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.
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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!
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.
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.
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!)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
76. Don’t hit the pool first thing in the morning on your day at sea.
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.
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).
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.