If you’re looking for a magical Disney vacation that won’t leave you exhausted from walking around all day, taking a Disney Cruise is sure to please. After cruising with a variety of family members on multiple Disney ships (most recently aboard the reimagined Disney Wonder), I highly recommend a sailing getaway if you’re traveling with grandparents and extended family (think: few decisions, little walking, and activities for all!). If you’re considering a cruise or if you’ve already got one planned (lucky duck!), here are 20 things to know before taking a Disney Cruise.
20 Things to Know Before Taking a Disney Cruise
1 – Advance prep is a lifesaver. Be sure to fill out all the pre-registration materials online before your trip. Advance reservations can be made between 120-75 days before your trip depending on status. Register children for the youth clubs, select your dining time (the early seating books up quickly!), book excursions, adult dinner reservations, spa appointments and request any special services in advance. If you’re traveling with princess lovers, be sure to pre-book meet and greets and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon appointments ahead of time. You can also book these reservations once you are onboard but availability may be limited.
2 – Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app before you leave home. The app works on the ship’s guest WiFi so you can view maps, menus, activities like movies and showtimes and send text messages to other people using the app.
3 – What to pack? Be sure to check the weather before you pack and remember that public areas are highly air conditioned and evening temps can get quite chilly. Swimwear, cover-ups, shorts and t-shirts are great for day. For evening, attire ranges from sundresses to dressy dresses depending on the cruise length and dinner schedule. If your luggage is being delivered directly to your stateroom, be sure to pack a day bag with swimwear, sunscreen and an outfit or two. It takes a few hours for bags to arrive and they don’t all come at once so plan ahead. If you’re worried about motion sickness, bring a patch, wristband or medication.
4 – Disney Cruises are very baby (6 months+) and toddler friendly. Staff will provide any necessities and babysitting is available (at a charge). Note that children must be toilet trained to use the pools and consider bringing a baby carrier as elevators can be crowded. FYI, there is a storage space for strollers if you choose to not keep them in your stateroom.
5 – All Disney Cruises have a mandatory security drill before setting sail. This is a relatively quick and painless event (you don’t have to wear safety jackets) but all family members must be present.
6 – Room selection is key so pick the best option given your family size, special needs (like naps, cribs, accessibility) and budget. Staterooms range in size but there is plenty of closet and drawer storage as well as room for toiletries in the bathroom. Children will love the beds that fold out of the wall and some cabins have a sliding curtain to make a separate kids “room.” Remember, your suitcases will stay in your room so collapsable or nesting options are best.
7 – Get ready to eat. On a cruise you can order as many items as you can eat. Want three appetizers and two desserts every night? Go right ahead. In addition to the signature restaurants (like Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, Tritan’s and Tiana’s Place) and adult only options like Remy and Palo (on certain ships) there are plenty of buffet options as well as snacks and desserts around the clock. Don’t miss the ice cream machines, Mickey ice cream bars, Mickey waffles and complimentary room service available 24-hours a day which is a great perk when traveling with kids. The chefs and waitstaff will prepare special meals for guests with allergies so be sure to let your servers know if you have special dietary needs.
8 – Get off the ship and explore at ports and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. You can book day excursions or just kick back and relax on your own. Castaway Cay has wonderful recreational options for adults and children (and its own kids club!) so be sure to get out and play. Note: kids can only disembark with their parents unless you make other arrangements onboard.
9 – Plan to see a Disney movie or two. Current and classic films are shown throughout the day in signature movie theaters or alfresco by the pool. In addition, you can watch hundreds of Disney and Pixar movies in your stateroom.
10 – Expect some great evening entertainment. Disney Cruises are known for their amazing entertainment and some of the onboard evening shows are as mesmerizing as a Broadway musical. The entire family will love signature shows like The Golden Mickeys and Disney Dreams as well as new productions like Frozen, a Musical Spectacular (just saw this and it was spectacular) and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast (November, 2017). Shows vary by ship so check online before booking.
11 – Kids will love Disney’s youth clubs. With separate clubs for all ages (babies 6 months + to 17), parents can relax while kids play and make new friends. The clubs are complimentary and reservations do not need to be made in advance. There are an array of scheduled activities as well as character events, games and parties. Enrolled kids wear a waterproof ID wristband that allows staff to locate them quickly via GPS.
12 – Expect to stay up late. Depending on the ship’s itinerary, there will be at least one late night deck party. Our last cruise featured a 10 pm Pirate Party complete with characters, dancing, movies and fireworks. This was a tough one since my daughter crashes early but if you have night owls, this will be a big hit.
13 – Bring some costumes! Everyone dresses up for the aforementioned Pirate Party (think pirates, princesses, mermaids, etc.) and little girls are frequently seen in princess gowns. In addition, the ships feature seasonal holiday parties and Disney themed events (think Frozen, Marvel and Star Wars. Don’t worry, you can buy costumes as well as ears, clothing, autograph books in the ship’s gift shops.
14 – Pack your swimwear. The main pools vary in size depending on the ship but you will also find adult only pools as well as kid’s pools and splash areas for tots. If you love water slides, be sure to seek out the famed Aqua Duck on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy and AquaDunk on the Disney Magic.
15 – Don’t forget the door bling. The cabin doors are metal and the latest trend aboard Disney Cruises is personalized door magnets. This is a fun way to commemorate your trip and it definitely makes finding your room a lot easier. I ordered mine from Etsy but you can certainly DIY if you’re feeling crafty.
16 – Photo-ops are everywhere so bring your camera! From characters and princesses, oversized portholes, Instagram worthy desserts, gorgeous beaches and scenic lookout points, you will want to capture it all. If you want formal family photos, there are professional photographers aboard every ship.
17 – Expect some surprises! I don’t want to spill all the beans but you will be in for some magical moments like surprise towel animals and magic tricks.
18 – If you want extra surprises and don’t mind a little pre-trip prep work, you may want to participate in a Fish Extender program which allows guests to swap treats and gifts during their cruise. You can read more about this here, here and here.
19 – If you’re using the ship’s departure luggage program (available for certain airlines) your luggage will be picked up at 10 pm the night before you depart. Be sure to leave out travel clothing and toiletries as well as anything you need during your flight. This is a great perk as you leave the ship unencumbered and don’t have to worry about your luggage until you land at your final destination.
20 – You can book a future cruise at a discounted rate before your cruise ends. Be sure to ask about this during your trip as you will likely want to sail again.
Have you taken a Disney Cruise? Tell me your favorite memory below.
My most recent Disney Cruise took place as part of the 2017 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration #DisneySMMC. As always, all opinions are my own. If you don’t want to miss a post, subscribe to Globetrotting Mommy for daily updates!