Well done on choosing a Disney Cruiseline holiday! The hardest part is done 😉 Now it’s just about planning and getting exciting for your upcoming trip!
Some of these tips will be no-brainers, but hopefully there’s something that can help you out in some way!
1. Research ships and locations thoroughly. Whilst sometimes the ship depends upon the itinerary, in the case of the Bahamas, all 4 ships are in port in Florida over winter. So researching each ship is important. Think of them as a mini community that you live in for the duration of your cruise, so you want to make sure it’ll suit you (and anyone you’re travelling with).
2. Be considerate of Crew members – they live on the ship for up to 8 months at a time! So if you’re missing your family whilst you’re onboard for just a week, chances are that they are too!
3. Use this as an opportunity to meet new people!
4. DCL has the best kids programs, all varying depending on the age range – they’re good to utilise so you can get some “you time” and your kids get interaction with those their own age.
5. The kids clubs all come included in the cost of your cruise, except for the nursery for babies – that has a small set charge.
6. DCL has a very unique dining experience in that you have the same dining service team for all dinner times on your cruise.This will consist of a Server, Assistant Server, Head Server and Restaurant Manager (sometimes the last 2 are the same person). Whilst we only had them looking after us at dinner, we had fun spotting them around the ship during the day.
7. There are two dinner seatings – 5.45pm and 8.15pm. If you have a specific time you want to eat, you can change it in your cruise planning in the lead up.
8. If you’re going to use the ship internet, turn off anything that syncs or downloads automatically – it will chew through all your data very quickly!
9. Get your kids involved and decorate your stateroom door. Just be careful with adhesives – magnets work much better!
10. Definitely go to all the theatre shows. If you have the earlier dinner session, you’ll be able to go to the later show and vice versa. They vary from ship to ship, but the must see for each ship are Wonder – Frozen, A Musical Spectacular, Magic – Tangled, the Musical, Dream – Beauty and the Beast and Fantasy – Aladdin. They are the newest and most recent – with Beauty and the Beast only premiering late 2017!
11. If you’re in the Bahamas or Caribbean, watch the fireworks – Disney is the only cruiseline legally allowed to shoot them off their ship. They’re shot off the Aft of the ship, so prime viewing spots are as far back as possible.
12. Once you’re able to check in (at least 75 days beforehand), book in any Port Adventures, Palo, Bookings, etc. as these can be very popular and book out quickly.
13. The Cruiseline industry is not like hotels where it gets cheaper the closer you get to the date, instead it’s minutely cheaper when they’re first released, then go to base prices. If you wait for them to get cheaper, you’re more than likely to miss out.
14. Don’t buy stuff like sunscreen and toiletries on the ship (unless you want Disney branded stuff) as they are hellishly expensive. Most home ports will have a big Walmart, CVS or Walgreens nearby that you can stock up on everything.
15. Seriously look into the cost of the Disney Shuttle (in Port Canaveral) vs. renting a car 1 way each time – generally it’s cheaper and quicker to rent.
16. I’ve read sites that tell you not to worry about rushing back to the ship for all aboard as they won’t leave without you – do not listen to this. If I had a dollar for everytime I saw people running along a dock to catch up with the ship as it started to leave, or being delayed in leaving a Port as people were missing. Everyday you’ll get a “Personal Navigator” that will have on it the phone number for the Port Agent. If you know you’re gonna be late, give this number a call and they’ll contact the officers on the ship, so they can wait for you.
17. Don’t skip Animator’s Palate (the restaurant). It is on all 4 ships and is unmissable. I won’t say much, but there are different shows on each ship and for different sailings.
18. Be Careful when booking tours outside of Disney. This is a contentious topic among cruisers. Yes, it can be cheaper, but you have a lot more protection when you book through Disney. If it gets cancelled, you get a full refund and if there’s delays or anything, the ship will be alerted and wait for you.
19. Room Service is available 24/7 except on the night before and morning of debarkation.
20. The morning of debarkation, you will have 2 choices for breakfast. The first will be with your dining service team – they will explain that, or Cabanas will be open for an earlier continental breakfast.
21. To make everything smoother on debarkation day, the day before, you’ll receive coloured luggage tags to attach onto your bags. Then before dinner on the last night, put your bags outside your stateroom with these tags and your stateroom host/ess will collect them. They will be ready for you to collect from the terminal in the morning.
22. On that, don’t forget to keep out clothes for the next day when packing – you don’t want to be those people exiting the ship in your pyjamas!
23. When leaving the ship to go into port, each person must always take their Key to the World card and Photo ID for those over 18.
24. In Cabanas on each of the 4 ships is a build your own omelette station – choose your types of egg and fillings!
25. When boarding, you’ll be issued with a “Key to the World” card. DCL handles no cash anywhere on board (apart from guest services), so your key to the world card will be linked to your credit card and you will purchase everything on there.
26. When you first board, a picture will be taken of you to link with your card. This is so any crew member can verify a purchase by making sure your face matches your picture.
27. On your Key to the World card, it will have your name, your muster station and your dining information – what time, table number and your rotation as well. The only thing it doesn’t have is your room number. This is for security so if you lose your card, no one can get into your room.
28. If you do lose your card, notify guest services and they can re-print you a new one and cancel your old one.
29. Download the free DCL Navigator App before you leave and set up your cruise on it. Then activate it when you get onboard. In order to use it, you must be connected to the ships wifi, but it won’t use any data you purchase to use it.
30. On the Navigator App, there is a free chat feature. You can connect with your cruise mates by exchanging a special code located on each individual app. This feature is free, but once again, you need to be connected to the wifi to use it.
31. Keep an eye on your navigator for rare character meet and greets. Castaway Cay has a couple of good ones – Stitch on the gangway area and Captain Jack Sparrow on Serenity Bay.
32. There are also character meet and greets available in Alaska off the ship.
33. Disney is very particular when it comes to allergies and how they deal with them. Read more about it later, but be rest assured you’ll be in safe hands!
34. Your serving team love celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, or anything – so be sure to let them know.
35. On the day you embark, there is a mandatory safety drill for all guests. It can be boring and your little ones may get restless, but it is an absolute must that you attend. If you don’t, a safety officer will come to your stateroom later on in the day and escort you to a second drill later for all those who didn’t attend the first.
36. For info on your lifeboat, muster station or anything else safety, check the safety card on the back of your stateroom door or ask any officer in white.
37. Disney is very particular about making guests comfortable and relaxed. So your serving team will learn your names and preferences – so if you have a nickname or name that you prefer, tell them on the first night, and they’ll remember it for the rest of the trip.
38. All service will be suspended during the mandatory guest drill on embarkation day.
39. If you want snacks to take into the movie theatre/shows, get soda from the top deck and food from one of the quick service locations on the pool deck.
40. There is a 24hour drinks station on the pool deck – which has soda, coffee and hot chocolate – perfect for the cold Alaskan nights on the Wonder and days spent at the Glaciers!
41. Check out to see if your ship has any exclusive merch for your particular cruise – the Panama crossing has some awesome shirts and jumpers!
42. On a Panama crossing cruise, on the day of the crossing, be sure to stake out your spot early, as it will get VERY busy on deck and stay busy all day.
43. If you are a traveller that doesn’t like to sit still, sea days will not be your friend – my Dad can vouch for that! Look into shorter cruises with no sea days to begin with and see how you go.
44. If you need your espresso fix and don’t want to drink the grey water that they call “coffee”, head to the Cove cafe found on all 4 ships in the adults only area. They even have coffee cards you get stamped to get a free one and you can use it on any ship!
45. I’m a big wine fan and if you’re like me, the best way to have your wine and drink it too, would be to go with a wine package. You buy it from your dining service team on the first night of the cruise. Depending on your cruise length and how much you drink, you purchase 3, 5 or 7 bottles on a standard or premium list. You can upgrade a bottle to the premium if you really want. At the end of the dinner if you haven’t finished your bottle, you can either leave it for the next night or take it back to your stateroom. You can also use the package in Palo or any of the bars – just not room service.
46. Every 4-5 years the Wonder cruises to Hawaii – keep an eye out, because they book out super fast because they’re so limited!
47. On longer cruises (especially Panama and Atlantic Crossings) there will be daily challenges and searches delivered to you the night before. Some include: getting the name and autograph of crew members from around the world, finding different carpet patterns, picking lights from popular places, etc. They are a fun way to get you seeing different places on the ship and can also win you some small rewards!
48. There are many Adult-Only areas on the ships, including bars and a pool area. The Pool area is my favourite spot to hang out at during the day, nice and relaxing, sometimes with an acoustic performer there for mood music as well!
49. Tipping can be a contentious issue among travellers period. When cruising with Disney though, you need to remember that DCL is an American company and, as such, bases it’s pay structure the same as their land equivalent jobs. Tips are the crew members lively-hood. Yes, you can withdraw tips at guest services, but I implore you to think long and hard whether the service was really so poor that you take away their pay because of it. If you would tip on land, do the same on the sea 🙂
50. In preparation for your cruise, you’ll receive a letter with an information booklet and some luggage tags. Attach these to all of your suitcases or larger bags that you won’t walk onto the ship with – those will make sure your bags get to your room.
51. On the first day, you’ll drop your bags at the terminal before you embark the ship. In Port Canaveral there will be baggage handlers that will take your bags, in other home ports, you’ll just drop them off when you check in.
52. There is a high chance you will get sea sick – usually on your first cruise, but it differs with everyone. If you’re unlucky enough to (I did on my 1st cruise, but none since!) there are a few small things to help alleviate it. 1 – don’t buy Dramamine unless nothing else has worked – it will knock you out and you’ll miss some of your cruise! Instead buy the wrist bands available at the shops – they worked for me and I always carry a pair with me, just in case! They also work for turbulence on planes! 2 – Ring Room service and get them to bring you some or all of these – Green apples, plain saltines and ginger ale. I’ve seen all three help people’s queasiness.
Do you have any tips for cruising that I’ve missed? What did you wish you knew before your first cruise?