more if they go above and beyond.

If you booked Disney’s transfers to Walt Disney World or the airport, then the timing is much more fixed. They will assign you a time to get off, and you really need to get off at that time so they can get you on the right bus. Arrange your breakfast plans accordingly.

Option 2: You Handle Your Own Bags

If you’re handling your own bags, there’s not really much you have to do the night before to prepare . Get mostly packed up the night before. Finish packing on the morning of disembarkation, get breakfast if you like, and then just leave the ship. You can leave any time after the ship is cleared, which will be 15-30 minutes after the ship is docked. They won’t necessarily announce to the whole ship that disembarkation has begun, because it’ll happen as early as 6-6:30 in the morning and they don’t want to wake everyone up with an announcement. If you can see that the ship is docked, just head down to deck 3 and wait for them to start letting folks off.

Skip the talks, except for the nature talks on the Alaska cruises, which can be excellent. The shopping talk is just a “rah-rah” for certain shops that are paying a marketing fee, and you might get a few coupons for free (junky) souvenirs. Both the shopping and disembarkation talks are replayed on the television repeatedly. Don’t waste your vacation time attending these lectures in person.

Read additional tips specific to the Disney Dream (which will also apply to the Fantasy) .

So what’s it really like to take a Disney cruise? Here are a few different perspectives on the experience:

  • A look at what’s new and different on the Disney Wish , from a preview sailing in July 2022.
  • A comparison of taking three cruises on three different ships in a six-month span between March and August 2014. It was rough, but somebody had to do it.
  • Taking a cruise on the Disney Fantasy with a baby and a 3 ½-year-old , May 2012.
  • First-hand report on the  Disney Fantasy  from March 2012: what’s new and different? See photos and learn more!
  •   First impressions of the Disney Dream , from a preview sailing in January 2011.
  • In summer 2007, friends of MouseSavers.com Ann and Danilo V wrote a travel blog about taking their 5 children to Europe for the summer. At the end of their trip they took a Disney Mediterranean cruise (10 nights roundtrip from Barcelona) in a Category 3 and a Category 4 stateroom. Then they did the 14-night Transatlantic cruise on the Disney Magic in the Walt Disney Suite!

disney cruise suggested tips

Tips for Disney Cruise: Our Advice

You’re booking your first-ever Disney Cruise.  Congratulations!  You’ve probably already covered the basics such as where does the Disney Cruise go and how long will it be… but now you’re no doubt seeking advice on just about everything else.  We’d like to help.  Everyone who’s been on a cruise has their favorite tips about unlimited ice cream, ordering two entrees at dinner, taking a day at the spa, and so forth — so we though we’d offer a few tips that you might not otherwise think of.  Consider these our “not so obvious” tips for Disney Cruise Line passengers.

Choose your Dining Time Wisely

Most dining onboard a Disney Cruise is at your leisure… show up at any time during the restaurant’s operating hours and enjoy a meal.  But dinner is the exception.

You might have heard that Disney uses a system called  rotational dining for dinner service.  You are scheduled at a different restaurant each night of the cruise, and the same service team is at that restaurant every night.  In other words, the same waiter or waitress will be with you every night for dinner, regardless of the restaurant you’re scheduled in.

When you book your cruise, you’ll be asked to pick the time you want to have dinner each night of the cruise.  You can choose either first seating (main dining, around 5:45 PM), or second seating (late dining, around 8:15).  the exact times may vary slightly by sailing.  This choice is important because you’ll be tied to it for the duration of the cruise… you can’t pick 5:45 on the first night and 8:15 on the second night.

Disney Cruise Dining Time Considerations

Early or late — which to pick?  Normally you might think the decision would be as easy as just deciding what time of day you want to eat.  But there are other factors to consider:

  • What effect will your choice have on the rest of your day’s meals?  If you’re eating dinner at 5:45, what does that mean for when you’ll need to have breakfast and lunch each day so you’re hungry at dinner time?
  • How does your dinner time match up with port visit times?  On an Alaska Cruise , for instance, early dining might mean you have to be back onboard the ship an hour or so before the “all aboard” time just to make your scheduled dinner — meaning you’re missing out on time in port.  You can see scheduled port times on your itinerary page on the Disney cruise website.
  • Your dinner time is directly correlated to the time you’ll have breakfast on the morning your cruise ends. To expedite getting everyone off the ship at the end of the cruise, everyone has breakfast at the same restaurant their rotational dinner was assigned for the prior night.  Have early dining? You’ll end up having breakfast REALLY early on the last morning of the cruise… around 6:30AM-7:00AM.  Those with the later dinner seating get to sleep in just a bit, with breakfast closer to 8:00AM on the last morning.
  • What effect will early or late dining have on your kids?  If they’ll be staying up late on the cruise, the late dining time is probably no big deal (bonus: your dinner servers can expedite serving kids during late dinner, then the Youth Club counselors will drop by to take kids off to the clubs while you finish your dinner at a leisurely pace).  If, on the other hand, your kids are zonked out by 8PM, then early dining is the way to go.
  • Do you prefer to have dinner then a show — or a show then dinner?  Each night’s big Broadway-style live entertainment is presented twice — once at around 5:30PM (for people who will be dining during the second dinner seating), and again at 8:30 (for people who dined during the first dinner seating).  If your showtime is important to you, choose your dinner time accordingly.
  • Do you plan to spend a lot of time in the nightclubs onboard the ship?  If so, early dining will let you get your meal out of the way by the time things start to heat up.
  • Remember that many people end up — well — overeating on a cruise.  Maybe having later dinner is better if you’re gorging on breakfast and lunch; or maybe you need to eat earlier so you have time to digest before bedtime.

Whichever you choose, you can always snack during the off hours to make up for any minor hungriness that might pop up in between meals.  And if there’s one time that works for  most of your cruise but not for one particular night, you can always eat dinner at a different location such as Cabanas or Marceline Market on your own schedule.

Know When To Book Onboard Experiences

Once you’ve booked your cruise and selected a dining time, you’ll probably begin thinking about when you can book onboard experiences.  These can include your scheduled port arrival time (when you’re allowed to board the ship for the very first time at the start of the cruise), adult-exclusive premium dining experiences, spa/salon treatments, port adventures ( shore excursions ), cabanas at Castaway Cay, and other activities.

Disney Cruise Line uses its Castaway Club (frequent traveler) program to determine when you can book.  Sadly, first-time cruisers are the last to book these experiences — 75 days in advance of the first day of your cruise (unless you happen to be staying in a Concierge-level room).

Because people who have sailed with Disney in the past (or are staying in Concierge Level) have booking priority upwards of 120 days in advance of sailing, first-time cruisers might find some of the most popular experiences such as Palo Brunch may be sold out by the time you can book.

Do your research ahead of time — book as soon as you’re allowed — and have alternate plans ready in case your first choice isn’t available.  If you’re not able to get what you want, check again when you get onboard.  People’s plans change all the time, so you might happen upon an unexpected opening.

An important note: regardless of when your booking date rolls around, you won’t be able to proceed with any onboard bookings if there’s an outstanding balance on your cruise fare. Plan ahead to make sure you’ve paid in full  before your onboard activity date occurs.

Save Money with an Onboard Credit

Speaking of onboard activities, here’s a great way to save money on them — get your travel agent to pay for your onboard activities!

Confused?  Here’s what we mean:

Life onboard the ship is mostly cashless — all of your onboard purchases (alcohol, premium dining, port adventures, gratuities/tips, etc.) are charged back to an in-room account, and you must pay off that account at the end of the cruise.

To entice you to book through them, some travel agents (such our partner The Vacationeer ) will pay a certain amount towards that in-room account on your behalf.  They call this an onboard credit .  It won’t reduce your cruise fare (the amount you pay to get on the ship), but it will give you a bit of cash to splurge with once you’re onboard.  That’s why many people consider a travel agent to be the best place to book a Disney Cruise .

The amount you get is directly related to the cost of your cruise and how it is booked.   The Vacationeer offers onboard credits of up to $1,000 for people who book a Disney cruise directly through them — and up to $500 for cruises that are transferred to them after being booked elsewhere.

If you already have a reservation and want an onboard credit, act quickly!  You typically have only 30 days after you make the reservation to transfer it to a travel agency so you can get the credit.  The cruise also must still have an outstanding balance — it can’t be paid in full.

Be Prepared for Your Final Night

On the final night of your cruise, you’ll be asked to pack your bags early and set them outside your room.  Your stateroom hostess will move them to the hold of the ship, where they’ll be offloaded and waiting for you inside the terminal as you debark (get off the ship) the next morning.

Sounds easy enough – but it can be a bit trickier than you might think. First, plan ahead based on when you’re asked to place the bags outside; it’s usually no later than say 10PM, which can be problematic if you have late seating for dinner.  So you might end up packing your stuff up a bit earlier than expected, which can make dressing up for the evening a bit trickier.

You also need to make sure you don’t pack away anything you need for the next 12 or so hours — but be prepared to schlep it off the ship yourself.  Think contacts, medicines, toiletries, baby supplies, jackets — and of course undies, shirts, pants, and shoes.  Forget one of those and… well, as the old comic strips used to note, “it may be comedy for you folks but it’s tragedy for me.”

Most cruisers pack their “big” bag up and send it away, using their airline carry-on as their last night’s luggage.

Be Smart With Your Flights

If you’re not fortunate enough to live within driving distance of a port, you’re likely going to be flying in.

We recommend that you NEVER plan your flight on the same day that your cruise begins. One missed connection or flight delay, and you’ve quite literally missed the boat (though they prefer you call it a “ship”).  It’s well worth the cost of one night’s hotel stay to not be sitting in the airport terminal, watching the minutes tick by, sweating if you’re going to make it to the port on time.  Plus you’ll be well-rested and can start your cruise out right.

As for returning home, it’s much less risky to fly out on the same day your cruise ends .  Just make sure you allow enough time to exit the ship, clear customs, and travel from the cruise port to the airport (Port Canaveral, FL is about an hour away from the Orlando airport).  Disney Cruise Line will often publish guidance for your cruise such as “we recommend you book your flight home no earlier than X:00 PM”.

In a Rush? Use Express Walk-Off.

Not that anyone really  wants to get off of the ship at the end of the cruise, but sometimes you might be in a hurry to do so.  Maybe your flight time is a bit too soon for comfort, or you just have other obligations to attend to.

In our prior tips, we discussed luggage handling on the final night of the cruise and your final morning’s breakfast; using Express Walk-Off throws both of those concepts completely out the porthole.

If you’re doing Express Walk-Off, there are two essential things to understand:

  • You’ll be completely responsible for getting your luggage off the ship.  Don’t put your bags outside of your room the night before, because they won’t be offloaded in time to meet you at the terminal.
  • You’ll be long gone by the time breakfast is served.  You can still grab a quick (and not very substantial) continental breakfast at Cabanas or Marceline Market, but eggs and bacon will elude you.

On the final morning of the cruise, you’ll hear an announcement — likely around 6:30 or 7:00 AM — that Express Walk-Off passengers are clear to go ashore.  That’s your cue to grab your bags and disembark.  Don’t stick around — head off the ship right away, clear Customs, and go on about your day.  Lollygag about and you’ll miss your opportunity, leaving you caught up in the crush of everyone else leaving the ship.

We hope our tips have helped you prepare for your Disney Cruise. For even more information, see  Cruising with Disney: A Complete Guide for First Time Cruisers . Bon Voyage!

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25 Best Disney Cruise Tips for First Timers

Castaway Cay Water Climbing Equipment

It’s no secret that planning a vacation can be a lot of work! But it can also be totally worth it for an unforgettable family trip.

Disney Cruise Line is the perfect option for families because the ships offer so much to see and do onboard. In addition to this onboard fun, you can visit amazing ports of call in locations all around the world.

This means Disney cruises offer activities and adventures for all guests and are sure to please everyone in your family. Before you leave to embark on your cruise, be sure to check out our Disney cruise tips and tricks below.

From the planning process to debarkation day, these tidbits of advice will help you map out the do’s and don’ts of your Disney cruise vacation. Read all about our favorite hacks for packing, dining, visiting Castaway Cay, and more in our Disney cruise tips for first timers guide!

Planning Tips for Disney Cruise First Timers

If this is your first cruise, the planning process for a Disney Cruise Line vacation may seem a bit overwhelming. However, Disney really does a great job of organizing the information you need. Below are my top tips for getting through the planning process of a Disney Cruise Line vacation.

Download the Disney Cruise Line App

We recommend downloading the app right after you initially book your cruise. In addition to the Disney Cruise Line website, the Disney Cruise Navigator App features a ton of information and features. My family and I especially love the cruise countdown on the app as it really gets the family super excited for the upcoming trip.

Disney Cruise Tips Pinterest pin

The Disney Cruise app also holds important details about your trip, including information about your account, stateroom, port adventures, and more. And once you’re onboard, you will notice it contains everything you need to know about the ship in general. You can use the Navigator App for directions, dinner rotation information, daily schedule of activities, reservations, etc.

It’s also a great way to communicate (at no extra charge) with your family members while on the ship. You and your family can text each other via the Navigator App without having to worry about using up all the data on your phone.

Use Disney Ground Transportation

Disney Cruise Line ground transfers are a super reliable and easy way to arrive and leave the port. I highly recommend adding this shuttle service to your cruise reservation, especially if you are cruising with toddlers or babies.

(Note that your travel agent would need to add this onto your reservation if you booked through an agent.)

Disney Cruise Ground Transportation

My husband and I like that the Disney shuttles take care of our luggage so that we aren’t trying to keep up with two little kids, carryon bags, AND large suitcases. If you have a family of four, these Disney buses are really cost effective as well.

You can find out more information about the pricing and other details on the official website for Disney Cruise Line.

Get an Early Port Arrival Time

We like to arrive at the port and board the ship as early as possible. This allows you to enjoy lunch and the ship’s pools before your room is ready. This early Port Arrival Time is popular, so you will want to be diligent about choosing your time as soon as its available.

This means you will want to login to your Disney account as soon as online check-in becomes available. Then, you can make sure to snag the coveted early times before they book up.

Mickey ear entrance Port Canaveral

There is a trick to getting an early port arrival and boarding time even if they are all taken by the time you check in. Guests who book the Disney Cruise Line ground transportation do not have to choose a port arrival time since you are permitted to enter the terminal when the DCL bus arrives.

Furthermore, it has been my family’s experience that when we choose to use the Disney Cruise Line ground transportation AND we book a pre-cruise hotel through Disney Cruise Line, we are also given a low boarding number for embarkation day.

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Disney Cruise Planner

Now, if you are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel before your cruise, the DCL shuttles do not pick you up super early. However, if you book one of Disney’s pre-cruise hotels near Port Canaveral, you can board the ground transfers early to be one of the first to arrive at the terminal.

Book Activities ASAP

If you’re a first-time cruiser with Disney Cruise Line, you may book certain cruise activities 75 days before cruising as long as you are paid in full. This is especially important if you are wanting to book super popular activities activities like the Princess Gathering and other character meet and greet opportunities. 

Pelican Plunge at Castaway Cay

That being said, you’ll find plenty of Disney characters available onboard and on the private island that do not require reservations. If you aren’t able to snag a reservation for something that you really want, keep checking the app for cancelations.

In addition, we highly recommend joining the Facebook group for your specific sailing as other families tend to post when they cancel a reservation, which allows you to pick one up. If all else fails, visit Guest Services once you get on the ship, and a cast member should be able to add you to a list for the activity you are wanting.

Fly in a Day Early

If you live somewhat close to your departure port, you may be tempted to fly in the morning of your cruise, but don’t do it! The weather is so unpredictable, and I’m sure you don’t want to feel stressed about missing the ship. 

Flying in the day before you are scheduled to set sail allows you extra time to ensure you make it to your final destination…the Disney cruise ship! If you would like to read reviews and tips on where to stay the night before your cruise, you can check out these posts:

  • Best Hotel before a Port Canaveral Cruise
  • Where to Stay the Night before a Miami Cruise

Best Tips for Boarding Day

The day that you finally get to board the Disney cruise ship is known as Embarkation Day . This can be a hectic day since you will be juggling your cruise documents, luggage, transportation information, and more.

Our Embarkation Day post provides a packing list for your day bag as well as tips to help the day run smoothly for your family. Below are some additional tips for boarding on embarkation day:

Wear Bathing Suits

I know you are probably wondering what to wear on your cruise. You will see all types of clothing worn on the ship. No matter how formal or casual you choose to be, you won’t be alone.

Disney Magic Pool Deck

Most of the people I see on our cruises look casual and comfortable. This is especially true on embarkation day when a lot of kids are just wearing swimsuits and coverups. As a family, we tend to wear our swim gear under our clothes.

My husband and I also like to board the ship wearing flip flops or sandals that slip off and on easily. My kids like to spend time on the pool deck after our embarkation lunch, and I usually need to take off my shoes for the splash zone and pool area. Embarkation day is a great time to experience the water slides and pools without standing in line or being surrounded by a lot of people.

Ask to Upgrade Your Room

I want to preface this by saying that you should first make sure you book a room that you are completely comfortable with. Then, you can ask the cast member who is checking you in at the port if there are any room upgrades available. 

If Disney Cruise Line has available rooms, you can choose to upgrade for significantly less than what the room regularly costs. My family and I used this trick on our most recent cruise when we upgraded at the port to a concierge-level room.

This was a huge perk as concierge guests receive a lot of additional perks. Again, this is not guaranteed and it’s not even common. So, make sure you have a room you love in case an upgrade isn’t available.

Disney Cruise Stateroom Tips

As mentioned above, even if you are planning to inquire about a room upgrade at the port, you should initially book a stateroom that meets the needs of your family. These are some of my personal guidelines for booking a stateroom. This list also includes some little known facts about your cabin:

Stay Aft or Mid-Ship

If you have never cruised before, I recommend booking a stateroom in the middle or back of the ship. This may just be a personal preference for me, but I feel the motion of the ship much more at the front.

Disney Magic Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

If you are concerned about seasickness , you may want to consider a room in an area other than the forward (front) end of the ship. We typically feel the movement a lot more when we are in a venue at the front of the ship compared to at the back (aft) or middle.

Pack Magnets

You have probably seen photos of decorations on the outside of stateroom doors. These items attach to the door with a magnet. Similarly, the walls and doors INSIDE the cabin are also magnetic. One of my favorite packing hacks is to bring magnetic hooks with us on our cruises. You can stick them to the walls and doors in the stateroom to hold all kinds of things.

We hang our wet swimsuits, hats, towels, etc. on these hooks. I also use the magnetic hooks on the bathroom door in our cabin. This is a great place to hold an over-the-door shoe organizer. You can store all kinds of things in the shoe organizer from hairbrushes to sunscreen to toiletries.

Memorize Your Room Number

You will be asked for your room number often during your cruise vacation. For example, when you are in line to take pictures with characters, the photographer will need your stateroom number. It’s a good idea to memorize the room number early on so that you can quickly recite it when a crew member asks.

Disney Cruise Dining Tips and Tricks

The dining rooms on the Disney cruise ships provide really great food, service, and entertainment. The rotational dining method that DCL uses can seem confusing if you are a first time cruiser. Below are some of our top tips for dining on your Disney Cruise Line vacation.

Get on the Waitlist

Depending on when you book your cruise, the main dinner seating may be full. If you would prefer your family eat at the main dining time (around 5:45) rather than at the second seating (around 8:15), call Disney Cruise Line and ask to be put on the waiting list.

Rapunzel’s Dinner Show on the Disney Magic

Then, check your online Disney Cruise Line account often (like daily). Sometimes the early time opens up, and it will randomly become an option for you to choose in your account. (This happened for me on my last cruise at about 30 days before sailing.)

If you really need the early dining time and it does not open up in the app, just check the appointment spot for dining requests on embarkation day. You will see a time and place to make dining requests onboard.

↓↓ Visit My Etsy Shop ↓↓

To make changes onboard, you just stand in line until you can meet with the cast member in charge to request early seating. Disney has always been able to meet our request on board; although, we tend to sail during the off-peak season.

If you are okay with eating at the later dining time, many avid cruisers actually prefer it. The dining rooms tend to feel less crowded and rushed during this time.

Request a Private Table

If you would rather eat at a table with only your travel party and not with strangers, you can mark this request in the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App. Disney will not guarantee to grant this request; but, they will do their best to make it happen.

Disney Cruise Line ship, bathroom, water slide, and Mickey Mouse with text Disney Cruise Tips and Hacks

On embarkation day, you will receive a paper newsletter (called a Personal Navigator) that lists a meeting place and time for dining changes. You can go to this location at the specified time to confirm your request for a private table was granted. 

Specialty Drinks include Tips

If you order an adult beverage or a specialty kid’s drink, a gratuity is automatically applied to the price. When you get your receipt, make sure you don’t double tip…unless you just want to.

Best Tips for Castaway Cay

If you are lucky enough to visit Castaway Cay on your cruise, you won’t be disappointed! Disney’s private island in the Bahamas provides stunning beaches and lots of fun activities. You will find some great tips for visiting Castaway Cay below. (Since I have a toddler, some of the tips are baby or toddler specific.)

Borrow a Stroller

If you don’t want to bring a stroller from home for your young children, you can borrow one from Guest Services. They will charge your account $250 for the stroller, but DCL will remove the charge once the stroller is returned.

Strollers wagons and wheelchairs on Castaway Cay

The ship strollers are City Mini Baby Joggers. We had to fold it up before fitting it through the stateroom door on the Disney Magic, but they are super easy to collapse.

The stroller can then be stored in your room, under the bed, or even in the closet. If you are cruising with a little one but don’t want to borrow a stroller on the ship, you can grab any of the available strollers or wagons on Castaway Cay to use for free on the island.

Sit near the Climbing Feature

Castaway Cay has a climbing feature that’s perfect for young kids just off the shore of one of the family beaches. The beach and water in front of this play zone often has far fewer people than other areas on the island.

Castaway Cay Climbing Feature

Even at prime beach time, you should be able to find loads of seats and umbrellas in this area. If your kids enjoy climbing, you can easily monitor them from the beach in this area.

Pack Water Shoes

The sand and water at Castaway Cay is often full of tiny (and sometimes sharp) shells. You can get by without water shoes if you are careful. However, you may want to add them to your beach bag for peace of mind and for your kids’ feet. 

Disney Cruise Packing Tips and Hacks

Below you will find some brief notes on packing tips and hacks for your Disney Cruise Line vacation. For a full guide to packing, we suggest checking out our post that includes a free printable Disney Cruise packing list . In that post, we list all the essentials you need for your trip. Plus, we explain the reasoning behind some of the really unique items be make sure to take with us!

Bring $1 Bills

We often find that we need dollar bills for tipping various people throughout our trip. These are some of the positions we tipped on our last cruise:

  • motor coach driver who drove us to the port
  • porter who handled our bags at the port 
  • $1 per item ordered from room service
  • motor coach driver who drove us to the airport

We also added cash to the gratuity envelopes for our room host and dining servers. Note that you do not need to add additional tips to these envelopes unless you feel you received exemplary service. The regular tip amount is fine to leave. For more information, please check out our post on Disney Cruise gratuities .

Pack an Embarkation Day Bag

Your room probably won’t be ready until 1:30, and your luggage may not arrive until after dinner. So, pack a carryon bag for boarding the ship in case you need certain items before your luggage arrives.

Insider Tips for Shows

The Broadway style shows on Disney Cruise Line provide really great family entertainment that kids of all ages can enjoy. Here are a few tips for visiting the theater and enjoying onboard activities:

Arrive Early

The seats in the theater fill up during the nightly live shows. We try to arrive 15-20 minutes before the show starts to make sure we find seats together as a family. My kids typically don’t mind being seated early as we bring snacks and coloring books to entertain them before the show starts.

Grab a Booster Seat

I have a six year old who is really small for her age. My husband likes to grab a booster seat for her to sit on during the shows. You can get a booster seat at the entrance to the theater each night. This allows little ones to better see the stage from their seats. 

Pack Snacks and Drinks

You can purchase popcorn, candy, and drinks right outside the theater at Preludes . However, you are welcome to bring your own snacks as well. This is a great way to save money and stay on budget for your cruise! Just make sure any food you bring on board is pre-packaged as you are not permitted to carry on opened or homemade items.

Last Minute Tips and Advice for First Time Cruisers

These are some miscellaneous bits of advice for your first time cruising with Disney Cruise Line.

Return the Kids Club Band

If you receive a bracelet for the kids club (similar to a Magic Band at Disney World) for your child, make sure you return it to the club by the last day of your cruise. If you don’t, Disney Cruise Line will charge your account for the bracelet. 

Grab a Paper Navigator

The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App is a great resource while on the cruise. However, I still prefer to have a paper copy of the daily personal navigator. You can easily pick up your Navigator at Guest Services each day.

Disney Cruise Personal Navigator

You do not have to wait in line to do this. Guest Services should have a stack of Navigators set out for guests to freely grab and go.

If your final cruise day is at a port like Castaway Cay, it may be tempting to leave the packing until later so you can enjoy the beach. However, if you want Disney Cruise Line to handle your luggage on debarkation day , it needs to be packed and in the hallway that last night. 

Give yourself plenty of time to pack your bags and set them in the hallway by the luggage pickup time. This will help the end of the cruise and disembarkation day run much more smoothly. There’s nothing worse than spending your last night on board rushing to pack rather than enjoying the final entertainment options available with your family.

Schedule a Character Call

Disney Cruise Line provides two free calls from characters prior to your cruise. Depending on when you are cruising, you can receive a call from Goofy, Mickey, or Minnie. On a special note, if you are sailing on a holiday themed itinerary, you may be able to receive a unique holiday call from characters!

Don’t Stress about Laundry

If you are sailing on a longer Disney Cruise itinerary, you may feel uncertain about how to handle laundry on the ship. I assure you this process is super simple! You can read our full guide to Disney cruise laundry here , but I will briefly explain the process. We carry a bag of dirty clothes to the launderette onboard.

disney cruise detergent machine in laundry room

You use the digital screen to purchase the use of the washer and/or dryer. (The price is actually super reasonable, which you can read about in the post linked above.) Disney has all the detergents and things you need for an additional small fee. You then receive a message via the Navigator App once your clothes are finished washing.

You can then move them to the dryer where you’ll receive a second message once they are dry. If you prefer not to do your own laundry onboard, Disney Cruise Line offers full service laundry services as well.

Final Thoughts on Disney Cruise Tips and Tricks

I hope you found these tips for your first Disney cruise really helpful! Sailing with Disney Cruise Line is the most fun and relaxing way to travel. Whether you’re looking for pre-cruise advice or tips to use onboard, the information above should come in handy.

We hope your vacation runs smoothly with our planning and packing hacks. Once you are cruising with Disney , you’ll realize just how special a Disney Cruise Line vacation truly is.

Have a magical trip!

Shari is an experienced planner and organizer for Disney vacations, cruising, and U.S. travel. Her family vacation information, reviews, and tips provide insight for moms and dads everywhere. You can read more about her story, including her journey through breast cancer, in the about me page.

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Travel and Fun Things To Do

Disney Cruise Tips and Tricks

Disney Cruise Castaway Cay

Updated February 22, 2024

So, you have booked a Disney Cruise and are now looking for tips and tricks to help your cruise go smoothly.

Learn More About Your Ship

Disney Cruise Line has five ships; Magic , Wonder , Dream , Fantasy , Wish and this year, the Treasure ; each has unique features. Learn more about each ship by following the links.

Join Your Facebook Group

The first thing I recommend doing after booking a cruise is to join the Facebook group for your cruise. This will allow you to get to know some of the people you are cruising with. It is a great resource to learn more about your sailing. Usually, group members will remind you about important dates like the date to pay in full “PIF”, book excursions and onboard activities, and check-in.  You can find your cruise groups for each ship; Magic , Wonder , Dream , Fantasy , and Wish .

If you are travelling to Europe, I recommend joining The Disney Cruise Mediterranean, Greek Isles, and Europe Cruise Planning Group .

Disney Cruise Fish extender gifts

If you want to participate in the gift exchange or “ Fish Extender Exchange,.” You would sign up in your cruise group. You can find other exchanges there, like magnet and candy exchanges.

Check Out Your Stateroom

Did you book a special room like a secret porthole room on the Magic or Wonder? You can often find YouTube videos of many staterooms .

Cruise Essentials

Next up, start to think about what you need for the cruise. Check and see what I think are essentials for the cruise . If you are going to dine at any of the Adult venues (Palo and Palo’s Steakhouse, Remy’s, Enchanté), make sure you are familiar with the dress code. Disney Cruise is one of the few cruise lines with DIY laundry rooms . It is handy when travelling with kids and means you could pack less. Ensure you know the dress code for the different dining venues and specialty nights.

Disney Cruise Castaway Cay Bahamas

Book Your Activities, Excursions, and Character Meets

When your booking window opens, book what you want to do first. When you can book, activities depend on your Castaway Club status . Know which days you are in port and which excursions are available on your cruise. Book any adult dining and beverage-tasting seminars. This will also be your first chance to book time at the spa. If you are travelling with any 3 and under, book time in the nursery. If you travel with anyone 12 and under, don’t forget to check out the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique . Guests over three years old check out the Pirate League on the day of the Pirate Deck Party.

Disney Cruise Chocolate and Liquor tasting

Don’t forget to book any character meets you may want to do. There will be many opportunities to meet characters on the ship, but Disney will have meetups you can pre-book. In the past, they have been for princesses and Frozen characters. You will have other choices if you go on a themed cruise, Marvel, Star Wars, or Pixar.

Learn more about Disney’s newest ship, the Wish .

Learn about Castaway Cay if your ship is stopping there. 

Disney Cruise Meeting Captain Mickey

Explore Food and Dining Options

Are you wondering what the food choices will be on the cruise? Check out the menus . Learn about rotational dining and dining seating .

See what the dessert experience at Remy is like.

Disney Cruise Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower

Thirty days before your cruise, you will be able to check-in . Make sure you know what identification you need and have it ready.  

Add any pre- or post- transfers or pre-pay your gratuities before you sail. 

Getting to the Port

Learn about taking Disney transfers to the port.

Prepare for Boarding Day

When your boarding day finally arrives, ensure you have all your documents, arrive at your Port Arrival Time and know what you can pack in your carry-on. Once on the ship, remember you cannot do everything. Make sure you take some time to relax and enjoy yourself .

Castaway Cay Bahamas

Don’t forget to get a placeholder to book a future cruise at a discount. 

Learn about the Disney Wonder will be sailing transpacific cruises in 2023 , followed by cruises sailing from Australia and New Zealand. Also, Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Treasure , is coming in 2024.

Finally, sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest Disney Cruise News , Rumours , discounts and tips and tricks .

This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning, that if you make a purchase through my links, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support of this site.

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The Best First Time Disney Cruise Tips

The Best First Time Disney Cruise Tips

Embarking on your first Disney Cruise? Here are our BEST Disney Cruise Tips for Total Beginners. Much like any Disney Vacation, the more you know before you go, the better. This list will help you navigate dining, boarding, activities, money, ports, and more. Here are some Disney Cruise tips to know before you go!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission for purchases made at no cost to you, see our disclosures.

Disney Cruise Line Disney Fantasy

Disney Cruises have become some of our favorite types of vacations. Every Disney cruise we’ve taken has been nothing short of magical! But there is a bit of a learning curve for first time Disney cruisers, especially if you’ve never cruised at all before this! We’re sharing some of our favorite tips for beginners on Disney Cruise Line. We have been lucky enough to have sailed on all five Disney Cruise ships. So we hope this post helps you feel more prepared for your next Disney cruise. 

Disney Cruise Line Disney Fantasy

  • 1 Tips For Planning for a Disney Cruise
  • 2 Tips for Choosing a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise
  • 3 Tips for once you’re onboard a Disney Cruise 
  • 4 Tips to Save Money on a Disney Cruise
  • 5 Tips For Tipping on a Disney Cruise
  • 6 Tips For Internet on a Disney Cruise
  • 7 Tips for Dining on a Disney Cruise
  • 8 Tips for Excursions on a Disney Cruise
  • 9 Tips for Kids Clubs on a Disney Cruise
  • 10 Tips for Adults on a Disney Cruise
  • 11 Tips for Meeting Characters on a Disney Cruise
  • 12 Tips for Packing for a Disney Cruise

Tips For Planning for a Disney Cruise

Here are a few basic Disney Cruise Line tips to help you navigate the waters of being prepared for your cruise!

Book your Disney Cruise through a Travel Planner

Booking through a travel agent is one of the easiest ways to make the trip planning process go smoothly. They can help you choose an itinerary, choose a stateroom, help you prepare for your trip, offer tips and suggestions and best of all, travel agents are free to use! They will also monitor the price of your cruise so that you get the best deal possible. And many travel agents offer extra perks like onboard credit .  There’s really not a lot of reason not to use a travel agent, even if you’re someone who prefers to do most of the planning yourself. You’re paying for a travel agent with your cruise fare whether or not you actually use one. So you might as well take advatage of their services. 

What is the best length of trip for a Disney Cruise?

This will depend a lot on what kind of vacation you’re looking for. But in general, we recommend not planning any less than a 4-night cruise. The reason for this is that generally, a 3-night cruise does not allow for any days at sea. Part of what you’re paying for on a Disney Cruise is to enjoy the ship and on the 3-night cruises, you just don’t get much opportunity to do that.  We love the longer cruises and always opt for those if it’s possible. But for a first timer we think no less than a 4-night cruise is a great place to start. 

Check-in for your Disney Cruise 30 days before 

Check-in for your Disney Cruise starts as early as 40 days before the start of your cruise. This is depend solely on your Castaway Club status . Pearl and Concierge can check in 40 days beforehand. Platinum at 38 days. Gold at 35 days. Silver at 33 days. And first time sailors at 30 days.  If you’re hoping to get an early Port Arrival Time, you’ll want to check in as soon as that window opens, which is 12am EST. You can learn all about the check in process on Disney Cruise Line here .  

Choose the best Port Arrival Time for YOU

When you check-in online you choose a Check-In time. This is not your boarding time, but rather the time you can arrive at the cruise terminal and begin the check-in process.  We like to choose an earlier time if possible, so that we can grab lunch onboard, and explore the ship before it gets too crowded. Many cruisers even go straight to the pool right away! Which why we recommend bringing your swim gear in your Disney Cruise carry on .  However, keep in mind, the best port arrival time is the one you can actually stick to. If you arrive too early, they’ll turn you away and you’ll just cause more congestion at the terminal. If you show up late, you may have to wait until even later to board. 

Choose the best port arrival time for, and your check in at the terminal will go smoothly. 

If you’re taking the Disney Cruise Line bus from a Walt Disney World Resort or airport , you can just choose the earliest time you see available.  When you arrive at port with the Disney Cruise Line bus is when they allow you to start checking in. So you’re not held to the same time restrictions as those arriving by other means. 

The Boarding Process on Disney Cruise Line

The Boarding Process is one of those things that you worry about way too much, and then when the time arrives, you realize it was actually really easy.  Be sure to have your cruise documents ready when you arrive so checking in at the port goes smoothly. The boarding process will vary slightly from port to port, but here is the general idea of how you can expect it to go. 

Updated Boarding Process at Port Canaveral for 2023

Boarding at Port Canaveral is currently slightly a bit different. When you arrive, you’ll be sorted into lines based on your port arrival time. Disney Bus cruisers, this doesn’t apply to you. When it’s time for you to enter the building, you’ll actually check in at the desk first. Be sure to have your cruise documents out. You’ll be given a boarding number at this point. Once you’ve been checked in, you’ll proceed through security, and then up the escalator to the terminal. Here you’ll wait until your boarding group has been called and then you can get on the ship!

You also no longer get your Key to the World card prior to boarding. These are left at your stateroom door and you can pick them up when you get on the ship. 

Boarding Process Steps (Pre-pandemic- will vary slightly to 2023)

  • Arrive at the cruise terminal
  • Leave checked luggage(with the proper luggage tags for your cruise ship attached) with a porter.
  • Then, you’ll be directed to a security checkpoint.
  • After you’ve gone through security, which is very similar to airport-style security, you’ll again be directed to the appropriate line for Check-In!
  • At this point, you will need passports (or whatever type of travel I.D. your cruise destination requires) as well as your cruise documents. P.S. The mysterious cruise documents will be different based on your situation and cruise choice. You will have received your Disney cruise line pamphlet in the mail, and believe it or not, if you open that baby up— it’s got a list of the documents you will need! All we needed was our passports and signed documents from the My Disney Cruise Line site. The documents mostly state we understand the charging privileges and the hazardous materials rules.
  • Then it’s photo time. You don’t have to have your photo taken, but you can if you want. 
  • You’re then given your Key to the World card and a boarding number.
  • Wait for your number to be called

And you’re done!

Know what Cruise Documents You Need

Every Disney cruise will require your check in form as part of your Disney Cruise documents. This can be printed off once you’ve checked in, or you can just show the QR code on your phone at port.  In addition to this, know what forms of identification you’ll need. Most closed loop US cruises (meaning they begin and end at the same port in the US) only require a government issued birth certificate and photo ID. You’ll receive information regarding what types of identification you’ll need from Disney Cruise Line, but this information is also available on the Disney Cruise Line website.

However, it’s extremely important to understand why you might want to bring a passport instead. A Passport is generally going to be safer and make check in easier. But also, in the rare case of an emergency, if you needed to be transported back to the US via air transport, a passport would be required to enter the country. Birth certificates and enhanced driver’s licenses are only accepted at land and sea crossings. We recommend you read all about what documentation you need for a cruise here so you can make the best decision.  We personally always take our passports on our cruises just to be safe!

Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App

This is a must do and we highly recommend downloading the Disney Cruise app before setting sail. At home, you can manage your reservations, book port adventures, see your itinerary and more.  And there’s a super cute countdown on the app that can help get you in the Disney mood. 

Once you’ve set sail, the Disney Cruise Line app is the only thing that can be used on the ship’s Wi-Fi for free. Well, kind of. iMessage also tends to work on the ship’s Wi-fi but it’s spotty.  Disney Cruise Line has recently gotten rid of paper navigators and now requires the use of the app to access the daily schedule.

The Disney Cruise Line app has tons of useful information. And you’ll likely use it most of your trip. Things like your dining rotation, activities and even the drink of the day are listed here. We recommend taking a look the day before or in the morning to see what your day will look like. You can favorite activities, keep track of planned onboard fun and port adventure times, and find out when characters will be available. 

Disney Cruise Line Disney Fantasy

Tips for Choosing a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise

Choosing a stateroom on a Disney Cruise can be a tough decision. We always recommend looking online for room reviews, photos, videos or anything you can find. Not all rooms are made alike! We have an entire post about how to choose a stateroom, because there’s a lot that goes into it. If you’re working with a travel agent for your Disney Cruise , they can help you find the best room based on your preferences and budget. 

Other things to consider are which floor you want to be on, which side of the ship you want to be on and what things you want to be near, or away from. 

Is a porthole or verandah room worth the extra cost on a Disney Cruise?

Wondering how to Choose a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise ? There’s a lot that determines which kinds of Disney Cruise stateroom is best. But depending on your itinerary, length of cruise and just personal preference, it definitely could be!

This is actually a pretty highly debated topic in Disney Cruise Line Facebook groups. Should you spend the extra money for that porthole? Or even the verandah? This is a very personal preference and will really depend on how you vacation. We personally love going back to our stateroom to recharge, so for us, having that beautiful ocean view out of a porthole in the comfort of our room was really priceless.

If you don’t plan to spend any time in your room, we would recommend saving the extra money and option for an inside stateroom or porthole. Obviously, some people need a window (me) and others need quick access to fresh air. So both of these things can be a deciding factor in your choice. We’ve stayed in both a verandah room and a porthole and don’t regret the cost of either. That being said, I don’t think I’d personally spend the extra money on a verandah for a shorter cruise, but again, it’s a personal preference!

Disney Cruise Line Tips for beginners, disney cruise tips, disney cruise for beginners, dinsye cruise line, DCL tips

Tips for once you’re onboard a Disney Cruise 

You’re onboard the ship, hooray! Here are a few Disney Cruise tips to help you once onboard.

Attending the Safety Assembly on a Disney Cruise ship

The only thing you HAVE TO DO on a Disney Cruise is attend the safety assembly. If you do nothing else, you must go to the safety assembly on the first day. It will be on your navigator and is usually around 4 p.m. If you don’t go, they will come find you. This is serious business and the only thing you absolutely have to do while onboard. You don’t have to disembark at the port, you don’t have to go to dinner, you don’t have to go to the shows or participate in any of the activities, but you do have to go to the assembly. It is mandatory.

Make sure to see the shows onboard the Disney Cruises

Even if you choose to do nothing all day but lay by the pool and relax, you need to take the hour out of your evening and attend the live shows. They are incredible and so fun. We have been to Broadway and seen shows there, so we can honestly tell you that the talent, costumes, and stage sets are all right up there with the best of them.

We were lucky enough to see Frozen in its inaugural year on the Disney Wonder. And if you think you’ve seen Frozen or heard the song Let it Go too many times, you’re wrong. This show blew my mind! We also had the pleasure of seeing a new Beauty and the Beast show on the Disney Dream and it was one of the most fantastic shows we’ve ever seen. We only met a few other people who chose not to go to the shows, and they regretted not going. If you find after going one night that it’s not for you, that’s fine! But give it a try. You probably won’t regret it. 

And get there early! We recommend about 30 mins early if you want a good seat as seats do fill up quickly, especially on the smaller ships.

Explore the Ship or Take a Ship Tour

If you’ve never sailed on a cruise before, some of the lingo can be difficult to get used to. What the heck is starboard? Where is the Aft? There are maps all over the Disney Cruise ships, learn them. Disney does offer walking tours of the boat on the first day to help you get acquainted with your ship. Or you can do this on your own! We highly recommend this little walkabout. Sure, it may cut in a little to your first day on the boat, but it will keep you from getting lost later.

On our Very Merrytime Cruise long ago , we found out that the Disney Dream has a fun Mid-ship Detective Agency game that helped us orient ourselves to the boat and have a blast at the same time.  This game is only available on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy ; but we highly recommend taking time to play them if you have the chance!

Know when the Onboard Shopping is available

Forget your swimsuit, sandals, or sunscreen and want to buy it on board? Or maybe you saw the cutest sun hat that you’d love to wear at Castaway Cay in the shops on the cruise ship. It’s important to know when the shops are open for business so you can plan accordingly, especially if you’re buying something you need. As a general rule, the shops will be open at sea, and closed when at ports. Specific gift shop hours can be found in the Disney Cruise Line App and at the individual shops.

This is especially important for those taking a 3-night cruise.  The 3-night cruises go FAST, like really fast, and the shops are only open for a short time during the entire itinerary since they’re closed at port. So, if you’re hoping for some souvenirs, we recommend learning when the shops will be open, and plan to wait in line. 

Make time to relax on your Disney Cruise 

Make time to relax! There is so much to see and do on a Disney Cruise ship, but there are also so many opportunities to take a little break from doing anything at all. On our last cruise on the Disney Wish, we spent about 45 minutes at the very front of the ship just enjoying the view. You can only do this on the Disney Wish , and honestly, it’s pretty cool! 

Understand how Rotational Dining Works

Disney Cruise Line uses a unique strategy for dining called rotational dining. Each night you’ll rotate to one of the three main restaurants onboard, and your servers rotate with you. This gives everyone the chance to experience every restaurant, and your servers will get to know you. They’ll get to know what you like and what you don’t like, and they really make the Disney Difference on these ships. You can read all about Rotational Dining Here . 

Start Early to Beat the Crowds

Plan to be early everywhere. Arrive early for the shows. And early for Pool Time. Or early for Trivia. If you guys follow any of our tips regarding beating the crowds at Walt Disney World , you know we ALWAYS recommend getting an early start. There’s good reason we never stop saying this. Because it actually works for just about every situation. Disney Cruises are no different. The main pool area, which is also where you can grab unlimited soft serve, quick-serve meals and watch movies all day, gets very busy especially on Sea Days. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, get there before 11 am. This will ensure that you can grab a seat and enjoy the ambiance. Or just relax for a few moments before the crowds really start arriving. The pool area is busiest from 11 am-3 pm most of the time, and it can get pretty packed. 

Alternatively, if you are traveling sans children or your kids are in the kids clubs, the adult-only area is usually pretty calm and serene. So hopping over to that side is a great way to give yourself a break from the crowds.

The only exception to this is meals. You don’t really need to arrive early unless you want to. The doors don’t open until just a couple minutes before dinner has started, so if you arrive early, you’ll likely just be waiting around with everyone else. This is one scenario when arriving right on time will make you wait the least. 

Decorate your Cruise Ship Door

You can make door decorations to spruce up your door. We always make our door decorations and love coming up with different ideas and themes. Or if you’re not as crafty, or just don’t have time, there are plenty to be found on Etsy.  Many other people bring magnets, garland and other decorations. It’s an easy way to add a little extra magic to your cruise! And helps you find your door too.  The hallways are long and seem never-ending and the door magnets will help you find your way!

Watch the Cruise Ship Morning Show

Every morning, the cruise director and activities director will air a 15 minute-ish show on your cruise TV from 6 am-noon. This little show gives you all the info of everything that is happening onboard that day. Our cruise director was hilarious and we absolutely loved this show as something to watch while we were getting ready. 

Be Prepared for Sea Sickness on a Disney Cruise 

Let me tell you a little story called “I don’t get seasick”. Once upon a time, there were two sisters who thought they didn’t suffer from what some people call seasickness. They happily enjoyed their Disney Cruise for three whole days feeling fantastic. On the fourth night, however, their cruise ship was cruising at 21 knots to get back to Port Canaveral on time the next day and suddenly they began to feel much less than fantastic and had to lie down. They even missed a meal and ordered room service because they just couldn’t walk around the boat anymore feeling queasy. Luckily they had brought Sea Bands and were feeling better after a while. But it was a close call.

We had an itinerary that was pretty tight and had to make it back to port at a certain time. So, we had to go full speed ahead on our last night and it left the ride pretty bumpy. We had brought Sea Bands as a “just in case” and were so glad we did. You can also bring Dramamine or any other motion sickness OTC if you prefer that route. Sea-Bands are even great for kids, so grab some just in case.  Check out what to buy before your Disney Cruise so you can go prepared. 

Attend Pirate Night on your Disney Cruise

If traveling in the Caribbean you will have the chance to take part in Pirate Night. Pirate Night is one of our favorite activities on a Disney Cruise! Dress up as little or as much you want but either way Pirate Night is lots of fun. They have a special Pirates of the Caribbean menu for dinner too. Plus, you can get special Pirate themed treats later at night. Play Pirate games and attend a Pirate dance party. The famous fireworks usually happen at 10:30 pm over the water which are just amazing! Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line that is currently allowed to shoot fireworks at sea, so don’t miss it. It’s a lot of fun. So just trust us and go. 

If you’re sailing on any Disney Cruise ship except the Disney Wish, there is a late-night pirates buffet at Cabanas.  We are hoping that Marceline Market will later have this available on the Disney Wish too!

Get to know your Waitstaff and Room Host

Your waitstaff and room host/hostess will be with you throughout your entire trip. Even though you will not be in the same restaurant the whole time, your servers are scheduled on the same rotation as you are. So basically, you will see them every day. Unless you skip dinner of course. Get to know them; they are invaluable resources for excursion recommendations, newbie questions, best places to see the fireworks from the boat, best things to do at the port, etc. They’re extremely interesting people and love to interact. We learned so much from the friendly staff on board that it really is the equivalent of having your own tour guide. They’ll be excited to share their experiences and thrilled to hear yours. Many of them are from all over the world so take the time to get to know them, you’ll be glad you did.

Donald Duck Coffee Art Cove Cafe on Disney Wonder

Tips to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

Cruising with Disney on a budget ?  Here are a few things to know that can help you avoid sticker shock at the end of your cruise. 

Know What’s Included in your Disney Cruise Line Vacation

A Disney Cruise is generally all inclusive!   But that doesn’t mean that it includes everything. There are some things completely excluded. Knowing this ahead of time will save you a lot of time and heartache later. All of your meals, soft drinks from the drink station, hot cocoa, tea and coffee from the drink station, soft-serve ice cream from Eye Scream, kids clubs, and main evening entertainment are included. 

What’s not included on a Disney Cruise 

Most of your everyday items and services are included on a Disney Cruise vacation. However, there are some things that aren’t. Things like alcoholic drinks, specialty coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies are all available for an extra cost. If you decide to eat at Palo or Remy, fine dining experiences are not included, so if you plan to indulge in either (or both!) of those, plan for an additional cost. Here you can find a full list of everything that’s not included on a Disney Cruise .

  Port Excursions you want to participate in at your port of call or Castaway Cay (like snorkeling) are also extra. Spa services and gratuities are also not included. Room service is included, but the gratuities for it are not.  Most activities are included, however, occasionally there are some that are not. Things like alcohol tastings generally will cost you more and are anywhere from $25 per person to $55 per person. The Royal tea for little ones is also an additional cost.  Movie theater snacks like popcorn cost extra as well, though you’re also welcome to bring your own snacks in.  Wifi is also not free.

The Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wish all have sweet shoppes that include items at additional cost. Onboard the Disney Fantasy, you can find specialty items at Sweet on You. And onboard the Disney Dream, Vanellope’s is home to gelato, cupcakes, cookies and more. 

Now, don’t get us wrong, we love to treat ourselves on vacation. But if you’re trying to keep your spending in check onboard your Disney Cruise, you can easily avoid many of these charges by replacing them with the free options instead. 

Bring your own Snacks to the Movie Theater and Stage Shows

If you’re planning to attend the nightly stage shows(which, yes, you are) or if you’re going to the movie theater, don’t feel obligated to purchase snacks at the concession stand. These are not free unless you’re sailing concierge. And you can actually bring your own snacks into the theater! Another fun tip about the concession stand onboard Disney Cruise ships …. you can get many of those coveted popcorn buckets onboard! They’re usually cheaper on a Cruise than inside the Disney Parks. Which is a great bonus and you do get refills for less too! And if you want to save even more on popcorn, you can actually bring your own Disney Parks popcorn bucket to get inexpensive refills as well!

You can bring alcohol on a Disney Cruise

Disney Cruise Line actually allow guests 21 years and older to bring their own wine, champagne and beer on board. If you are planning to drink while on your Disney Cruise vacation, but want to stick to a budget, we recommend bringing some of your own alcohol. While the drinks on the cruise ship are delicious, they are expensive and can add up quickly. Alcohol must be brought in carry-on luggage and wine and champagne come with an extra corking fee. There are limits to this of course.  For Disney Cruise Line’s full alcohol policy, click here.

Bring your own bottled water on a Disney Cruise 

You can also bring your own bottled water onboard a Disney Cruise. This can save you a lot of money if you prefer bottled water, because the bottled water onboard is a bit expensive.  You can bring one case of bottled water and it must be sealed and in the original packaging.  You can find more information about bringing bottled water on your Disney Cruise here . Alternatively, you can also just bring a water bottle and refill it at the drink stations for free. 

You can also purchase bottled water onboard.  But know the case of bottled water on board can be expensive so if you choose to go that route, be sure to budget it in. You can also order this for your stateroom ahead of time via the Disney Cruise Line website. 

Bring a Water Bottle

As we mentioned previously, you are allowed to bring your own bottled water onboard. You can also just bring a water bottle. Drink stations are open on the top deck 24/7, so you can fill up your water bottle pretty much any time. 

Book your Next cruise BEFORE you disembark

If you LOVED your Disney Cruise and want to start planning another, the best time to book is while you’re still on the boat! This is one of our best ways to get a Disney Cruise on a Budget. Disney Cruise Line offers a discounted deposit, a percentage off your next cruise and on rare occasions, a stateroom credit on your next booking. This is very easy to do! All you have to do is go into your Disney Cruise line app, and there will be a button that says “save 10% on your next cruise”. Click that, and make your deposit. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive an email stating that you have booked a placeholder. 

After you’ve received that email, you can either forward the info to your Disney Travel agent , so that they can take care of the reservation for you; or you can call into Disney Cruise Line yourself when you’re ready to choose your specific itinerary for the discounted cruise. 

Disney Cruise Line Disney Fantasy

Tips For Tipping on a Disney Cruise

Tipping on a Disney Cruise is always a bit elusive! Especially since you have so many people helping you. Your waitstaff alone consists of at least three people. 

How do you tip on a Disney Cruise?

Seriously, this may be the most important tip on this list! Or at least the one that will save your eyes from bleeding when you see your post-cruise final bill. As far as gratuities are concerned, Disney Cruise Line automatically figures a tip amount for your head server, assistant server, server, and room host/hostess.  Typically the gratuities are $14.50 dollars per person, per night. So, if you know how many nights you’re sailing, and how many people you’re bringing, you can do the math and add it to your Disney Cruise Budget .  You can find the current gratuities for Disney Cruise Line here . 

As a courtesy, Disney Cruise Line will charge the default amount to your account at the end of the trip for all these servers. You can choose to change your default tip amount at the concierge desk onboard. You can add more or less, it’s up to you. So if you feel a specific server or host deserved a different tip than the automatic amount, just be sure to settle it with guest services before you disembark.

Gratuities for other services on Disney Cruise Line

For all other gratuities, like for spa services and some of the specialty drink locations, even on Castaway Cay (if you’re going there) the tip will be built in. It will show you on the receipt and is usually calculated at 18%. Again, if you want to tip higher, just add in the amount you want to tip, otherwise, it is already figured for you.  You can add additional gratuity to these charges; but you don’t have to. 

Is cash accepted onboard a Disney Cruise?

Nope! The most accepted form of payment is your Key to the World card. That said, you use your Key to the World card just like you would a magic band at Disney Parks. Your credit card is attached to it. You can choose to settle your account with cash but this is done at Guest Services at the end of your trip. You can also settle your onboard account with Disney Gift cards, but again you just have to do this at guest services. Or they will charge the card on file. Everything charged during your stay will be a part of this bill. Because of this we highly recommend that you have your Key to the World card on you at all times.

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Tips For Internet on a Disney Cruise

You’re on a Disney Cruise, you don’t need the internet right?! As much as we believe in the power of unplugging, we know it’s not always possible.  Unlike some other cruise lines, Disney WiFi is not free and is not included with your cruise fare. Here are a few tips on using the internet onboard your Disney Cruise. 

The Wi-Fi on a Disney Cruise Can Be Expensive

Wifi has recently changed on Disney Cruise ships, and it’s a little better than it once was. Prices range from $12 per day-$36 per day. We found that anything less than the Basic Plan at $24 per day, was kind of useless.  But that is just our experience!

The Wi-Fi on a Disney Cruise can be pretty bad

We learned this the hard way when we got stuck at sea during hurricane season on the Disney Wish .  We had no intention of purchasing WiFi, but since we do most of our work online, when we saw that we would have an additional 2 days at sea, we realized quickly that we needed Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, everyone else realized this at the same time. And the WiFi was quite difficult to get working properly. 

Get an international data pan for WiFi onboard the Disney Cruise ships

Do you really need Wi-Fi? Maybe check with your phone provider for international packages that could be cheaper. Verizon currently offers Travel Pass, which is an add-on that will allow you to use your phone abroad for $10/day on your current plan. So if you normally have 4 GB/month, you can use Travel Pass just as you would at home and it will just deduct that from your regular monthly data allowance. Another option is renting or buying Skyroam. Skyroam is a hotspot that will tap into another country’s Wi-Fi without racking up those international fees on your phone bill. The biggest issue with Skyroam and other alternative options is that it will not work at sea, only once you are in port, so keep that in mind if you choose to go that route.

Some of the larger cell service carriers offer Cellular at Sea. This allows you to use your cell phone data while at sea. So if you really need internet, it’s a good option to look into. 

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Tips for Dining on a Disney Cruise

Looking forward to eating on your Disney Cruise? Here are a few tips for dining on a Disney Cruise. 

Every Restaurant on a Disney Cruise is all you care to enjoy

It’s not really advertised as all you can eat, but it basically is! Disney Cruises are known for their food.  And they always have a great selection. So maybe you want to try two appetizers? Or maybe all of the desserts? Go ahead! You can order everything on the menu if that’s what your heart desires. And no, it won’t cost you extra. 

How does dining work on a Disney Cruise?

On a Disney Cruise, your dinner rotation is set. It’s called Rotational Dining and will be the dining schedule you have your entire cruise. You can find this information in your Disney Cruise line app.  This lets you know which restaurant you will be in on which nights. On your cruise itinerary online it will show if you have the first seating or second seating. The first seating is at 5:30 and the second at 8:15. You can request to change this if you choose to. They can’t always accommodate requests for changes, but it never hurts to ask. Sometimes there is an option to change this ahead of time. And sometimes, you have to wait to get onboard. As always if you have any questions about your dining rotation, just ask Guest Services.

What is Rotational Dining on Disney Cruise Line?

Rotational dining is a system that is unique to Disney Cruise Line. Each night you are assigned to one of the three main dining rooms. And each night when you switch dining rooms, your waitstaff rotates with you. It gives them an opportunity to get to know you and what you like; and you get to know them! You can read all about rotational dining onboard a Disney Cruise ship here . 

What restaurants serve breakfast and lunch on a Disney Cruise? 

This will vary from ship to ship, and even between itineraries. But every ship that has a Cabanas onboard will serve breakfast and lunch at Cabanas. These meals will be buffet style.  Usually, two other restaurants onboard will serve breakfast and lunch as well so that you have options. However, during the phased reopening of Disney Cruise Line, this is not always the case. On our most recent cruise, they actually only had one restaurant other than Cabanas available for these meals. The ship was sailing at a lower capacity, so it wasn’t really an issue, but good to note. You can find out who’s serving what meals in your Disney Cruise App. 

You May be Sitting With Strangers at Dinner

Eating with strangers may or may not appeal to you. As a first-time cruiser though it totally took us by surprise! There is a chance that if this is your honeymoon cruise or you’re celebrating a special occasion, you may be seated alone. You will need to let Disney Cruise Line know ahead of time though if you want that option. This seating layout is part of the Disney Cruise Rotational Dining Schedule.  

Since we were a party of three traveling together we were paired with another party of three. When just my daughter and I traveled, we were actually seated with two other families. While it’s not a big deal and we’re happy to make new friends, it just took us by surprise. We’ve eaten at Biergarten in Epcot before, so the idea of eating with strangers is not totally new. But we’re giving you this heads up so you don’t have an awkward first meeting. As a side note, if you are paired up with another family for dinner seating, you will be with them for the entire duration of your Disney Cruise. So be nice, get to know them. Hakuna Matata.

If you’d prefer to dine alone, however, you can always request a private table. Disney Cruise Line does not guarantee that they will provide you with a private table, but they will accommodate you if they can.  You can do this by requesting a private table in the Disney Cruise Line app or your account on their website. You can also stop by guest services while on the cruise.

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Tips for Excursions on a Disney Cruise

You’ve booked your Disney Cruise Line excursions and are ready for adventure! Here are a few tips for navigating your Disney Cruise Line excursions with ease. 

Disembarking the Ship

Each day that your cruise visits a port of call, you will be given instructions on when and where you can disembark. Whether or not you’ve booked your excursions through Disney or a third party, you’ll need to know how to access the gangway to get off the ship and what time you can do so.  If you booked through Disney Cruise Line, you can find all of the information in your Disney Cruise Line app.  Know what documents you’ll need to get on and off the ship. Usually, your Key to the World Card is required and photo ID for those over 16. But they will make the announcement on both the morning show and over the speaker system to let you know what you should bring. 

Don’t Feel Obligated to leave the Cruise ship at your Port of Call

Honestly, we actually struggled with this concept. Your goal for a cruise is to sail somewhere, right? Not necessarily! It could be that your goal is just to sail. In fact, after getting back on the boat early for our Disney Nassau Cruise, we were amazed to see how many people never actually left the ship! And we’re living it up with the ice cream and movies. It’s your trip and you get to choose how to spend it. 

We love supporting the local economy when we cruise. But we also know that not every port is right for every person. So there may be a location on your itinerary that just doesn’t suit you and that’s ok. 

Disney Wonder Kid's Club Toy Story

Tips for Kids Clubs on a Disney Cruise

One of the best parts of a Disney Cruise Vacation is the kids’ clubs! These clubs are incredible. And even if you think your child may not be interested in the, we highly recommend visiting on the first day for Open House. Even the shyest of children may change their minds when they see how cool these spaces are.

Even if you don’t have kids, you can check out the Open House. The Kids Club Spaces tend to be some of the best on the entire ship. This is especially true for the Disney Wish. 

It’s A Small World Nursery is for ages 6 mos-3 years and reservations are required. It’s also the only kids club that isn’t free, and it’s actually more of a babysitting service. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are for those 3-12, and in my opinion, are the best kids’ clubs of all! Edge is for tweens, ages 11-14. Vibe is for teens 14-17, and The Hideaway, or 1820 Society is for cruisers between 18-20.  You can find the hours and activities for each kids’ club on the Disney Navigator app. 

Disney Cruise Line Disney Fantasy

Tips for Adults on a Disney Cruise

If you’re an adult without children, you may be wondering if a Disney Cruise is right for you. Of course it is! You’re never too old for something you love. So if you love Disney and want to explore the world of cruising, then a Disney Cruise is for you. They have plenty of adult-only spaces and activities along with the Disney magic you love. 

Disney Cruises Are Great for an Adults Only Trip

We always see many Adult only groups on our Disney Cruises. Whether you’re a childless couple that loves Disney, or want to plan a girls trip, or are just a single person who wants to travel solo, Disney Cruises are for everyone. There are so many things to do for Adults on a Disney Cruise just out to have some fun! You can visit the adult-only pool, bars, clubs, the spa, Serenity Beach if you port at Castaway Cay and of course the famous Palo or Remy adults-only restaurants.

The Disney Cruise Adult Deck

Even if you brought the kids, you still may want to head over to the adult only areas at one point. They’re just a little quieter, and may give you a much-needed escape. If you are traveling with children you can still have some fun too because the kids clubs are amazing and will give you a well-deserved break if needed. The Kids Clubs are separated by age group and staffed by a cast member, usually with crafts and games on hand. So feel free to just drop the kiddies off. 

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Tips for Meeting Characters on a Disney Cruise

There are so many fun characters to meet on a Disney Cruise! They don’t always announce who will be out, but they do mention when and where characters will be out. Just look at the daily navigator in your Disney Cruise app and it’ll show you what time a character is meeting, and where. Then you can see for yourself if you want to stand in line to meet them! 

There are also a ton of free roaming characters onboard a Disney Cruise, so just keep your eyes peeled! We’ve had some of the most fun character interactions with free roaming characters. 

Disney Cruise line has a pretty cool meet and greet called the Royal Gathering. During the Royal Gathering, you can meet various princesses all at once. We’ve gotten to to meet Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana. Moana, Rapunzel and Belle all in one location.  But you need to make sure you get tickets. These are FREE and can be booked ahead of time through your Disney Cruise Line Itinerary. Booking opens up at 12am EST, and tickets often go fast.  If you decide at the last minute that you want to meet them, you can always check with Guest Services to see if there are any available. There is a cast member in charge of just checking your Disney Cruise Line Navigator, so be ready to show that when entering the Gathering. 

disney cruise line pirate night

Tips for Packing for a Disney Cruise

Packing for a Disney Cruise is a little different than most other vacations. Not only do you need to know what to bring in your Disney Cruise carry-on for the first day ; but you also need to pack several different types of clothing for different occasions. 

Pack Layers for a Disney Cruise in Any Weather

Even on some of your warmest cruises, remember you are on the ocean. It can get very breezy at night, causing you to wish you had brought that extra sweater or jacket. We have found that mostly during the day, we could do tees and shorts but at night needed a little something extra. Check out what to pack for a cold-weather cruise.

What to Pack for a Disney Cruise Vacation

Not sure what to pack for your Disney Cruise Vacation? We have an entire post dedicated to packing for a Disney Cruise , along with a free printable . 

Adult Beach Castaway Cay

We hope these Disney Cruise tips have been helpful. And have helped you get excited about your next adventure with Disney Cruise Line. Have a magical cruise and Bon Voyage!

25+ Disney Cruise tips for Beginners on Disney Cruise Line

Melanie Renee

Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .

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Ultimate List of Disney Cruise Line Tips and Secrets for 2023

By Lisa Gilmore Leave a Comment

Ship discounts, carpet compasses, what you can’t bring onto the ship, and how early you need to make your reservations. There’s so much to the Disney Cruise Line that you might not know about. But we’re here to fill ya in on all things DCL ! 

disney cruise suggested tips

The Disney Dream Atrium

We’ve got the ultimate list of things you’ll need to know before cruising with Disney — including the basics, the insider tips, and the secrets that’ll make ya go, “Huh. Wow — I never THOUGHT about THAT before.” 

Thinking about cruising with Disney in the near future? Then make sure to download our FREE Disney Cruise Line Packing Checklist — which features an extensive guide to everything you need to have packed and ready to go before you ever step foot on any of the ships. You can print it out to take with you or save it on your phone for quick access. 

Download The App

Much like you need to download the My Disney Experience App for a Disney World vacation, or the Disneyland App for a Disneyland vacation, it’s important to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App months before the start of the trip.

disney cruise suggested tips

©Disney Cruise Line

Initially, the app will show you a trip countdown, along with your payment summary, online check-in feature, and trip modification options.  But once you climb aboard, the Navigator App will be your go-to guide to make sure you’re in the know about what’s happening on the ship at all times.

The app will be able to tell you things like:

  • Where character meet and greets are happening
  • When deck parties will kick off
  • And what your itinerary for the day looks like (based around your pre-registered activities too — which we’ll talk more about later on)

disney cruise suggested tips

The app also has an onboard chat feature, so you can easily message the other people in your cruising group and keep tabs on where everyone is. 

Get Your Passport NOW. RIGHT NOW. 

Have you gotten a passport for your DCL trip yet? If not, stop everything and GO do that ASAP.

disney cruise suggested tips

Will You Be Traveling Soon?

According to The Department of State website, there is a high demand for passports right now — making the average processing times currently 10-13 weeks for standard applications and 7-9 weeks for expedited applications.

So if you don’t yet have a passport, you’ll need to make sure to plan on getting one months before your cruise. (I’d even go so far as to recommend applying for one half a year out, just to give yourself plenty of processing time.) You can usually apply for a passport at government offices near you — so check on where and when you can apply and get ‘er done!

Don’t Get Off The Ship Without THESE Things…

Your cruise doesn’t just take place on the ship. You’ll be able to get out at a couple (or a few) ports of call during your trip to do some exploring. But every time you leave the ship, make sure you take your key card and ID with you.  You’ll need both of these to get back onto the ship — so don’t leave them behind in the room!

disney cruise suggested tips

Some Information Has Been Blurred Out But You Can See the Basics

If you do happen to leave your key card back in the room on accident, you’ll need to go to Guest Relations to have a new key card issued. ( You can ask one of the Cast Members at the front of the ship out at port to help you pull this off! ) 

(But this will deactivate your old key card — so don’t worry about taking the first one along with you everywhere when/if you find it again. Its job is done!) 

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Book The Nursery In Advance  

If you’re looking to book a massage, or enjoy a nice dinner with your partner, or even just lounge by the adults-only pool undisturbed for a bit, you can take your baby (who falls between the ages of 6 months to 3 years) to the “it’s a small world” nursery onboard the ships.

Here’s the catch — this nursery does cost extra, and you will need to book it well in advance, once you’re able. (And, yes, the nursery does book up solid — so it’s best to make those ressies just as soon as you get the chance.)

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It’s a Small World Nursery

There is a per-hour charge — with a minimum of 1 hour — and cancellation fees do apply if you cancel your arrangements without at least 4 hours’ notice

Parents are required to provide their own diapers, baby wipes, extra clothing/pajamas, pre-made bottles of milk/formula, baby food in jars, sippy cups, and security items such as blankets, pacifiers, and favorite toys. And everything should be labeled with the child’s name — just like any daycare or childcare facility you’d use back home. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Nursery on the Disney Wish

The nursery counselors use the chat feature in the Navigator app to communicate any needs or situations to the parents — so you don’t have to stress about continuously going back to check in on your baby once you’ve dropped them off. 

Kids/Tweens/Teens Clubs Are FREE

You know what you DON’T have to pay for? Kids/Tweens/Teens clubs !  So let’s take a super-quick look at all the kids/teens options available across the ships!

Disney’s Oceaneer Club (Ages 3 to 12) starts off as a central hub that splits into different themed rooms with unique theming and activities going on in each. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Oceaneer Club

Which cruise you’re on will determine what kind of Oceaneer Club rooms kiddos can experience while onboard (but they CAN include areas themed like Andy’s Room, the Star Wars: Command Post, Marvel Superhero Academy, Pixie Hollow, Frozen Adventures, a Walt Disney Imagineering Lab, and several other immersive offerings that’ll make kids go “oooooh… aaaaaahh….”) 

disney cruise suggested tips

Fairtytale Hall on the Disney Wish cruise ship

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab (Ages 3 to 12) let’s kids explore their more creative sides with craft studios, media rooms, and other various artsy workshops. You’ll need to pre-register your kids (through the Disney Cruise Line website) for access to these sections of the kids clubs before your cruise, so they don’t miss out on all the artsy-fartsy fun! 

disney cruise suggested tips

The Disney Wish includes an Imagineering Lab for kids!

When you arrive on the ship, your kids will receive Oceaneer Bands — which will grant them access into both the Oceaneer Club AND Lab.  Just make sure your kids are registered during the check-in process for your cruise reservation. (Don’t worry, Disney will prompt you when it’s time to get the youngins all signed up).

disney cruise suggested tips

Marvel Superhero Academy on the Disney Wish

According to the Disney Cruise Line website, “Check-in is available beginning 30 days prior to your sailing date and can be accessed via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app or by signing into your account on the Disney Cruise Line website.”

Edge (Ages 11-14) provides kids with a chance to hang out with other tweens/teens their age while getting the chance to play games, have dance or karaoke parties, and engage in counselor-led activities.

disney cruise suggested tips

Vibe (Ages 14-17) is a club built with teens in mind, where technology and social media reign supreme. You’ve got giant screens (complete with surround sound) for watching films and concerts, non-alcoholic refreshments, and even a private deck area (if  you’re cruising on the Disney Dream or Fantasy, that is).

disney cruise suggested tips

On the Disney Wish, tweens and teens can also enjoy Hideaway, a unique “third teen/tween space” adjacent to Vibe. It’s a sort of flex space that can be opened to the teen club or closed off for tween-only events. 

What Is the Best Age for a Disney Cruise?

The kids clubs stay open late.

Once kids get to the Oceaneer Club, they may never wanna leave — which is why it’s nice to know that the typical hours for this exclusive kids club range between 9AM to midnight. According to the Disney website, the Oceaneer Clubs usually never close early — but on some mornings, they could open an hour or two later. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Cruise Edge

Just keep an eye on your Navigator App, so you’ll know the exact Oceaneer Club times for each day of your cruise. 

Book Your Cruise As Early As Possible

You might think it wouldn’t matter when, exactly, you decide to go ahead and book your cruise — but it does. It really, really does.  Generally speaking, the further away from your selected sail date you book your cruise, the better.

disney cruise suggested tips

The open sea!

The Disney Cruise Line has tiered pricing, meaning you’ll find lower rates the earlier you book.   Not only will you potentially save money by using this method ( due to some limited-time savings opportunities that we’ll talk about later on ), but booking early also increases the choice of staterooms you’ll have. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Cruises tend to fill up closer to the sail date; so if you put off making a reservation, then you might be left with slim pickings ( and, potentially, pricier stateroom options ) when it comes to your accommodations.

The Best Times to Book Your Disney Cruise

Know when you can start booking extra activities.

Alright. Let’s go ahead and dive into the BIG stuff — when can you ACTUALLY start booking your port excursions, fancy dining opportunities, kids club activities, and (if you’re lucky) private cabanas?

disney cruise suggested tips

When you get to book these extras, all depends on your Castaway Club Member Status.  Now, don’t let this “club member” title throw ya off. You automatically become part of this club once you book your first cruise.

For first-time cruisers, you’ll be able to start booking those extra activities 75 days before your trip.  However, the more you cruise, the sooner you’ll be able to start making reservations for things.

disney cruise suggested tips

Castaway Cay

Silver Castaway Club Members (who have booked 2 to 5 sailings) can book activities 90 days out, gold members (who have booked 6-10 sailings) can book activities 105 days out , and platinum members ( who have booked 11-25 sailings) can book activities 120 days out, and Pearl members(who have booked 26+ sailings) can book activities 123 days out  (Pearl and Platinum members have the BEST chances of getting those highly-coveted cabanas.) 

You can also book activities 120 days in advance if you’re staying in a concierge-level stateroom (which will ALSO give you exclusive access to the ship’s private lounge). 

What Is The Best Way To Book A Disney Cruise?

Booking a cabana is a struggle.

Disney even admits on their website that booking a private family beach cabana on Castaway Cay is quite the feat. These cabanas are super popular with guests, and only have a limited number available at any given time.  Beach cabanas can be pricey (ranging around $399- $1300, depending on the style you book), but IF you get a chance to purchase one, you’ll have your own personal space with private beach access, rental items at your disposal, and all-day concierge services. 

disney cruise suggested tips

So how can you increase your chances of getting a cabana rental?

First off, you need to know the soonest time you’re allowed to start booking extra activities.  As soon as the clock strikes midnight on the day you can start booking your extra activities, they’ll go live for you to start picking and choosing on the site and Navigator App. 

If you don’t get the cabana ressie you were hoping for (which, not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but it’s very likely), then you can always go up to guest services on the day you board the ship to ask to be put on a cabana waitlist. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to GET a cabana, but it still may be your best shot at getting one, regardless. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Cruise Line

And if you’re on a cruise that makes not just one, but TWO stops in Castaway Cay, you’ll have a little bit more of a chance to get a cabana the second time around. (Again — the odds can still be against you, depending on your “cruise status,” but double the Castaway Cay trips means double the opportunity.)

What Characters Are On Disney’s Castaway Cay?

You can book beverage tasting seminars  .

One of the MANY different activities you can book BEFORE your trip is a beverage tasting seminar — which is available on all five ships.  Now, the TYPE of tasting seminars do vary from cruise to cruise, but you might be able to take part in a class that specializes in different spirits, such as rum, whiskey, tequila, bourbon, beer, or even a combo chocolate-and-liquor tasting, too. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Keg & Compass

There are also mixology classes you can take part in where you’ll be able to make your very own cocktail (thanks to the bartender-lead workshops)

Not All Excursions Have To Be Disney-Specific 

Though it might be easiest (and most convenient) to book any of your port excursions directly through Disney, that’s not your only activity-booking option for overseas ports-of-call.  Depending on where your port of call is, you can book third-party excursions, if you wish — which could take you around new areas that a Disney-specific excursion might not hit up (including unique places to sightsee, shop, scuba dive, etc. etc.)

disney cruise suggested tips

The Disney Wish

Although these third part excursions are often cheaper than what Disney will offer you, there is one MAJOR downside to them.  If your third-party excursion happens to run late, your Disney Cruise ship will NOT wait up for you. (Meaning you’ll have to find another way to get back home — and, man, would THAT put a damper on your trip.)

However, if your DISNEY excursion runs later than expected? The ship will hang tight until you’re safe and sound back onboard. 

Get A Fine Dining Reservations At The Last Minute (Possibly)

Let’s say you wanna book a nice meal for one night of your cruise — yet all the tables are already booked by the time you go out on the website to make reservations.  When you first board, go immediately to this fancy-shmancy restaurant that you were wanting to book, which could be Palo/Palo Steakhouse, or Enchante, or Remy — depending on what cruise ship you’re on.

disney cruise suggested tips

Enchante on the Disney Wish

Talk to a host at the front of the restaurant and see if you can put your name on a first come, first served waitlist.  That way, if availability DOES come up, you still might be able to get your classy date night after all. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Poularde Fermiere at Enchante

Note: Just like the cabanas, this isn’t ALWAYS gonna be a guarantee for ya — but, unlike the cabanas, you’ve got way HIGHER chances of getting a last minute table by using this walk-up method. 

Book A Fancy Brunch

You know what books up faster than a fancy dinner? A fancy BRUNCH.  Palo is known for its high-end Italian cuisine, but this restaurant also brings its Italian flair to its brunch offerings too.

disney cruise suggested tips

Dining Area

While Palo is available to book for any night aboard every Disney Cruise Ship (aside from the Disney Wish — which offers Palo Steakhouse instead), brunch is only offered on limited mornings (and usually only on sea days).

disney cruise suggested tips

Palo Brunch on the Disney Dream

To find out when this classy brunch is happening during your next cruise, make sure to — yet again — check your Navigator App for an updated dining schedule. 

FULL REVIEW of Palo Brunch on Disney Cruise Line

No disney cruise ships are alike   .

Currently, there are five Disney Cruise Ships that you can sail aboard — the Disney Magic, Wonder, Dream, Fantasy, and Wish.  These cruise ships might operate similarly. They may all offer pool deck parties and private kids clubs and all-inclusive dining and musical performances — but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same, by any means.

disney cruise suggested tips

Each cruise has unique offerings; and some of those offerings may end up being the biggest selling points for you and your group.  You can learn more about every Disney Cruise available during our Ranking Every DCL video , live on the DFB channel NOW.

But, overall, just make sure you study up on all the different offerings across the different ships so that you don’t end up booking the WRONG choice for your family. 

Kids Clubs Can Be Intimidating 

As exciting as an exclusive kids club can be for some, others may find the idea of not having their parents close by and surrounded by a bunch of strangers in a place they’re not familiar with to be downright nerve-wracking. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Your kids will LOVE this slide down into the Oceaneer Club!

Make sure to talk to your kids about how these Oceaneer Clubs operate before you book your cruise — and make sure they’re aware that all grown-ups (aside from the cruise line counselors) are not allowed in these spaces. Even if your kid decides not to take on the Oceaneer Club, there’ll still be plenty of activities for them to do with the whole family — so no need to worry about these kid-exclusive clubs being a make-or-break ordeal.

Take Advantage Of Open House

Okay, we lied a little. There is one way grown-ups will be able to check out the Oceaneer Club — and that’s through the cruise line’s open houses.

disney cruise suggested tips

Open houses allow adults to get a sneak peek at those super-awesome kids-only spaces before all the fun begins. Usually, you’ll find open houses listed on your Navigator App during Embarkation Day (but open houses can also happen at other times during your cruise, too. Just check the app’s updated schedule for a list of times for when you can swing on by!) 

Get Ready To PARTY!

Need help deciding what to wear out at sea? Keep those deck parties at the forefront of your mind while packing!  On select days, the Disney Cruises will have themed events with exclusive meet and greets, shows, games, and nighttime extravaganzas (that’ll keep ya from hittin’ the hay early).

disney cruise suggested tips

  You may be able to experience things like:

  • A Marvel Day At Sea
  • Pixar Day At Sea
  • Silver Anniversary At Sea (for the Disney Cruise Line’s 25  year anniversary celebration, only available in 2023)
  • Pirate Night
  • A Frozen Deck Party
  • Or even seasonal events (if you’re planning a cruise around Halloween, Christmas, or New Years Eve)

disney cruise suggested tips

Marvel Day at Sea

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, different cruises will have different themed events — so make sure you know what events will be happening during YOUR trip (and plan to pack accordingly!) 

Hair Salons Are Not Gender-Specific  

On the Disney Wish, there are two places where you can get a nice fresh hairdo — one is Hook’s Barbery (that the Disney website states is “fit for a captain”) which offers hot shaves, beard trimmings, and even a hidden whiskey bar (for those 21 and older)

disney cruise suggested tips

In case you need a haircut!

The other is the Untangled Salon (inspired by Rapunzel’s luscious locks), which features a full range of salon services as you sit underneath dozens of floating lanterns.

disney cruise suggested tips

Untangled Salon

But don’t be fooled by these two distinct salons. If you’re a female and would rather get a mani-pedi at a place with dark leather furniture and whiskey samples, go to Hook’s Barbery. And if you’re a male who’d rather receive a royal treatment in a much brighter atmosphere, go to the Untangled Salon.   It’s really no big deal which one you wanna choose — just go with where you’re most comfortable to enjoy that much-needed rest and relaxation.  

PHOTOS: The Most Relaxing Spots on Disney’s New Cruise Ship– The Wish

Shopping while at port is not a thing.

Warning — Don’t put off your souvenir shopping until your ship is at port! 

disney cruise suggested tips

Treasures Untold

Disney Cruise gift shops are only open while out at sea — so if you’re thinking you’re gonna hold off on all your shopping until you’re at a port of call, you might find yourself awfully disappointed.  

Food Is All-Inclusive. Mostly.

The set price you pay for your stateroom also includes food. Tons and TONS of food.  The Disney Cruise Line operates on a rotational dining system. That means guests are rotated through different sit-down meals each evening of your cruise.

disney cruise suggested tips

Cabanas on the Disney Magic

You also have a chance to eat at breakfast/lunch buffets, grab quick service meals, munch on snack-y items while you’re on-the-go, and even refuel on sodas, water, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. And, just to reiterate, this is ALL included with that stateroom price. This also includes free ice cream cones. Know about them. Love them. Never take them for granted.

However, not all drinks and dining are all-inclusive.

disney cruise suggested tips

Hyperspace Lounge

If you decide to get a little bougier, and you wanna book one of those signature restaurants, or sip on an alcoholic beverage at one of the lounges, or get a specialty cappuccino/latte, or grab a sweet treat at one of the candy shops, then, yeah, you’re gonna have to pay extra for those.

disney cruise suggested tips

But you don’t HAVE to. You can always stick with what’s included with your stateroom price, and you’ll be good to go. That being said, you should bring some extra cash with you, just in case you wanna grab a cocktail or two later on. 

An Overview of EVERY Disney Cruise Line Restaurant

The all-inclusive food doesn’t stop at sea.

Spending the day at Castaway Cay? Good news! You don’t have to backtrack to the ship around lunch just to find your all-inclusive eats.

disney cruise suggested tips

Castaway Cay has three dining locations: the first two are for the whole family — Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too BBQ — while the third one, Air Bar BBQ, is over at Serenity Bay (AKA: the adults only beach). Anything you pick up food-wise from these three locations is free game, but Air Bar also offers up some specialty adult cocktails, too, that you will have to pay extra for.

disney cruise suggested tips

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich at Castaway Cay

As far as dining around other ports of call — other than Castaway Cay — you will have to pay extra for all your non-Disney meals. So, again, bring extra cash if you plan on getting some grub outside the Disney bubble and at one of the local food stands.

Eat How You WANT To Eat

Remember that all-inclusive rotational dining I talked about earlier?  Each rotational restaurant has a three-course option where you can order an appetizer, entree, and dessert.  But that doesn’t mean you’ve gotta stick to those dining parameters for each meal. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Animator’s Palate restaurant on the Disney Magic

If you wanted four appetizers, no entree, and one dessert — you can do that. Or if you wanted three entrees and no extra apps/sweets, you can do that too.

disney cruise suggested tips

Palo Antipasti Charcuterie

The dining world is your OYSTER while you’re out at sea. Just make sure you let your server know what, exactly, your palate’s craving and they’ll make sure it’s good and satisfied.

Room Service Is FREE

Now this is a big plus in Disney’s favor.  Many cruise ships don’t have a free room service option — but Disney does. And they have it 24/7. 

Now here’s a tidbit of advice for ya — even though you won’t see these on the menu, go ahead and order some Mickey Premium Ice Cream bars up to your room to enjoy out on your verandah (if you’ve got one, of course)

disney cruise suggested tips

Order Mickey Bars through Room Service

You can also order Mickey Premium Bars in the dining rooms at any time. Just ask, and you shall receive! 

How To Find A More Relaxed Breakfast Spot

There are two ways to enjoy a good ol’ morning meal on-ship without having to pay extra moolah for a fancy brunch.

The first way is through the ship’s casual buffet offering, which will be located over at Cabanas on the Disney Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy — and Marceline Market on the Disney Wish. These buffets provide you with a lot of food, minus a lot of waiting around but these spaces can get pretty packed out in the morning hours.

disney cruise suggested tips

Cabana’s Buffet

The second more peaceful breakfast option is eating in select dining room areas instead, when available.  Normally, you’d eat at these dining room locations during one of your rotational dinners, but some of these restaurants open in the morning, too, for a more casual (and relaxed) sit-down meal. 

disney cruise suggested tips


These dining rooms include:

  • Lumiere’s on the Disney Magic 
  • Triton’s on the Disney Wonder
  • Royal Palace on the Disney Dream
  • Royal Court on the Disney Fantasy
  • And Enchanted Garden on the Disney Dream AND Fantasy 

Go ALL OUT With Specialty Sundaes

We raved about the free soft serve earlier, but there’s also something to be said about the premium sundaes you can get during your cruise, too. 

Sundaes can be ordered at specialty ice cream/candy shops, such as Sweet On You (like you’ll find over at the Disney Fantasy) and Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats (like you’ll find on the Disney Dream).

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Fantasy

These sundaes can get over-the-top especially if you choose to order something like the Vanellope Von Schweetz Race Kart Sundae, which is served in this adorable race kart that looks just like Vanellope’s own set of wheels outta the Wreck-It-Ralph films.  But if you wanna, like, brag about how awesome your sundae is, you can actually have it pre-ordered and delivered to you during dinner that night.

disney cruise suggested tips

Sundae from Vanellope’s

NOT KIDDING. It makes ya feel real special. And the jealous stares from other tables makes ya feel all high and mighty, too.   

Elevators Can Be… Confusing . 

We came across some weird elevator changes when the Disney Wish first set sail last year. So let’s… talk about ‘em. 

Unlike the other four ships, The Wish doesn’t have a central elevator bank. Which is kinda a bummer, since the central elevators tend to be the least crowded ones on the Disney Dream, Wonder, Fantasy, and Magic.  Instead, the Wish only has two elevator banks – forward and aft.

disney cruise suggested tips

Atrium Space

  Also, keep in mind that only certain Wish elevators will go up to the top floors.  For example, if you’re trying to get to floor 13 to go to Palo Steakhouse and are currently on floor 6 in the aft elevator bank, only the farthest toward the wall elevators will take you up to floor 13. The others will stop at 11 and 12. 

So when an “up” elevator opens, check the buttons inside to see if there is a button for 13. If not, you’ll need to wait for another one. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Magic Elevator

One last elevator note, the elevator buttons on the Wish are also “touchless,” which means they are activated by someone just being near them. But that means when an elevator is packed – which, if anyone’s cruised on DCL before, you know they always are – then someone will inevitably press up against all of the buttons to let someone by, which means they all light up in Buddy-the-Elf fashion.

If you’re able, give that elevator button panel some space so you don’t find yourself stopping on every. single. floor.

The Rules For BYOB

So, you don’t feel like paying for booze on the big boat, eh?

Disney Cruise Line will allow you to bring up to two bottles of wine (OR 2 six packs of beer) per person for those who are 21 years and older, of course. But hard liquor is a hard NO-GO. 

disney cruise suggested tips

The wine selection at Enchante on the Disney Wish

Now, let’s say you purchase some real-nice tequila or bourbon or something while you’re at a port of call.  If that’s the case, these purchases will be checked before you get back on the ship, and stored by Disney for the remainder of your trip. Once you’re back at home port, you can pick up your liquor then (and enjoy it in moderation from the safety of your home, post-vacation)!

There Are Corking Fees At Restaurants  

But what if you wanna take your own bottle of wine to the fancy restaurant you’ve booked a reservation for? What then?

disney cruise suggested tips

Our Selection

The good news? Disney’s cool with that. The bad news? They’re still gonna charge you for it. The corking fee at Disney Cruise Line restaurants is $26 per bottle. So you may wanna think twice before bringing that $6 Barefoot wine along with you on your dinner date.

Your Rotational Dining Isn’t Set In Stone

There are three unique rotational dining experiences that you’ll be able to try on your cruise. And — say it with us— it aaaaaallll depends on which cruise you book.  Just to make things easier on ya and the cast members onboard, your rotational dining schedule will be predetermined after you select your preferred dining time slot upon booking. There are two dining time slots you can choose — the first at 5:45PM, the second at 8PM.

disney cruise suggested tips

1923 restaurant on the Disney Wish

You’ll be able to find your dining rotation schedule — as well as dining times — on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app once you get onboard. Your schedule will also be printed on your room key cards.  

However, let’s say you’re cruising on the Disney Wish — and you see that your restaurant schedule has placed you dining at 1923 on night one, Worlds of Marvel on night two, and Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Experience — but you were really hoping to start off your trip with the Frozen-themed sing-a-long, and end your trip on a classier note with 1923. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Worlds of Marvel — Ant Man

If you wanna switch up your rotational dining schedule, make sure to ask about it at guests services just as soon as you get on the ship. For the most part, switching up your meal lineup shouldn’t be too big of a deal. But once that ship takes off? Your schedule is SET.

You May Not WANT To Experience Certain Ports Of Call

So here’s our big-bad-honest opinion for ya.  It’s cool knowing that your cruise ship won’t just stop at one port. Like, if you’re cruising on the Disney Wish — for instance — you’re not just cruising to Castaway Cay. You’ll also get a chance to get off the ship at Nassau in the Bahamas, too! 

disney cruise suggested tips

But here’s the thing — these types of pit stops along the way… probably won’t be your favorite part of the trip.  Yes, you can potentially see some cool landmarks — like Fort Charlotte (built in honor of King George III’s wife) and the Queen’s Staircase (leading to Fort Fincastle) — but the shopping streets here are lined with in-your-face sales folk.

Though the Disney Cruise Line will give you quite a bit of time to explore this port, and you should at least step out for a little while, just to say that you did, I wouldn’t spend your whole day here. Instead, I might recommend getting out for an hour or two, then hopping back on board to experience way less busy pools and spas, which is ten times more relaxing than being shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists onshore.

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Wish

 If you do, however, want to explore a certain port of call for longer, because, hey, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do so with those overseas locations, make sure to research the area you’ll be stopping at ahead of your trip to learn about what places may be worth checking out while you’re off the boat, instead of wandering aimlessly against the crowds. 

Find Out When The Rides Are Open

The AquaMouse (available on the Disney Wish) and the AquaDuck (available on the Disney Dream and Fantasy), are the star water coaster attractions for their respective ships. 

disney cruise suggested tips

And, although you’re not gonna have to wait 2+ hours to ride either one — like you might have to do with Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom — the lines aren’t always necessarily the SHORTEST for these coasters, either. ESPECIALLY during the heat of the day.

disney cruise suggested tips

Now, when it comes to my usual theme park advice, we normally recommend hitting up those popular rides at the start of the day — but that’s not ALWAYS gonna be the case for the Disney Cruise Line coasters.  When you’re out at sea, these rides could open as early as 9-10AM.  However, on Embarkation day and Castaway Cay day, these rides may not open up until 1PM. And yet by 12:30PM on those days, the lines are already gonna start forming.

disney cruise suggested tips

How Long Would You Wait?

Per usual, your Navigator App will be able to give ya the specifics for when these rides will open for the day and how long they’ll stay open for.

Character Meet And Greet Lines Can Get LONG

Just because they’re out at sea doesn’t make them any less popular! Lines for character meet and greets can get lengthy like they do over in the parks — so make sure to prioritize the characters you really wanna meet during your cruise. 

Character meet and greets will happen several times during your trip, all throughout the day. So at the start of your cruise, sift through your navigator app schedule, filter for the “character” experiences, and “heart” the characters/meeting times you wanna make sure you prioritize. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Donald and Goofy

You may also be able to “cheat” some of the lines by signing up for a Royal Gathering as one of your pre-registered activities.  These types of meet and greet sign ups won’t cost you anything extra, and they’ll give you the chance to meet several princesses in one go without the massive waits.  

That being said, there are also premium character meet and greet experiences on select cruises that will cost extra — like the Royal Court Royal Tea and Olaf’s Royal Picnic.  Again, meet and greets happen several times during the course of your trip, but the only exception is gonna be those specialty “party” days like we talked about earlier. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Mickey and Minnie at Pirate Night on the Disney Wish!

Party days may be the one and only time you’ll get to meet rare characters like Pirate Daisy or Loki Dale — so don’t miss out!

Hit Up The Pools EARLY

Things can be pretty overwhelming on Embarkation Day — especially if this is your first-ever cruise. So, if you don’t need to go to guest services for anything… what should you do first?  Many guests will make a beeline to the food courts to get a head start on that all-inclusive dining. But if you’re not hungry yet, we’d recommend heading on over to the pools. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Adult only pool

Unless you decide to hang back during one of the ports of call, embarkation day may wind up being one of the least-busy times to take a dip in the main pools and the adults-only pools, too!   

The Early Bird Gets A Private Pool Party

Did your interest perk up with the “adults only” pool talk?  Each Disney Cruise has an adults-only pool area (aka: Quiet Cove) — but the Disney Wish steps it up a notch by offering an adults-only infinity pool area — which can get reaaaaaally popular during the afternoon hours. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Adult-only area on the Disney Wonder

If you wanna avoid feeling like human soup, try hitting up these adults-only pool areas early in the morning as a way to kickstart your day with some much-needed peace, quiet, and swim time.

Ask About The Sommelier Bin

This one’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble worth asking about.  When you’re at one of the Disney Cruise Line bars, ask about the Sommelier Bin.

disney cruise suggested tips

Some of the Bottles

The Sommelier Bin is designated for open bottles of wine. If a guest orders a particular type of wine that hasn’t been opened yet, then the rest of that bottle will need to be used on the same day (to guarantee its freshness).   And that means you can sometimes get a really pricey glass of wine for a base price IF you order whatever’s in the Sommelier Bin during the time of your visit.

disney cruise suggested tips

Champagne and a View

 Your mileage on this may vary — because, sometimes, you’ll just end up with a standard wine you could’ve gotten elsewhere — but still… you get wine either way, and for a potentially cheaper price, too!  Again— this isn’t a guarantee, but it doesn’t hurt to check!

Different Restaurants, Same Server

Rotational Dining might put you in a new restaurant each night, but you’ll have the same server following you between meals.  

disney cruise suggested tips

Rapunzel’s Royal Table

The reason Disney keeps you with the same server each night — instead of pairing you up with a different person meal after meal — is so that your server can learn about your specific preferences and food accommodations, which they’ll — then — use for all your future dinners aboard the ship!

disney cruise suggested tips

Plus… it’s just really nice to get to know your server, too! These cast members are great at what they do, and they do an ah-may-zeeng job at making sure you’re having a good time, while also validating your dining requests.

Tipping Works Differently 

After getting to know your server, you’ll more than likely be thrilled to leave a gratuity for them, since they’re gonna go above and beyond to make sure you’re taken care of aboard ship.  To customize that gratuity amount for servers, assistant servers, and stateroom hosts, you’ll need to add prepaid gratuities to your DCL reservation through your Disney account.

disney cruise suggested tips

Awesome Cast Members!

Now here’s the catch — if you don’t set a prepaid amount for gratuities before your trip, Disney will automatically charge the suggested gratuity to your onboard account and assume you’re a-okay with that. Which is $14.50 per night per stateroom, and $15.50 per night per concierge stateroom.

disney cruise suggested tips

Outdoor Oasis © Disney

The places where gratuity is NOT factored out in advance are for… well… any other additional services like the spas, lounges, and signature restaurants. Then, the amount you tip will be entirely up to YOUR discretion or, in some cases, automatically tacked onto your bill.

Follow The Stars

Don’t be embarrassed if you get lost trying to find your stateroom. These ships are bigger than you may think!  Finding your way around these cruises, in general, can get downright confusing. 

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A Totally Different Carpet!

Which way is toward the front of the ship? Which way is toward the back? How do you know where to go when many of the stateroom hallways look exactly same time?

disney cruise suggested tips

Look at the Carpet!

If you’re getting overwhelmed trying to find your way back to your room, just look down!  The carpets generally feature stars or Mickey Heads, if you’re cruising on the Wish. If the stars/Mickeys are pointing straight (meaning the peak of the star is pointing forward, in the direction you’re walking), then you’re walking forward. If the stars are not pointing straight, then you’re headed aft! 

Leave Your Power Strips At Home

The Disney Cruise Line has quite a list of no-no items that you are NOT allowed to bring aboard the ships.  When it comes to electronic devices, you can NOT bring aboard things such as:  Electric blankets, electric steamers, extension cords, power strips, surge protectors, heating pads, or celebratory light bulb strings.

disney cruise suggested tips

Leave these power strips at home ©Amazon

Now, the power strips can really trip some families up — since having multiple outlets can be handy for charging multiple phones at once. But — in order to prevent any potential electrical fires on board — Disney isn’t gonna budge on this rule. No sir-ee. 

That being said, you can bring a USB splitter, instead, to still help you charge multiple devices in one go.  There are more items on the “No Go” list that’re posted on the DCL website.

A Full List of What You CAN’T Bring on a Disney Cruise

Pack a reusable water bottle.

It’s funny how many tips and tricks for the cruise ships overlap with the tips and tricks we give ya for the parks — but the reusable water bottle advice is such a banger that we can’t help but bring it up yet again. Reusable water bottles are great to have on hand to keep you hydrated all day long.

disney cruise suggested tips

Mickey Mouse Water Bottle

And — what makes a reusable water bottle even better for the cruises is your ability to refill them with not just water, but those all-inclusive sodas and tea, too! So whenever you see a soda dispenser at one of the quick services or buffets — make sure to fill ‘er up! 

Are You Ready for the Best Day Ever?? Check Out the New Water Bottles We Found in Disney World!

You can never have too much water.

You’re surrounded by this stuff out at sea, but while you’re busy admiring the water outside your stateroom, you’ll wanna keep it inside your stateroom too. You can bring some cases of bottled water with you on your cruise to help keep you hydrated.

disney cruise suggested tips


But if you do bring your own cases of water, you’ve gotta make sure they’re “factory sealed” and not being kept inside your checked luggage. You can also order a case of water through the actual cruise line, too. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Bottled Water

You can purchase bottles of water before your trip through Onboard Gifts which is an extension of the Disney Cruise website that allows you to pre-order celebratory items or necessities you want brought up to your stateroom pre-arrival.  Or you can call room services and purchase a case of water via your stateroom phone. 

Don’t Rely On Your Fridge 

When you’re looking over the different amenities found in your stateroom before your Disney Cruise, you might notice that one of the listed features is a “refrigerator.”  Don’t get too excited about this. These fridges are, essentially, small cool boxes but nothing more than that.

disney cruise suggested tips

Bottled water

The Wish’s “fridges” are a bit fancier than what you’ll find on the other four ships. However, none of these refrigerators are gonna do an upstanding job at keeping ice cream treats preserved or leftovers from spoiling.  They can, however, keep drinks cool so you don’t have to gulp ‘em down at room temperature. 

Bring An Expired Card. (Literally Any Old Card)

Here’s something that might take ya off guard if you’ve never cruised with Disney before.  The Disney Cruise Line prides itself on being eco-friendly — which is why they strive to save power any chance they get. 

So instead of having regular old light switches in each of the staterooms, you’ll turn on the lights by inserting a card into the light slot that’s next to the door.  Disney would like you to use your key card since that forces you to retrieve it and turn off the lights before you leave the room, but — um — not everyone always remembers to do that. Meaning you could very well accidentally lock yourself out of your room. Er… Whoops?

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Magic Stateroom

Fortunately, you don’t actually have to insert your DCL-specific key into the light slot — any ol’ card will do! Got a used up Starbucks gift card? Use that! Or an expired library card? You can use that too! Or maybe even a gym membership card? Hey, gotta use that sucker for something, right?

disney cruise suggested tips

Magic Stateroom

It’s still a good idea to retrieve these cards upon leaving your room instead of keeping your lights on the whole time you’re gone, but at least if you forget to retrieve it, you’re not gonna accidentally lock yourself out. 

Join In On The Fish Extender Fun

During your cruise, you may notice these pouches or felt organizers displayed in front of other cruisers’ staterooms. These are called fish extenders. You can make ‘em yourself, or buy ‘em off Etsy or Amazon, but — the important thing to remember is Disney doesn’t have a whole lot to do with this extra cruise feature.

disney cruise suggested tips

A cruise cabin on the Disney Dream

Instead, this is a secret Santa-like concept created by DCL fans where you can leave little goodies for other cruisers outside their doors.  Most folks find their fish extender friends through DCL forums online. Make sure the forum you’re using to meet these cruise line companions is reliable — and that you’re not giving away any super-personal information through these websites.

You do not have to participate in this activity if you don’t want to. But, if you think it’d be kinda fun to drop some cute little stickers and keychains and lanyards as a surprise gift for someone else — and hopefully receive some surprise gifts in return — then, by all means, do your research and find out how you can get involved! 

However, if you’re not interested in this side activity, but you’re still kinda wanting to spruce up your stateroom door just for funsies or to put an identifying marker outside your room for it to be easier to spot down the hallway, just make sure you use magnets and magnets only, Any decorations that use tape or command strips will be taken down immediately by cast members who spot them in passing, since these kind of adhesives aren’t good for the paint on the doors.

disney cruise suggested tips

If you have something you want to put on your door and you already know it’s most certainly not magnetic, you can always buy a few cheap sticky back magnets at your local craft store to slap on the backside of your decor. Ta-da! NOW it’s a magnet!

Pack A Sweater. (No, Seriously)

Do NOT underestimate the power of cruise ship air conditioning.

disney cruise suggested tips

Even if you’re cruising in the summer, there are certain indoor sections of the ships where the AC is high and mighty. If you tend to get chilly easily, bring a little hoodie or jacket that you can easily slip on and off.  

Don’t Forget About The Scavenger Hunts!

Sleuthing, capers, and mysteries galore — if you’re looking for a free activity that’ll help you thoroughly explore the ship you’re sailing on, the Midship Detective Agency is on the case!

The Disney Dream and Fantasy both host the Midship Detective Agency — an interactive game that takes guests all around the ships to solve, well, a mystery .  There are three different mystery options you can choose from,  involving Mickey and friends, characters from Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, or the Muppets. (YAY Muppets.)

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Princess icons

The Disney Wish also has its own interactive game called Disney Uncharted Adventure.  Disney Uncharted Adventure uses the Play Disney Parks app and AR technology on your mobile device to play games and interact with your favorite Disney characters.

But that one’s not as Muppet-y. So the Disney Dream and Fantasy win in that regard.

Run, Run, RUN!

You may not think going on a jog during your cruise is gonna be an activity you’d be super-stoked for, but the running decks offered on the cruises are actually one of my favorite places to go onboard.  First of all, many guests don’t even realize that the walking/jogging track is there, so you’ll often have a lot of space for yourself.

disney cruise suggested tips

Do you work out on vacation?

Secondly, the jogging/walking track can sometimes take you past some really unique spots on the ship! For instance, on select Disney Cruise ships, there’s a porthole along the track that actually looks into some of the ship’s kitchens! So these little trails can wind up weaving ya past a few behind-the-scenes areas that you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

disney cruise suggested tips

However, when it comes to the running deck over on the Disney Wish, things get… kinda weird.  Instead of having a continuous track like the other four ships have, the Wish’s track is broken up — so you have to go up various stairs and cross-overs to actually complete a full lap. I dunno — I’m not a fan of the setup there, but you still might wanna at least walk around it, just to check things out. 


This is just a general PSA to keep you from underestimating these ships and/or setting yourself up for failure.  Disney Cruises might be less intense than the Disney parks, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things to do. There are so many shows, excursions, dining experiences, spa days, shops, and events that you’re gonna be able to jam-pack your days with. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Ground Floor of Luna on the Disney Wish

So make sure you study up the different cruise offerings before you head out so you can figure out what you wanna prioritize.  But, in the same breath, give yourself a little wiggle room to take things as they come. If you wanna spend more time just relaxing on the Castaway Cay beach, do it. If you wanna go lounge hopping on the last night of your trip, do it. If you wanna get your 736th soft serve cone because it’s already paid for, do it. 

disney cruise suggested tips

Grab a cone from Sweet Minnie’s Ice Cream!

The Disney ships tend to be a healthy mix of keeping you busy all cruise long while also reminding you not to overextend yourself. 

You Might Find Ways To Save Money (With A Little Help)

It doesn’t happen often but, at limited times throughout the year, the Disney Cruise Line maaaaay just sneakily drop a nice discount for their future cruises.  For example, thanks to our friends over at Small World Vacations, we found out early on that guests could save up to 35% off limited summer 2023 cruises for a selection of “restricted rooms.”  

disney cruise suggested tips

Small World Vacations

Restricted rooms are unsold surplus staterooms in a specific category for very specific cruise dates.  The agents at Small World Vacations are extremely good at keeping us in-the-know when it comes to deals like this — so if you wanna be in-the-know too, you might wanna reach out to them for a free quote as you start planning your future Disney vacation. 

Real Talk: You May Wanna Hold Off On A Cruise Right Now

Wait, WHAT? You just gave us FIFTY tips on how to basically SUCCEED at any Disney Cruise, and you’re telling us to… not go on one now? Well… Not necessarily. It really depends on how patient you can be. 

There are two new DCL ships that’ll start setting sail over the next couple of years that — who knows? — you may like even better than the ones we’ve been talking about today.  The Disney Treasure will enter the DCL fleet in 2024 as the Disney Wish’s sister ship — and will be a ship “inspired by the grandeur and mystery of a gilded palace,” drawing influences from Asia, Africa, and even Aladdin’s Agrabah.

disney cruise suggested tips

Disney Treasure ©Disney

And in 2025, the DCL will invite another ship into their family — but we don’t know a whole lotta details surrounding that one just yet.  What we do know about it, however, is that it’ll be based in Singapore and feature what Disney describes as “innovative experiences along with the dazzling entertainment, world-class dining, and legendary guest service.” 

disney cruise suggested tips

We’re on pins and needles, waiting to learn more about both of these new ships, but we promise to keep ya updated just as soon as we learn more info about either one of them ‘em!

disney cruise suggested tips

Who’s ready to start sailing?!  Don’t forget — before you get to packing for your Disney cruise, make sure to drop us your email for an EXTENSIVE checklist of what you need to have packed in your luggage and ready to go BEFORE you set sail! 

What You Need to Know About Disney Cruise Line

Learn all about disney cruise line and its various ships, explore disney’s mega cruise ship – the wish, a full list of what you can’t bring on a disney cruise, these are the best times to book your disney cruise, the best ways to save space in your tiny cruise cabin, 10 things you need on your next cruise (that you won’t think to pack), what it’s like to live on a cruise ship for 6 months, join the dfb newsletter to get all the latest disney news delivered right to your inbox click here to subscribe.

Have you been on a Disney Cruise? What are your cruisin’ tips? Drop them in the comments below!


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