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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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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!

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FAQ Tipping on Disney Cruise Line: EVERYTHING You Need to Know

First time Disney Cruisers often have A LOT of questions about how to tip on their vacation. Some guests get overwhelmed, thinking – this is new environment to me – I don’t want to seem cheap, but I also don’t want to get rooked. Which tips are required and which are optional? How does tipping physically work? And on and on and on … Never fear, we’ve got the COMPLETE scoop on what you need to know about tipping on your Disney Cruise Line sailing.

I’m on a strict budget. What’s the bare minimum I have to tip?

The bare bones Disney Cruise Line gratuity amount is currently $14.50, per person, per night, for guests staying in non-concierge staterooms.

If, for example, you’re traveling on a three-night cruise with a party of two, your total gratuity fee would be $87 ($14.50 x 2 people x 3 nights). If you’re traveling on a seven-night cruise with a party of four, your total gratuity fee would be $407 ($14.50 x 4 people x 7 nights).

This baseline amounts will be automatically added to your stateroom bill. You can choose to pay them in advance of your sailing or once you’re onboard.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what your party’s baseline tip amount will be, head over Scott Sanders’ excellent Disney Cruise Line Blog to use his DCL Tip Calculator tool .

If you’re sailing in a concierge stateroom, tipping is slightly different – I’ll cover that in a sec.

Who do those tips go to?

The breakout of the daily $14.50 is:

  • $4.75  for your server (your main waiter)
  • $3.75 for your assistant server (the waiter primarily tasked with your beverages and clearing)
  • $1.25 for your head server (runs the dining room)
  • $4.75 for your stateroom host (cleans and maintains your stateroom).

There are other situations where you’ll be tipping on the ship, the base gratuity covers these four people.

disney cruise recommended tips

Do I really have to tip all those people? I mean, I don’t even know what the head server does?

The server, assistant server, and stateroom host are people that will be highly visible during your trip. They’ll assist you daily and you’ll observe them doing their jobs.

On the other hand, the head server position is a bit of a black box. They will likely stop by your table to greet you during dinner, but otherwise it’s not immediately clear what they do to merit a gratuity. Here’s what they’re up to: the head server is responsible for making sure that the entire dining room runs smoothly. This will impact you personally if you’ve made any special requests about your meal situation. If you want your table in a specific location, if you want to avoid sitting with strangers, if you want to make a mid-cruise change to your dining rotation, or if you’re having a problem with your table’s serving team, then the head server is the one who deals with those issues. You should tip them.

I’m from a country that doesn’t have a tipping culture, can I forgo tipping?

Can you? Maybe.  (see below)

Should you? Definitely not.

The Disney Cruise Line website reads, “It is customary to give gratuities …” Tipping is the norm and you should be prepared to abide by this custom.

The DCL crew members in tipped positions have a modest base salary; the majority of their pay comes from gratuities. These folks work incredibly hard to enhance your cruise experience, with no days off for months at a time. Just pretend that it’s part of the baseline cost of your trip and move on.

I’m traveling with a baby that doesn’t eat solid food. Do I still have to  pay gratuities for them?

A baby is a person, so yes.

I see that I can pre-pay these gratuities ahead of my cruise. Should I do that?

It’s really up to you. Some guests prefer to have a larger portion of their cruise expense paid in advance, often because this helps their budgeting process. Other guests like to hang onto their money as long as possible and only mete it out when required.

You can prepay tips on the DCL website. Or if you’re using a travel agent, they can do this for you.

Do I have to tip the serving team members if I won’t be eating in the main dining rooms?

Several years ago I traveled on a three-night Disney Cruise Line with a group of friends. One member of our party never ate in a main dining room. She was ill one evening and ate in her room and the other two nights our party ate at Remy and Palo.

Since my friend didn’t use the services of any of the main dining room staff, she went to Guest Services and asked to have the gratuities for those folks removed from her bill. The cruise staff gave her some solid pushback, but in the end they did remove those tips from her folio.

Why did she get pushback? It turns out that the waitstaff does much more than serve you dinner. They’re also serving meals at the pool deck buffet restaurants, in the main dining rooms during breakfast or lunch, and on Castaway Cay. In short, even if you’re not eating dinner in the main dining rooms, you’re all but certain to be using waiter services during other portions of your trip.

And again, these folks don’t make a lot of money. If you have the wherewithal to take a Disney Cruise Line vacation, the addition of a de minimus tip will mean significantly more to them than it will to you.

disney cruise recommended tips

I love my serving team and room host. Can I tip them more that the minimum?  Should I tip them more than the minimum?

If you have the funds to do so and the spirit moves you, then yes, absolutely you should tip them more. Any additional gratuities are greatly appreciated by the cruise staff.

How much extra should I tip beloved ship crew?

Ask a thousand people and you’ll get a thousand different answers. And when you get those answers, you can’t 100% be sure that what they’ve told you is true.

Given that, I’ll describe some of my own “extra tip” scenarios as well as some that I’ve seen from trusted friends and relatives:

  • Extra just wasn’t in the budget
  • The serving team was good but did nothing that merited a supplement
  • We skipped the main dining room several nights
  • We gave an extra $X per person, per night, where X is anything from $5 to $20+
  • We gave one member of our team (such as just the stateroom host) an extra tip (say $100) because they made our trip extra special
  • We gave all members of our a flat extra tip because we like to be generous
  • We give extra on longer sailings (7+ nights) when we really get to know our serving team, but we don’t give extra on quick 3-night sailings when we interact less with the crew members

disney cruise recommended tips

If I want to tip extra, do I need to bring cash?

If you simply want to give extra to your four main service team members (the ones listed above) you can do that in cash.  Or if you prefer not to carry much cash, you can stop by the Guest Services Desk onboard at any time and add funds to the gratuity part of your bill. Either way works.

There are, however, some other tipping situations where you will want to have cash on hand (see below).

How do tip my servers/room host? Physically, what happens?

On one of the last nights of your sailing, your stateroom host will leave you four small envelopes (labeled Server, Assistant Server, Head Server, and Stateroom Host) along with a tan-colored paper (perforated into four sections) which gives the names of your service team members and the basic tip amounts. But there are no instructions on what you’re supposed to do with these items. Guests often find this confusing.

The easiest situation is that you’re giving the baseline tip level. If you’re just giving the recommended amount, you don’t really have to do anything. Your folio (cruise bill) will be billed the standard amount (or you’ve paid the standard amount in advance) and that amount will be automatically distributed to your crew team. You can keep the summary sheet for your records or throw it out.

Other ways to approach tipping are:

  • If you plan to give your crew members the standard gratuities but think it feels weird to leave on the last day without handing them anything –  Place the perforated strips from the summary sheet into the corresponding envelopes and hand them to the crew members on the last night of your sailing.
  • Place cash in the envelope(s) and hand them to your team on the last night of your cruise
  • Place both the perforated strip and additional cash in the envelope(s) and hand them to your team on the last night of your cruise
  •   Add a gift card to the envelope(s) rather than cash. Some guests feel uncomfortable carrying cash and don’t want to deal with possible waits at Guest Services, but they do want to give something extra of financial value. We’ll say up front that crew members very much prefer cash, it’s easy to use in ports and to send to family members back home. But if cash is not your thing, Visa or American Express gift cards or store cards from big box locations such as Target or Walmart often appreciated.
  • Do any of the above and add a personal note of thanks .

Do I tip bartenders on the ship?

Bar tabs (at the coffee bars and at the traditional bars) on the Disney Cruise Line ships have an automatic 18% gratuity added. There is also a line for you to add an additional tip if you choose to give more.

disney cruise recommended tips

Do I tip for room service?

Many of the room servic e items on DCL are available free of charge. A gratuity is optional for most room service orders; however, tipping is polite and greatly appreciated. The amount you tip is at your discretion. If you’re looking for a rule of thumb, start with $1 per item ordered or $2-3 per person and go up from there.

On a recent cruise on the Dream, my daughter and I ordered room service continental breakfast of coffee, fruit, and cereal. We tipped $5.

You can give the room service attendant cash or add a tip to the receipt you’ll get when your food is delivered.

How much should I tip at the onboard adult dining venues (Remy, Palo, Enchanté)?

There is an 18% gratuity automatically added to the price of any alcohol you purchase at the onboard adult dining venues (Remy, Enchanté, and Palo).

There is no specific amount you’re required to tip for food. That said, at a bare minimum you should tip at least 20% for the food bill. If you’re a Platinum cruiser and are getting your food comped, you should still tip at least 20% of what your food cost would have been.

My opinion only – you do you – I don’t think that bare minimum level of tipping is adequate for the impeccable service you’re getting at these restaurants. You can never go wrong by tipping more.

You can add tips to your bill at the end of your meal as you would if you were paying with a credit card at any restaurant on land.

disney cruise recommended tips

How much should I tip at the spa?

Tipping is customary for spa and salon services. You’ll see an 18% gratuity added to your bill, but you can always add more.

disney cruise recommended tips

Are there people I need to tip at my port?

Yes. There are porters who will take any checked luggage onto the ship for you. These folks should be tipped in cash. A typical tip is $5 for one or two suitcases, $10 for two or three suitcases, and additional multiples of that for additional bags.

Similarly, if you use the porters at disembarkation, tip them the same amounts.

And if you’ve used a car service, Uber, or bus to get to/from the port, your driver will likely need tips as well.

 Should I be tipping anyone during my onshore excursions?

Most of the shore excursions are run by third party companies, not by Disney itself. The DCL website says that tipping is not required, but it is ALWAYS appreciated. Use your discretion on how much to tip based on the length of your excursion, the number of people in your party and the level of personal attention you receive.

disney cruise recommended tips

I’m in a concierge level stateroom? Is there anything different about tipping there?

In July 2022, DCL updated its recommended baseline tips for guests staying in Concierge Level staterooms. The recommended gratuity is $15.50 per person, per night of sailing, compared to $14.50 for non-Concierge rooms. The difference is that these rooms have an Assistant Stateroom Host position tipped at $1.00 per person per night.

The breakdown is:

  • Dining Room Server – $4.75 per person, per night
  • Assistant Dining Room Server – $3.75 per person, per night
  • Dining Room Head Server – $1.25 per person, per night
  • Stateroom Host – $4.75 per person, per night
  • Assistant Stateroom Host – $1.00 per person, per night

Additionally, Concierge Guests often ask for guidance regarding gratuities for the Concierge Lounge Team (Concierge Managers and the Concierge Servers). Disney recommends that these folks receive a gratuity amount of $8.00 per night, per stateroom guest. However, it is always up to the Guest to determine what they feel is appropriate. MANY guests tip more than this baseline.

My child absolutely adores the youth activities team. Should I tip them?

Youth activities staff are not normally tipped. Indeed, they’re supposed to decline tips. That said, they are allowed to accept cash, gift cards, and small gifts if you insist three times. Adding a note written/colored by your child is a nice touch.

Are there other folks on the ship I should be tipping?

If you’re lucky enough to snag a cabana at Castaway Cay, you’ll be attended by a host who’ll bring you extra towels or sodas, give you a golf cart ride back to the ship, and generally make your life nicer. Tip these folks in cash depending on the size of your party and the level of attention you receive.

Any other helpful hints?

If you really care about your crew team, the best thing you can do to reward them is by giving them EXCELLENT (not Very Good) ratings on the comment card you’ll get on your last night onboard. These ratings are a big part of how crew members get promoted.

Also, some guests like to bring candy, American magazines, or trinkets from home to give to cruise staff. This is a nice thought, but not necessarily best practice. The crew rooms are extremely small (you’d be shocked how tiny) shared quarters. They don’t have much room for extra “stuff.” Additionally, they might have allergies or different tastes than yours. Cash really is best and gift cards are a runner up. If you want to give something else, consider it as a supplement to a gratuity and not a substitute.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

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8 thoughts on “ FAQ Tipping on Disney Cruise Line: EVERYTHING You Need to Know ”

Much of this depends on the type of excursion you’re on. If, for example, you’re on something like a group bus visit to a location where you’re just dropped off to explore on your own, $10 per family for the driver is probably fine (and this is a situation where some guests might opt not to tip). If you’re on a private $4,000 helicopter excursion in Alaska where the pilot flew you somewhere special, then a $500-1,000 tip might be appropriate.

In general, you won’t be going wrong with a 15%-25% tip, but there is a certain amount of “you have to go with the vibes” to these situations. When in doubt, ask other guests on your excursion what they’re doing. An alternative is to stop by Port Adventures desk on your ship and ask what they think is customary. The cast members at the desk are likely to say something like “it’s up to your discretion” (which is true), you if you press, they may give a more solid answer.

You may also find our post on Disney World tipping helpful. While some of the article is Disney-specific, much of it applies to general tipping in the US as well. https://touringplans.com/blog/tipping-at-walt-disney-world-frequently-asked-questions/

I really appreciate this article. I need more help with the port excursion guidance, though. I’ve never been on a cruise or anything like this, so I have absolutely no baseline for the “use your discretion” guidance. Could you give an example or two (or five…)?

Quote “Disney recommends that these folks receive a gratuity amount of $8.00 per night, per stateroom guest. However, it is always up to the Guest to determine what they feel is appropriate. MANY guests tip more than this baseline.”.

My questions are: 1. How do you define “MANY”? 2. How do you know there are MANY? Any statistics revealed back up this statement?

“Many” is a rough guess that about 50-60% of guests give more than the suggested amount. I don’t have any hard statistics. However, we interview guests and travel agents and monitor dozens of social media groups related to Disney Cruise Line. The tipping topic comes up often. More than 50% of guests that we see/read mention tipping more than the baseline. It’s self-reported, so some of this could be bluster, but it’s enough that we feel confident that a significant subset of guests give more than the standard tip. It is, of course, entirely up to you to decide what makes sense for your situation.

Sorry – forgot the second half of your question @Julie. If you’ve purchased a Rainforest pass and are just going in to use the shower and steam rooms and relax in the lounge area, then no, there’s not really anyone to tip.

However, if you have a particularly helpful cast member who brings you extra towels or beverages or otherwise goes above and beyond, then tipping them a few dollars cash is always nice.

I thought I heard somewhere that you can tip for room service in the app. Is this true? Also, would you tip for using the Rainforest Room? If so, who would you tip?

Room service tipping on the app was something that happened early in the return to sailing after the pandemic shutdown as a way to reduce physical contact with items.

I sailed four time on three DCL ships (Dream, Magic, and Wish) in 2022. Room service tipping on the app was not offered to me on any of these trips. Instead I was presented with a paper receipt to sign, with a line available to add a tip amount, just as the practice was pre-COVID.

Great article as always.

Some items we would also add. We bring a bag of individually wrapped candies (like star burst or smarties) for the kids club hosts. They use them for team building and prizes for the department.

You can also tip just about any person on the ship as well. If you can get their name, where they are from, and what department (it helps) you can go to guest services. We found that out during our last cruise.

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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 recommended 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.

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disney cruise recommended tips

How Does Tipping Work on a Disney Cruise?  Your Guide to Gratuities

Tipping is often a source of confusion on Disney cruises. Does gratuity come with the fare? If not, when should you tip, and how much? How does tipping work on a Disney Cruise?  Here are the answers you need to know.

Note: Disney updated its standard gratuity amounts in July 2022.  This article has been updated to reflect the new amounts.

Is Tipping Included in the Cost of a Disney Cruise?

The cost of a Disney cruise covers your stateroom , activities, and dining experiences (except for specialty dining). But there’s one thing that’s not included in the base price of a Disney cruise: gratuities. Even though gratuities are technically optional, it is customary to tip certain crew members, and Disney expects you to do it.

In some situations, gratuities are automatically added to your stateroom account; in others, you decide whether to tip.

When are Automatic Gratuities Added to your Account?

There are four Crew Members Disney always expects you to tip, as they serve you for the entire duration of your cruise.  To simplify the tipping process, Disney automatically charges these gratuities to your onboard account at the end of your cruise (unless you have prepaid the gratuities or instructed Guest Services not to add them).

Which Crew Members Are Covered by Automatic Gratuities?

The four tipping positions associated with automatic gratuities are your stateroom host/hostess and three members of your regular dining room serving crew:

Your designated dining room server is responsible for taking care of the table service during dinner at the rotational dining restaurants .

Disney adds $4.75 (per passenger, per night) in automatic gratuity for your Server. 

Here’s what you can expect to pay the Server for the length of your cruise (in total):

  • For a 3-night cruise: $14.25
  • For a 4-night cruise: $19.00
  • For a 7-night cruise: $33.25

Assistant Server

This person assists your dining room server with the drinks, food, and cleanup.

Disney adds $3.75 (per passenger, per night) in automatic gratuity for your Assistant Server.

Here’s what you can expect to pay the Assistant Server for the length of your cruise (in total):

  • For a 3-night cruise: $11.25
  • For a 4-night cruise: $15.00
  • For a 7-night cruise: $26.25

Dining Room Head Server

The Head Server acts as a maître d’. You will be assigned a Head Server, who will check in with you and ensure you are satisfied with your dining experience, and oversees the other servers.

Disney adds $1.25 (per passenger, per night) in automatic gratuity for your Head Server.

Here’s what you can expect to pay the Head Server for the length of your cruise (in total):

  • For a 3-night cruise: $3.75
  • For a 4-night cruise: $5.00
  • For a 7-night cruise: $8.75

Stateroom Host/Hostess

Your Stateroom Host/Hostess is the person who cleans your stateroom every day. They are responsible for making your bed, turning it down at night, leaving chocolate, etc.

Disney adds $4.75 (per passenger, per night) in automatic gratuity for your Stateroom Host.

Here’s what you can expect to pay the Stateroom Host for the length of your cruise (in total):

For those staying in a Concierge-level room, additional tipping is customary for the Stateroom Assistant Host and the Concierge Lounge staff.

DCL Disney Dream Stateroom

Stateroom on the Disney Dream

To calculate the total amount of automatic gratuity you are expected to pay, add up the total nightly tips for each of these four categories ($4.75 + $3.75 + 1.25 + $4.75 = $14.50 ), then multiply that by the number of people sailing (regardless of age) and by the number of nights your cruise will last.

For example, a couple on a 3-night cruise should expect to tip $87.00 ($14.50 x 2 x 3).

A family of four on a 7-night cruise will have a suggested tip of $406 ($14.50 x 4 x 7).

Most people find that Disney’s automatic gratuities process helps simplify the tipping process. However, you may wish to do things differently. You can request to adjust these amounts, pay gratuities in cash, or pre-pay before your cruise begins (see below).

Note : The Dining Room Manager may also be tipped, though most people do not. Additionally, if any of the service crew members do not provide the quality of service you expect, please let management know immediately. Disney Cruise Line will do everything it can to rectify the situation. They will also accommodate your dietary needs if you make them known before ordering.

How do you Pre-Pay Gratuities on a Disney Cruise?

Gratuities are added to your Disney cruise account automatically prior to the end of your cruise as a default. It is also possible to pay the suggested tip in advance by contacting either Disney Cruise Line or your travel agent no later than three days before the cruise starts .

If you prefer to pay for everything before you step aboard, that’s great! Just make sure you pre-pay the tips at least three days before your departure date, and you’ll have nothing to worry about on your cruise.

If you have questions about tipping on Disney cruises, want to step up your pre-payments, or wonder how much a Disney cruise will cost , it’s time to contact The Vacationeer . They can provide up to $1,000 in FREE Disney onboard credit , Disney’s best available pricing, and expert planning advice and assistance.

Can you Remove Gratuities on a Disney Cruise?

Yes, you can remove, reduce, or increase the automatic gratuities on a Disney cruise by visiting Guest Services during the cruise. 

Disney automatically charges your onboard account the standard tip amounts (unless you pre-pay). No tip amount is set in stone, so Disney allows you to adjust them before the cruise ends if you want to give more or wish to give less; just contact Guest Services onboard your Disney Cruise .

How Do my Crew Members Know I Tipped Them?

At the end of your cruise, you will receive four envelopes and a sheet detailing all automatic tips that have been charged to your room folio.  This sheet is perforated so you can separate the section relating to each Crew Member and place it in the envelope (along with additional cash should you desire).

You may give these envelopes directly to the serving team on the last night at dinner or at breakfast on your final morning.  For your stateroom hostess, you may give the envelope to them in person or leave it in your room.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a chance to pass a tip envelope to a particular Crew Member… they’ll still receive the appropriate amount designated for them in your stateroom folio (but of course won’t get any actual cash you might have included).

DCL Disney Cruise Tipping Envelopes

Tipping Envelopes are provided at the end of your Disney Cruise

To summarize how Disney’s automatic gratuities work, you can 1. let Disney charge your account automatically, 2. pre-pay your gratuities, or 3. pass out individual envelopes with cash. It’s up to you! Just let your travel agent or Guest Services know if you wish to do something other than automatic gratuities.

Are Tips included at Palo and Remy?

Specialty dining on Disney cruises is a step above the regular dining room experience and is not included in a Disney cruise’s base price. You can choose between Palo and Remy, which both offer exquisite cuisine and an intimate setting.

Regarding tipping, an 18% gratuity will automatically be applied at dinner at Palo & Remy . However, you can also add additional gratuity if you feel that the service warrants it. For brunch, tips are included in the dining charge, but you can add gratuity if you desire . Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much to tip, but remember that the staff greatly appreciates the extra gratuity.

How Does Tipping Work at Bars and Clubs ?

Bar, beverage, wine, and deck service tabs will be automatically charged an 18% gratuity. Gratuities may be charged to your stateroom folio.

A gratuity of 18% will be automatically added to any drink ordered from a bartender, whether it is non-alcoholic or alcoholic. Sodas, bottled water, and alcohol ordered from room service will also have an automatic gratuity. Additionally, your server will add a gratuity to your bill if you order bottled water, a smoothie, or alcohol in the dining rooms.

Do you Tip for Room Service on a Disney Cruise?

Room service is one of the many perks of being on cruising with Disney . You can order anything you want, and it will be brought right to your stateroom door. Best of all, with the exception of a few packaged items and drinks, room service is complimentary. However, even though there is no charge for the food, it is customary to tip the person who brings it to your room .

You can add a tip to your onboard account when you sign the bill or give a cash tip. Most people leave a tip of at least $5. Whether or not you choose to tip is up to you.

Do you have questions about gratuities on the Disney Cruise Line? Contact the DCL experts at The Vacationeer for answers.

They can also advise you on the best Disney cruise ships , tell you which Disney Cruises depart from Florida , share their favorite Castaway Cay tips , and give you helpful ways to save money on a Disney cruise .

Contact The Vacationeer for a free, no-obligation quote today!

Are Gratuities Included for Spa Services?

Senses Spa & Salon offers a wide range of spa services, including massages, facials, and other pampering services. Unfortunately, the cost of spa services is not included in the Disney cruise nor its per-night automatic gratuities (though we still consider spa treatments at Senses to be a worthy splurge ).

That said, an 18% gratuity will automatically be applied to all spa services you receive. You do not need to add more unless you are so inclined. 

DCL Senses Spa and Salon

Senses Spa & Salon | Image © Disney

Can you use Cash on a Disney Cruise Ship?

When planning a Disney cruise, one question that often arises is whether you can use cash onboard the ship. The answer is that all onboard purchases are charged back to your stateroom folio, but you can use cash to pay that folio.  You can also give tips via cash if you wish.   Here are a few things to keep in mind.

To begin with, you may use the credit card on file, American Express Travelers Cheques denominated in USD (United States Dollars), or pay with cash. Secondly, you must settle all charges before you leave the ship. This means that if you plan on using cash, you’ll need to have enough to cover your entire bill (or at least have a second payment method to use as well). Lastly, remember that gratuities are not included in your cruise fare, so you’ll need to have cash on hand to tip bus drivers, porters, tour guides, etc

When you’re off the ship at a port (except for Disney’s private island Castaway Cay ), your shipboard folio is no good for payment.  Local currency or a credit/debit card is needed.

It’s generally best to bring a mix of cash and other forms of payment when cruising with Disney. That way, you’ll be prepared for anything.

How Much Do you Tip a Porter on a Disney Cruise?

Remember to bring small bills with you. This will make it easier to tip porters and bus drivers without breaking larger bills. Second, if you use Disney transportation (or any other transportation services), consider giving your bus driver a few dollars after arriving.

You should also tip people who assist you with your luggage, whether they’re unloading your bags from a bus or bringing them to your stateroom. It’s up to you how much you tip.

Should you Tip the Tour Guides on Port Adventures? 

If you’re taking a Disney cruise, consider bringing some cash to tip your tour guides and drivers. While it’s not required, it’s good etiquette to show your appreciation for their service with a gratuity.

Most guides and drivers are very familiar with the customs of their home country, so they can be a valuable resource for information about what to see and do during your trip. They may also be able to provide insights into the culture that you wouldn’t get from reading a guidebook.

Tipping is generally done in cash, and US dollars are widely accepted in many foreign ports, so if you’re planning to take an excursion while on your cruise, be sure to bring some cash to show your appreciation for your guides and drivers.

How Does Tipping Work for the Concierge Level?

Prepare to tip even more if you are sailing at the concierge level . Concierge hosts rely heavily on tips, so be sure to tip generously . How much you tip is always up to you, but Disney now recommends at least $8 per passenger, per night, for the Concierge Lounge hosts.  In addition, you’ll find your Concierge Stateroom Assistant Host is factored into the nightly automatic gratuities normally reserved only for the Stateroom Host and dining room staff. Remember that your concierge hosts are there to make your cruise as enjoyable as possible, so don’t hesitate to give them a little extra if they go above and beyond.

Are you expected to Tip for Disney Babysitting Services?

On a Disney Cruise, gratuity is not expected for babysitting services . However, if you feel that the babysitter did an exceptional job and you would like to show your appreciation, you may do so at your discretion.

Do you have questions? Are you ready to book your Disney Cruise? The Vacationeer can help!

If you need help planning and booking your magical Disney Cruise Line vacation, please contact our friends at The Vacationeer . Their services are always helpful and free of charge!

We hope our How Does Tipping Work on a Disney Cruise article will help you prepare for your magical vacation at sea. Happy sailing!

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Global Munchkins

Travel + Global Inspired Lifestyle

May 16, 2024

The Absolute Best Disney Cruise Tips to Save You Time & Money!

Our family absolutely loves cruising, and Disney Cruises hold a special place in all of our hearts. However, planning a Disney Cruise can be quite overwhelming. With 20 Disney Cruises under my belt, I’ve gathered the top 100 tips you need to know for a magical and stress-free experience.

From planning and budgeting to embarkation at Castaway Cay and the bittersweet debarkation, we’ve got you covered with the best Disney Cruise tips to ensure your voyage is smooth sailing .

50+ Best Disney Cruise Tips

Disney Cruise Packing List- free printable

How to Get a Deal on a Disney Cruise

  • Don’t Book on the Disney Cruise Site : The site is great for researching cruises but booking directly can be costly. Instead, use a travel agent. They can match the price found on the Disney Cruise site and often offer onboard credits, sometimes up to $1000. This credit can be used for specialty dining, spa services, cocktails, shore excursions, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or other onboard purchases. Some travel agents charge a planning fee, but our agency, Best Day Ever Vacations , will find you the best deal with no additional fee !
  • Hidden Last Minute Deals Are Available on the Site : These are described as “Restricted Guaranteed” rates. You choose the type of cabin (inside, outside, verandah) but not the actual room. We have done this numerous times and always received great rooms, sometimes even connecting ones. You can check out how we booked these discounts on the Disney Magic.
  • Florida Resident and Military Discounts : These discounts are available, but other discounts are hard to come by.
  • The Best Way to Save Money on Your Disney Cruise : Book your next cruise while on an existing cruise to save 10% off the prevailing rate, receive an onboard credit of $200, and get a reduced deposit. Also, purchase discounted Disney gift cards if you are a Target Red Card holder to receive 5% cash back. You can save an additional 5% off your cruise by purchasing gift cards at Target. Additionally, take advantage of bonus points from your credit card company, such as the Chase Ink card, which offers 5 points for every $1 spent at office supply stores that sell Disney gift cards.
  • DVC Members, Don’t Use Points to Book Your Cruise : Using points for a Disney Cruise is a terrible waste due to poor point value. It is much better to rent out your points through a service like David’s Vacation Rentals and use that money for the cruise.
  • Sometimes Two Cabins Are Better Than One : If you have a family of five, booking a family cabin can be pricey. Sometimes booking two connecting rooms is cheaper than one large room, providing more space as well.
  • Book Off Season : The cheapest times to cruise are when the kids are back in school. The cheapest month is September (hurricane season), so if you are willing to risk sailing during hurricane season, you can save a lot of money.
  • Book Early, Book Early, Book Early : If you are looking for a specific itinerary, book it as soon as sailing dates are announced. Disney cruises rarely go down in price (except for last-minute specials), so the cheapest prices are usually right when the itinerary is released.

How to Choose the Best Room on a Disney Cruise

  • All About Concierge Rooms : All five ships have concierge rooms and now have concierge lounges. These rooms get booked up the fastest, so book early. Check out the amazing experiences of having concierge level here!
  • Book Your Room on the Starboard Side if You Love Fireworks : The fireworks at sea show is pretty spectacular (occurs on pirate night). If you book your room on the starboard side of the ship (right side), you can watch the fireworks from your verandah. Disney does not recommend sitting on your balcony during the fireworks, but many families do so anyway.
  • The Low Down on the Secret Mini-Suite : There is a secret mini-suite that is considered an ocean-view room. On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy on Deck 5, there are 6 cabins that sleep only 3 people. These rooms are massive compared to the normal Disney Cruise rooms and are priced at the same rate as a regular ocean-view cabin. The rooms are 5018, 5020, 5022, 5518, 5520, and 5522. These rooms get booked quickly!

Before You Board – Packing, Checking In, Booking Port Adventures & More

  • Check-In Online ASAP (120 Days Before Sailing) : Embarkation times vary, but the earlier you do your online check-in, the earlier you get to board the ship, giving you more time to spend onboard. Show up at the port about 30 to 45 minutes before your scheduled embarkation time. This allows time to drop off your bags with the porters, go through security, and check in, so you can embark as soon as your scheduled time slot allows. Arriving too early might result in waiting around the port, which is not very enjoyable.
  • Platinum Castaway Club members and concierge guests: 120 days before sailing.
  • Gold Castaway Club members: 105 days before sailing.
  • Silver Castaway Club members: 90 days before sailing.
  • All other guests: 75 days before sailing.

Grab our FREE Disney Cruise Packing List Printable, Click Here!

  • Booking Activities : As soon as you check in, you can book dining, cabanas on Castaway Cay, shore excursions (port adventures), and spa experiences. Many of these book up fast, so book them right away.
  • You Can Bring Your Own Alcohol On Board : You can bring two bottles of wine or a six-pack of beer per person. Do not pack them in your suitcase; they need to be in your carry-on for the ship.
  • Decorate Your Door : This is one of those super fun Disney Cruise Tips. People love to use custom magnets and “Fish Extenders” which hang on the door and identify different members of the family. It is a fun way to place surprises for the kids and often times Disney fans share gifts and notes with other fans. Etsy is a great place to grab fun magnets and “Fish Extenders”
  • Pre-Book Upgraded Dining : These dining options book up fast. The Palo Brunch is my favorite upgraded dining. For shorter 3-4 day cruises, you don’t want to miss the rotational dining, so upgrading to the Palo Brunch is perfect. On longer cruises (5 days or more), check out the fine dining at Palo & Remy.
  • Allergies or Specialty Dining Needs : During online check-in, you can specify allergies and special dietary needs. The chefs and waiters are very accommodating. At every meal, a waiter will ensure you are taken care of, and there is always a chef on hand at self-service and buffet stations to provide information about ingredients.
  • Pre-Book Character Experiences & Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique : The character experiences are free. Try to book them for days at sea. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique costs about $119.00.
  • Booking Dining Times Tips : There are two seatings onboard Disney Cruises: Main Seating (5:45 PM-6:00 PM) and Late Seating (8:00 PM-8:15 PM). If you want the main seating, try to book it right away. Main dining is more popular, but late dining has its perks:
  • Kids Club Pick-up : During late seating, the kids club can pick up your kids in the middle of dinner so that the kids can play and the adults can enjoy a relaxing meal. (Waiters know to serve the kids quickly.) The late seating is usually less busy, so you don’t have to rush to the Walt Disney Theater for a good seat, and picture lines before dinner are typically less crowded. Plus, if you have late dinner, you get a late breakfast on your final day, so you don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn.
  • Many of Disney’s port adventures are offered via third parties that also sell the same excursions directly or through other third-party sites. Check out Trip Advisor’s reviews on the excursion you are considering to see if you should book outside of the cruise.
  • In Nassau, Bahamas, the most popular port adventure is Atlantis. An Atlantis Day Pass typically runs $165 per person. Save money by booking a room for one night at Atlantis for as little as $199, which entitles you to 4 day passes, saving around $400.
  • Also, check out the new Baha Mar Water Park, which is incredibly nice and not typically crowded.
  • Plan for Pirate Night : Pirate Night is one of the best nights on the ship, with characters and guests dressed up. Find pirate costumes online before you go, as the ship’s pirate attire can be pricey. (Everyone gets a Mickey bandana at dinner.)
  • Pack a Day Bag for the 1st Day : Your room might not be ready until 3 pm on the first day. Pack a day bag with a swimsuit and sunscreen so you can enjoy the day onboard the ship. (The waterslide lines are usually shortest when you first board.) You can change in the fitness center or bathrooms (which Disney keeps spotless).
  • Download the Disney Navigator App : This app will inform you of everything happening onboard and includes a free chat service to communicate with your family and fellow cruisers. It’s a great tool for your cruise!
  • Getting to Port Canaveral : Most Disney Cruises sail from Port Canaveral, about 40 minutes from Orlando Airport and 1 hour from Walt Disney World. Disney transportation costs $45 each way per person, which can be expensive for large parties. Additionally, Disney Cruise transportation from Disney hotels is only once per day, often resulting in being among the last to board the ship.
  • Rent a Car : Rent a car and park at an offsite lot. We rented a car for $20 a day, and parking was $6 per day. We paid $180 including gas for 5 people. Disney transportation would have cost $450, saving us $270. (Consider a one-way car rental.)
  • Take an Uber or Lyft : Uber XL (seats 5-7) is $125 each way, so you save $100 if there are 5 of you.
  • Book Offsite Transportation : This typically runs $100 each way, offering additional savings.

Embarkation Day

You’ve made it, life is good because your vacation is about to begin!!! Woohoo! This day goes fast and sometimes can be hectic so here are our best tips so you enjoy embarkation day.


  • Arrival : Arrive about 1 hour before your boarding time. This allows enough time to have your luggage handed over to the porters (tip them, they work hard), go through security, and complete the check-in process. Arriving too early may result in sitting around waiting.
  • Kids Club Check-In : You can complete the majority of your kids club check-in online. Avoid doing the kids club check-in at the port unless the line is very short, as it can be very long. On embarkation day, the ship will have a few tables set up where you can bring your kids to get them all set up to enjoy the fun.
  • Boarding the Ship : When you board the ship, the Disney Cast will personally announce and welcome your family by name. If you like to video, have your phone or camera ready. My kids love this part of the cruise; it’s a great memory.
  • First Thing We Do On Board: Dine! : When you first board, they will direct you to the lido deck for the buffet. It can be a bit hectic, but not as hectic as many other ships’ buffets. If you’re not hungry, head over to the pool and let your kids enjoy the pool and slides while they are not busy.
  • Alternative Dining Option : If you prefer to avoid the chaos of the buffet on the first day, head to one of the three dining restaurants, typically Animator’s Palate or Enchanted Garden, and enjoy a nice relaxing sit-down lunch. On the Disney Wish, the sit-down dining is typically at 1923.

Tips for While On-Board

  • Bring a Water Bottle for the Water Refill Stations : There are water refill stations onboard, so bring a refillable water bottle to fill up at these stations or the soda stations, which also have a water refill option.
  • Free Alcohol for Vacation Club Members : There’s a DVC Member Celebration on Embarkation Day that offers free alcoholic drinks and some giveaways. It’s a way to get you to purchase more points, but free alcohol is a nice perk!
  • Sail Away Party : The sail away party is a fun event with characters dancing and music as the ship departs. It’s best to watch from the top deck as it gets crowded on the party deck, where you might have to lift your child onto your shoulders.
  • Mandatory Safety Drill : Right after the sail away party is the mandatory safety drill. Head to your room to unpack and get ready for the drill when the alert goes out. Staff will guide you to the safety drill location.
  • On the Disney Wish : The safety drill is now online; just visit your muster station to check in quickly.
  • Buffets : Healthy dining options are available, such as egg white omelets, vegan omelets, and scrambles at the cook stations. Create your own delicious concoctions!
  • Kid’s Clubs : The kid’s clubs onboard are amazing, with incredible staff, plenty of activities, and character meets. On the first day, there is an open house for exploring with your kids. After that, the kids have the club to themselves for most of the cruise.
  • Pool Chairs : Pool chairs get snagged early, so wake up early to grab one on at-sea days. When in port, the pool area is usually less crowded.
  • Slides : The slides can have long lines. For shorter waits, head up early, get in line on embarkation day, or return early on a port day.
  • Goofy’s/Pluto’s Pajama Party is a Must for Kids!
  • Don’t Miss the Broadway Shows!
  • Movies : If you love popcorn, grab a refillable popcorn bucket for $7.50, with refills costing only $1.50.
  • Find the Hidden Mickeys!
  • Schedule a Character Wake-Up Call : You can schedule a free wake-up call where a Disney character will give you a fun wake-up message. Baymax is a favorite!
  • Personal Navigator : The personal navigator used to be delivered to your room but now must be requested from your stateroom host. Grab it before dinner to plan your next day, or use the app to plan out your day.
  • Enjoy Some Amazing Latte Art : Head to the Cove Cafe on Deck 11 in the Adult Area for lattes with fun Disney character art on the foam, featuring characters like Mickey, Minnie, Baby Yoda, and Baby Groot.

Latte Art - Disney Cruise

  • Great Bar to Check Out : The Skyline Bar on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy has a rotating skyline behind the bar that changes every 15 minutes.
  • Rotational Dining : Experience different restaurants each evening. Don’t miss Animator’s Palate, where the restaurant comes alive, and on the Disney Fantasy, your artwork is part of the show.
  • Order a 2nd Meal at Dinner : Feel free to order an extra entrée or multiple desserts. You’re on vacation!
  • Mickey Ice Cream Bars at Dinner : Although not on the menu, you can order a Mickey Ice Cream bar for a delicious treat.
  • Cash-Free Living – Almost : All charges go on your key to the world card, so no need for cash onboard, but have some cash handy for additional tips on the final night.
  • Laundry : Disney cruises offer laundry pick-up and dry cleaning at reasonable prices. There’s also a laundry room with washers, dryers, detergent, and ironing equipment.
  • Take Lots of Photos : Capture memories of the specially themed nights; they make great keepsakes.
  • Purchase Pictures Before the Final Night and Morning : It gets hectic on the final night and debarkation day. Check out your pictures on the morning of the final full day to save time. You can also pre-purchase your pictures before you board.

Castaway Cay Tips

Castaway Cay is always my favorite port. The incredible beaches, the bike rides around the island, water slides and the character dance parties are a must do for our family. Here are our best Disney Cruise tips to enjoy Castaway Cay

  • Early Birds Get a Medal : Technically, you have to run a 5k on Castaway Cay to get the medal, but Mickey will have one waiting for you. Sign up beforehand (onboard or online) to participate in the 5k, and a safety meeting is required.
  • Grab Breakfast on the Ship : Breakfast is not served on the island, and the buffets are not open until lunch.
  • Send Some Mail from Castaway : Castaway Cay has a post office drop-box with an exclusive Castaway Cay postmark. Purchase stamps aboard the ship and mail a postcard to friends and family.
  • Booking a Cabana as Soon as Possible : If you want a cabana, book it very early (usually concierge and platinum guests get them first). Here is my complete guide to the Castaway Cabanas.
  • Meet Jack Sparrow : On Castaway Cay, you will find Jack Sparrow. Check your Personal Navigator for details.
  • Hit the Waterslides Early : The waterslides are located right past the family beach. The lines get long later in the day, so head over early.
  • Enjoy a Delicious BBQ Lunch Included in the Cruise Fare : One of the great things about Castaway Cay is that all the stuff included on the cruise ship is included here as well, including a delicious BBQ lunch. Lunch is served from 11:30 – 1:30 and offers BBQ Chicken, Ribs, Burgers, Mahi Mahi, Veggie Burgers, and some delicious side dishes.
  • Excursions to Book : We book the 3-in-1 Castaway Cay Getaway Package, which includes snorkel equipment for the day, an inner tube, and bicycle rental for one hour. After dropping off our beach stuff, we head for the bikes before it gets too hot. You get to ride around the island and climb a tower with an amazing view of the island.
  • Adults-Only Beach : Serenity Bay is the adults-only beach on Castaway Cay. If you are looking for peace and quiet, this is the spot. They have buffets at Serenity Bay, so you can relax there all day long.
  • Kid’s Club on Castaway Cay : How can you enjoy Serenity Bay if you have kids? No worries. Castaway has its own kids club called Scuttle’s Cove, with the same great counselors from onboard the ship. It features a fun area with a giant whale dig for the kids.
  • Character Dance Party : Every afternoon, there is a character dance party where you can do a little conga with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. It is so much fun for the little ones.
  • Cool Off with a Little Basketball and Shuffleboard : There is a great place on Castaway called “In Da Shade” where you can shoot hoops, play ping pong, and shuffleboard under the shade. It’s also a good spot during a random downpour.

Disembarkation Tips

The saddest day of the cruise has arrived and if you don’t plan well it can be even sadder. Here are our best Disney Cruise tips to make disembarkation easy peasy.

  • Buy Photos & Settle Credit Card Charges the Day Before : Make sure to review your bill and purchase photos the day before you disembark. The guest service line gets long on the last day.
  • Packing Up : The night before the cruise ends, staff will collect your luggage if you leave it in the hallways. Here are a few tips to ensure you do it correctly:
  • Do Not Pack Everything : If you pack everything, you’ll only have your pajamas in the morning to get off the ship, which is not ideal.
  • Carry Off Your Luggage and Get Off the Ship First : The lines for disembarkation can be long. If you don’t have too much luggage, you can carry it off yourself and be among the first to leave the ship.
  • A Few Options for Morning Breakfast : You will be assigned a morning breakfast with your wait staff at one of two times based on your dining time choice. Alternatively, you can head to the buffet on the pool deck, which is not very crowded on the final day.
  • You Might Have to Head Up the Elevator to Get Down : With upwards of 4,000 people disembarking with luggage in hand, the elevators get packed. If you are not on the top floor, you might have to wait a while for an empty elevator. Instead, take an elevator up while it’s empty and then ride it back down.
  • Smile! You had a great cruise. Even though it’s over and you might feel a bit down, remember the fun times and cherish the memories.

Grab our free Disney Cruise Tips Printable!

DCL Tips

Map of Disney Cruise Itineraries

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Pin for Later – Over 100 Disney Cruise Tips

I love cruising, and I really love Disney Cruises, but let me tell you something…..There is A LOT to plan when it comes to booking a Disney Cruise. After 9 Disney Cruises, I have put together my top 100 tips you need to know for your next Disney Cruise. From planning to embarkation at Castaway Cay to the sad ending of Debarkation! We have got the best Disney Cruise Tips to make your sailing a breeze. Check out these disney cruise tips and tricks! #disneytravel #traveltips #vacationideas

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Reader Interactions

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January 17, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Ive never been on a Disney cruise but would like to someday. I just got invited on my first press trip cruise ..on Norwegian, so I am pretty excited! Thanks for sharing!

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January 18, 2018 at 9:46 am

I’m planning on a Disney cruise in the next 2 years, so this has been PERFECT info & a great help!

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January 18, 2018 at 10:33 am

Fantastic!! You will have the BEST time, let me know if you ever have any questions or if you need any help booking 🙂

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January 19, 2018 at 1:59 pm

This is perfect! I’ve been trying to research all I can about a Disney trip, and this is definitely a resource I need to save.

January 20, 2018 at 8:36 am

I am so happy to hear you found it helpful. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. We love cruising with Disney.

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January 27, 2018 at 4:26 am

We are cruising in January any tips in what kind of clothes to pack. Usually we go in May, so I pack shorts, Capri, and little sundresses. Is this still “warm enough “ clothing? Is it warm enough to swim and enjoy water activities?

January 28, 2018 at 7:33 am

Hello Beth, if you are cruising to the Caribbean the weather is still gorgeous in January with average highs in the low 80’s and lows in the 70’s. I might add a few more layers than you normally pack as it is cooler in the evenings and with those breezes onboard. But, as far as water activities go I think you will be just fine 🙂 Enjoy your cruise!

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January 29, 2018 at 2:55 pm

We are taking our 3rd Disney Cruise in September this year (Halloween on the High Seas). Cruises are definitely the BEST vacations ever! Kids have so much to do and parents have just as much fun enjoying the festivities. We just took the Very Merry Holiday Cruise in December 2017 and it was FANTASTIC! Cookies and milk, story time with Mrs. Claus, tree lighting ceremony and a huge gingerbread house in the atrium so it smelled like cookies every time you are in the area.

January 29, 2018 at 3:49 pm

I’m so glad you shared that. We have always wondered how the holiday cruises were. Sounds like we need to book one!!

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April 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm

If using Disney transportation from airport to Port Canaveral, Fly into Orlando airport the day before your cruise and stay at the hotel INSIDE the airport instead of a Disney park hotel. They let you check in early if you tell them you’re on a Disney cruise. We had an early morning flight to Orlando that left around 5am and got us there around 11am. We got the room right away, grabbed something to eat and went back to room to take a nap since we had been up since 3 am. Then enjoyed the hotel ammenties and dinner at the hotel. The next morning we were refreshed and not travel tired to start our vacation. After a great breakfast we took the short walk to the bus pick up and left on the first bus to the cruise terminal around 9am. If you stay at a Disney park hotel the bus pick ups start around 11am and the room costs more than the one inside the airport.You get to the terminal first, have no lines and have time to take pictures with characters, etc before boarding.

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January 17, 2019 at 4:32 pm

I agree with Deann, we did this flying in from LA and it made for a much less stressful embarkation day. Just one thing I want to add if you’re flying in the night before…if you want to bring some wine/beer with you, you can use instacart to get some local alcohol for your cruise. I roamed the airport but couldn’t find any stores selling wine bottles or 6 packs for beer.

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July 20, 2018 at 10:13 am

Blogging is definately not my day job. Im trying to promote my business by attempting to reveal it. But crap could it be ever difficult. I do admire your articles, and I just had to comment to give you kuddos on wonderful content and information.

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January 5, 2019 at 10:01 pm

We are going on our first Disney cruise in 30 days. Looking for excursion recommendations for Cozumel, Falmouth Jamaica and Grand Cayman. We are travelling with 2 4-year old twins. Thanks in advance. I’m also using your packing list for the cruise!!

January 7, 2019 at 9:08 am

Grand Cayman has beautiful beaches, I believe one is called 7 mile beach. I also really loved Mr. Sanchos Beach Break in Cozumel. They have a play area in the beach for the kids and some nice hammocks to lounge in. Have a great trip!

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March 22, 2021 at 7:35 pm

Hey !! Thanks for gathering a lot of useful information !! I was wondering how did you book your hotel room at Atlantis?? Did you use the travel agency ? I am looking at prices because I like the idea of booking a room just for the parks but the minimum I have seen $500 and something (including all fees) Thank you again !!

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101 Great Disney Cruise Line Tips

disney cruise recommended 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 recommended 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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EverythingMouse Guide To Disney

Tipping on a Disney Cruise – What You Need to Know Updated 2024

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One of the things which people get very confused about is tipping on a Disney Cruise. Here we break everything down for you. It really isn’t that complicated once you know the basics.

Who do you tip on a Disney cruise and how much? How do you pay gratuities on a Disney cruise and can everyone even accept a tip?


Tipping on a Disney Cruise

When we think of tipping on a Disney cruise there are really four main Cast Member positions that you will tip. This is what is included in the automatic gratuities.


However, when we are talking about the automatic gratuities which are charged at the end of your Disney cruise, these are given to these four people:

  • Stateroom Host. This is the person who cleans your stateroom every day.
  • Server. This is your main server in your rotational dining restaurant.
  • Assistant Server. The is the one who will get your drinks and assist your main server.
  • Head Server. In each rotational dining restaurant, there are 4 head servers. You will be assigned one who will make sure you are happy with your dining experience overall.

These people work incredibly hard and rely on your gratuities to make a living. They work very long hours with little time off.

And most of the time there are smiling! Like our fabulous server Netasha who is pictured below. 


Each of these four people is allocated a specified amount of automatic gratuities. You can see how these are calculated in the next section.

If you do not pre-pay them this is fine. They will simply be added to your onboard account. You can change this by either increasing or decreasing the amount – we will talk more about this later. 

Do I Need Cash On A Disney Cruise?

You really don’t need cash on a Disney cruise. You will be required to link a credit card to your stateroom before you check in.

You can do this on your Disney Cruise Navigator.

You can’t use cash on a Disney Cruise to pay for things directly. Everything is charged to your Key to the World Card. 

If you want to use cash or gift cards to pay your onboard account you have to visit Guest Services as soon as you board your Disney Cruise.

You simply give them the cash or the gift cards that you want to use and this will be put onto your account.

At the end of your cruise, you will need to visit Guest Services if there is a balance to pay or if you need any money back.

If you paid in cash this will be given back in cash.

If you paid with a Disney Gift Card or Rewards Card be sure to keep your card. The reason is that if you have credited it will go back on this card – not much use if you have thrown it away!

Disney Cruise Gratuities Calculator

This Disney Cruise Gratuities Calculator below shows the amounts which will automatically be added to your stateroom account.

These amounts are per person.

That includes children of any age. I know that some guests object to children being included in this.

However, consider how much more work your server probably does for your child. Or all the cleaning up that your Stateroom Host does to clean up after your toddler. 


You can adjust these amounts if you want to. This can be adjusted either up or down.

They can be adjusted by visiting Guest Services and asking them to charge your account for extra or to reduce the charges. 

We really do strongly suggest you don’t reduce them unless you have truly received substandard service.

If it is something to do with your dining team, always try and resolve the matter with your Head Server first.

If it is an issue with your Stateroom Host mention your issue to Guest Services or directly to your Host. Most things can be resolved. 

Disney really does go above and beyond with customer service. If you encounter any problem at all, tell someone. You will probably be amazed at just how good they are when problems arise.

Disney Cruise “Hidden” Gratuities

Aside from the automatic gratuities, there are some services which you will pay an automatic tip if you incur a charge.

The two main areas where this will happen are for drinks purchases and at the spa.

Note that this is not applicable for Disney Cruises sailing from Australia and New Zealand as tips have already been included in the price of drinks, spa services, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiqu, Palo and Beverage Tastings. A tip for delivery of Room Service is still appreciated.


If you purchase a drink at any bar or in a restaurant, you will automatically be charged an additional 15% gratuity.

This will be shown on the bill that you are asked to sign. There is also space for you to add an additional gratuity if you like. 


The one area where I often make the mistake of factoring in a tip is when calculating the price is at the spa. Probably because at 18% on already inflated prices this makes a big difference! 

For any spa service, an 18% charge will automatically be added.

This includes the Disney Cruise Rainforest Room.

Another one that you may not realize is if you go to any of the Beverage Tasting Seminars.

Most of them cost around $25 ranging up to $38 for the Champagne Tasting. The gratuity is not automatic, but it is customary to leave at least an additional 15%.

The Cast Members are extremely knowledgeable and often very entertaining – they deserve the gratuity.

Disney Room Service Tips


Most items on the Room Service Menu are free.

There are exceptions, such as alcohol and bottled water, but mostly you will not be charged for room service.


However, it is customary to give a tip to the Cast Member who brings your food to you. 

Note this is also customary on the cruises sailing out of Australia and New Zealand.

You can use cash for this – so keep some $1’s and $5’s handy in a drawer by the door. Or they will give you a bill with zero charges and you can add a gratuity if you wish.

There is no set amount to tip for room service, but I would suggest at least $1 to $2 per plate. But it really is up to you.

This is one of the only times when you might use cash to tip on a Disney cruise. The other is if you add an additional tip to any of your Servers or Stateroom Steward.

You can do this at the end of the cruise – more about that later.

Tipping at Palo and Remy


There is no automatic gratuity at the adult restaurants on a Disney cruise. However, you will most likely receive exceptional service at Palo and Remy. 

An additional 18% is a suggested starting point.

Disney Cruise Concierge Tipping

How much do you tip Disney Cruise Concierge? For many years Disney Cruise Line did not give any guidelines for how much to tip if you were staying Concierge.

However, in July 2022 Disney suggested what you should tip if you are staying in Concierge.

The amount for Concierge suggested by Disney Cruise Lines is $15.50 per person per day.

This comprises:

  • Dining Room Server $4.75
  • Assistant Dining Room Server $3.75
  • Head Server $1.25
  • Stateroom Host $4.75
  • Assistant Stateroom Host $1

As you can see, the amounts are the same as for other guests. The extra $1 per person per day is for the Assistant Stateroom Host.

Disney also suggests an amount of $8 per stateroom guest for the Concierge Lounge Team. Therefore if there are 2 guests in your Concierge Stateroom for a 4-day cruise the suggested amount for the lounge team is $64.

The Disney Cruise Concierge Team does an exceptional job. Many guests tip more than the suggested amounts but you are under no obligation to do so.

Who You Can’t Tip on a Disney Cruise


There are certain Disney Cruise Cast Members who are not permitted to accept gratuities.

  • Kids Club and Nursery Staff are not permitted to accept gratuities.
  • Bibbidi Boppidi Boo Staff are not permitted to accept gratuities.

Tipping at the End of a Disney Cruise


On the last day of your Disney cruise, you can see all your stateroom charges on your account. This will include the automatic gratuities unless you have already prepaid them.

Your Stateroom Steward will leave some envelopes in your room. These are for your Server, Assistant Server, Head Server, and Room Steward. 

Along with the envelopes, you will have a sheet of card which shows how much is going to each person. You can use these to put them in the envelopes to give to each person.

You can also use the envelopes to put additional cash in to give to your team as well.

You do not have to use the envelopes at all unless you want to.

To explain more about getting off the ship at the end of your cruise you can see this Disney Cruise Disembarkation article.


All of the automatic gratuities will be charged to your onboard account. Always double-check that you agree with your final charges.

Ideally, don’t wait until the final evening of your cruise to do this. Everyone else will be doing this, so the lines for Guest Services will be longer than at any other time on the cruise!

Do you have any questions about tipping on a Disney Cruise? Leave me a comment below and I will answer whatever questions you have. 

Planning a Disney Cruise? These articles will help:

Disney Cruiser First Timer Money Mistakes to Avoid

What is the Best Time to Sail on a Disney Cruise?

How Much Does a Disney Dream Cruise Cost?


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.

Tuesday 30th of January 2024

Are the gratuities per day or per meal?

The gratuities are per person per day

Friday 9th of June 2023

Hi Alison, also first time cruiser on Wonder upcoming in Nov! Just wondering as I have enquired with my travel agent about prepaying gratuities, I was quoted $390 for 2 nights 2 adults + 2 kids. Does this seem right with what it would average out to at the end for 2 nights? It seemed excessive to me however wanting to prepay to reduce the uncertainty about fees at the end. Could you possibly also advise if gratuities are prepaid, does this mean come the end of the cruise you won’t pay any additional? Thanks so much for this article as it’s the only thing stressing me out as tipping is so foreign to us in Aus ???

Friday 13th of January 2023

Hi Alison We will be cruising to Melbourne-New Zealand on November 2023. Can we tip them in Australian dollar? Or it has to be a US dollar? Thank u

Monday 16th of January 2023

Thank you for your question! If you want to tip Cast Members in Australian dollars directly that will be fine. All charges on board will be in US dollars though.

Monday 31st of October 2022

Can you pay cash for the alcohol beverages plus the tip?

Monday 19th of September 2022

Do these automatically deducted gratuities amount go directly to the Servers and Host as you have detailed above or are they also divided among others? I have heard this does not go directly to these people in these amounts? Thank you.

Toddling Traveler

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!)

Updated 4/26/24

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 2025? Summer 2025 Disney Cruise Line itineraries were just released, and you can book cruises any time between now and September 2025. 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 either 90 or 120 days, depending on the length of your cruise. 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.
  • Disney offers Deluxe Oceanview and Oceanview Verandah cabins that sleep 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 on DCL.
  • 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 recommended 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 Wish Set Sail Party

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 recommended 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!

Contact me , Amanda Emmerling, for assistance with planning and booking your next Disney Cruise!

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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disney cruise recommended tips

Onboard Services – Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any expected amount for gratuities, and what’s the best way to pay them?

It is customary to give gratuities in recognition of exceptional service, which you’ll receive in abundance aboard the ship. We recommend a gratuity amount of $14.50 USD per night, per stateroom Guest, including infants and children. Pre-Paid Gratuities are distributed to the Crew Members who take care of you in the following roles:

  • Dining room server
  • Dining room assistant server
  • Dining room head server
  • Stateroom host

Guests staying in Concierge Staterooms and Suites are recommended a gratuity amount of $15.50 USD per night, per stateroom Guest. This includes gratuity for the Stateroom assistant host, who services the Concierge accommodations, in addition to the positions listed above.

Easily pre-pay gratuities online to create a carefree, all-inclusive experience by visiting My Reservations in your Disney account and following the prompts for Pre-Paid Gratuities. If you booked your Disney cruise with a travel agent, please contact them to apply this payment for you.

If you did not get a chance to pre-pay before boarding the ship, we will automatically charge your onboard account the suggested gratuity amount per Guest per night. Once on board the ship, if you wish to adjust the amount of your pre-paid gratuities, please visit Guest Services for assistance.

Keep in mind that pre-paid gratuities can only be adjusted among the Crew Members who take care of you in the following roles: Dining Room Server, Dining Room Assistant Server, Dining Room Head Server and Stateroom Host. Requests to refund pre-paid gratuities may only be processed in full back to the original form of payment, which may include forms of payment made by a travel agent.

Not Included Pre-Paid Gratuities do not include the following gratuities, which are either included in the charge or based on your discretion:

  • 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
  • Concierge Lounge Team—Guests staying in Concierge accommodations are recommended a gratuity amount of $8.00 per night, per stateroom Guest
  • Any other additional services

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Related Questions

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20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure

Posted on Last updated: April 12, 2024

Home » Disney Cruise » 20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure

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Are you planning a Disney Cruise? Here are some of the top Disney Cruise tips, do’s and don’ts to follow as you plan your trip. Keep scrolling down to read!

This disney cruise tips post was written by family travel expert marcie cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, i may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog..

Did you just plan your first Disney cruise, or are you still on the fence about it? Either way, you’re in luck because I’m about to share my biggest Disney cruise tips!

We just got back from our first Disney Cruise, and it was such a big learning experience. We’ve cruised in the past, but Disney Cruise Lines is a whole new experience.

If you’re heading off on a Disney Cruise for the first time, check out these tips for the things you should and shouldn’t do in order to have a fun and stress-free trip!

These are all the things I wish I would have known before we hit the cruise terminal!

Disney Cruise Tips: Dos and Don’ts

Disney cruises can sell out quickly, especially during peak seasons. By booking early, you have a better chance of getting the type of cabin you want, whether it’s an interior stateroom or a luxurious suite.

Disney Cruise Line offers discounts and promotions for early booking, which can save you money on your cruise.

Another thing to consider is that popular itineraries can sell out quickly. Booking early ensures that you have a wider range of itinerary options to choose from.

Booking early also gives you more time to plan and prepare for your trip, including researching shore excursions, making dining room reservations, and packing.

Update Your Passport

If you use your passport frequently, then you may be familiar with the expiration date. If not, then you may need to find your passport first. Make sure you know where it is since it is important to the cruise.

If you haven’t used it in a while, check the date and make sure it doesn’t expire before your cruise. If it does, you will need to update it before the cruise to make it onboard your ship. This is less important for domestic (closed-loop) cruises, but it’s a must for international travel.

And make sure that your kids, including babies, also have passports!

Read my full guide on  applying for a passport for babies and kids

Don’t Miss Advance Bookings

It may be difficult to book everything you want to do on your cruise, but you have to try.

If you are new to the Disney Cruise Line, you may be surprised by the tiered structure in reservation window openings. Most people have 75 days to book special experiences, dining reservations, and character meet and greets, but more experienced cruisers could have 90 days or more.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Pre-book Meet-and-Greet sessions!

We pre-booked this Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa. Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

To ensure the best chance that port adventures, kids clubs, and other experiences don’t fill up, book as soon as your window opens up.

If you miss an opportunity, there is a chance to try again once you board, but booking in advance helps you plan the rest of your cruise confidently.

We pre-booked several Disney character meet-and-greets ahead of time (at no charge) and only waited a few minutes at each. I’m so glad we did that!

Get Your Disney Cruise Packing List

Download the disney navigator app.

When you’re on Disney cruise ships, the most important document is the navigator. It tells you everything you need to know about what’s happening that day.

But it’s easy to lose a piece of paper, especially when my kids are involved.

The Disney cruise app provides helpful information about the ship, daily schedules, menus, and more. It also allows you to make reservations for dining, shows, and activities.

So, I recommend downloading the Disney Cruise Navigator app so you’ll have all the info you need right on your phone.

Bring a Refillable Water Bottle

Disney Cruise Line provides filtered water stations throughout the ship, so bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated and avoid extra costs.

It’s important to stay hydrated on a cruise, especially when spending time in the sun or participating in physical activities. Having a refillable water bottle ensures that you always have access to water.

Don’t Miss Your Assigned Dinner Time

Disney Cruise Line operates a dinner rotation system where guests rotate between three different restaurants.

Guests are assigned a specific dinner time and restaurant each night, and it’s important to arrive on time to avoid delays for other guests.

You can sign up for early or late seating in the main dining rooms.

Trust me when I say that you won’t want to miss your time slot at Animator’s Palate! They have a lot of magic that happens as soon as you’re seated! And it usually only happens once during your rotational dining schedule.

Bring a Lanyard for Your Key to the World Card

The Key to the World card is your room key, payment method, and access to onboard activities. A lanyard can make it easy to keep it handy.

We usually have lanyards from our last Disney trip, so those are the ones we bring. Our kids have some from their favorite Disney movies, which makes it easy to tell them apart.

Don’t Overpack

While it’s tempting to bring everything you might need, overpacking can make it difficult to navigate the ship and can result in additional baggage fees.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Don't overpack, but don't forget to bring cute Disney accessories!

Try to limit your items to the things you’ll want on the ship and at the shore excursions (like swimwear for Castaway Cay).

You might even consider just packing a carry-on for your Caribbean Cruise .

Check Out the Kids Club

If you’re on a cruise ship like the Disney Dream, Disney Magic, Disney Wish, Disney Wonder, or Disney Fantasy, they let families check out the on-board kids club during an open house time.

I highly recommend doing this because it’s a convenient way for your kids to get used to the kids club (so they will want to be dropped off later). Plus, they might even make a few friends!

Schedule an Early PAT

Getting there early can help you take advantage of booking opportunities that you missed when your advance reservations window opened.

Even if you have everything lined up, it’s such a relief to board your Disney Cruise Line ship from your Port of Entry.

Disney Cruise Tips featured by top US Disney blogger, Marcie and the Mouse: Disney Cruise Line, ice cream cone, Disney Fantasy

When you book an early port arrival time, you can board the ship sooner and begin enjoying many of the cruise line’s amenities.

Pro tip:  Bring swimwear in your carry-on bag so you can go to the pool without having to wait for your luggage.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is always a nice safety net, but with a cruise, it really makes sense.

Health is an important factor in whether or not you are even allowed to continue your cruise. If you come down with an illness just before your cruise, you will have to cancel.

Since so many things can happen before leaving on any kind of vacation, We recommend travel insurance for ease of mind. It can really save the day if your plans fall apart at the last minute.

We heard several families get turned away because someone in their family had a fever.

Check-In Online

Checking in online is the important first step in booking your Disney cruise. You can check in 75 days prior to your embarkation day and the window opens as soon as the clock strikes 12:00 midnight EST.

Make sure you are at your computer and have all of your information ready. You’ll need your site login information, as well as other travel information and a credit card.

When your online check-in is complete, print out any forms you will need to bring with you and keep them with your passport and other important travel documents.

Don’t Forget to Pack Costumes

Disney Cruise Line has all kinds of themed experiences. The Caribbean Cruises always have a Pirate Night, and there are Marvel days and Star Wars days on select cruises.

These occasions call for costumed fun, but it’s also a Disney cruise, so kids can wear costumes whenever they want.

Disney Cruise Tips featured by top US Disney blogger, Marcie and the Mouse: Disney Cruise Line, Star Wars Day at Sea, Jawa and Rey costumes

My husband actually made our Star Wars Day at Sea costumes. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Regular clothes are a must for some experiences (and  Disneybounding  is always encouraged.) However, a couple of  princess dresses  can make all the difference in the magic of the cruise. These are definitely cheaper to buy ahead of time.

If you don’t bring your own costumes or  pirate gear , Disney offers a lot of options on the ship, but it’s best to plan ahead and bring whatever you’ve already got.

Pro tip:  Pack costumes for themed nights in packing cubes so they are easy to find and everything is all together.

Book a Disney Ship that Stops at Castaway Cay

Find a Disney cruise itinerary that includes Castaway Cay as one of the stops. It’s a private island owned by Disney, and the only way you can visit it is on a Disney cruise vacation. Other cruise lines cannot stop here.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Book a Disney Ship that stops at Castaway Cay for extra fun!

There are tons of things to do in Castawa y Cay such as relaxing on the private family beach, go snorkeling, enjoying one of the many events, or dropping your kids off in one of the unique kids club spaces.

Remember to Bring Cash

As with any other kind of travel, it’s a good idea to always have some cash on hand in case you need it. Some things will be cash only. Tips especially require cash if you want to add more than the automatic gratuity.

While you will not have to pay for anything during your time onboard (besides alcohol and specialty experiences), using cash at the port can help you protect your credit card.

If you plan to do Bingo or visit the spa (an extra charge), you may need some extra money on hand.

Pro tip:  Make sure to bring cash on port excursions if you want to purchase food/drink or souvenirs.

Don’t Bring Prohibited Items

There is a list of  prohibited and restricted items  on the Disney Cruise Line.

You can’t bring firearms or anything that looks like one, as well as other weapons, defensive or offensive, including restraining devices and pepper spray. You also can’t bring diving equipment on board, lasers, or scissors with blades longer than 4″.

If you are caught with prohibited items, including explosives and flammable liquids, in addition to anything listed above, you could face severe legal penalties.

Other restricted items include aquatic items, electronics, electric appliances, candles, balloons, remote-control devices, sporting equipment, and more.

Carry Important Documents

Have an easy-to-carry case that includes all of your important travel documents so you can take them everywhere. You need your passport any time you board the cruise ship.

Remember your printouts from checking in and include them with your other important travel documents. These include proof of citizenship and photo ID.

If you are on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends in the US, some documents are not necessary, but depending on the port you experience, you will need to have your documents to return to your ship.

Don’t Risk Being Late!

Do whatever you can to avoid cutting things too close. If you have a flight into your port of call, book it for the night before to try and mitigate any potential delays that could set you back enough to miss your cruise.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Don't ever risk being late. Always plan to go a few minutes before the time.

It’s always best practice to try to be near your port the night before your embarkation day. If you have a flight delay or other hold-up that causes you to miss the ship’s departure, it’s game over!

On the flip side, don’t book your flight home too early. If your ship is late coming into the port (or there’s an issue on board), you might miss your flight.

We were stuck on the boat for an extra hour at the cruise terminal. Then our hired car bailed on us, and we almost missed our flight home because we didn’t leave enough wiggle room.

Consider Holiday Cruises

While many of the Disney ships are a blast, it can be extra fun to book one of their holiday cruises. There’s something exciting about seeing the entire cruise ship decked out!

For example, during Halloween on the High Seas cruises, guests can enjoy a Halloween-themed deck party, trick-or-treating, and other spooky surprises.

During Very Merrytime cruises, guests can enjoy holiday-themed entertainment and decor, including a tree-lighting ceremony, holiday-themed shows, and gingerbread house displays.

Additionally, Disney holiday cruises offer a variety of onboard activities for guests of all ages, including character meet-and-greets, live shows, and themed parties. There are also special holiday-themed dining options and menus featuring traditional holiday dishes and desserts.

Add a Side Trip to Walt Disney World

If you’re leaving from Port Canaveral in Florida, you’re so close to Walt Disney World that it makes sense to plan an ultimate Disney vacation that includes both.

We like to spend 2-3 days having fun at Walt Disney World before our Disney cruise ship vacation. Then, we take advantage of sea days to rest and relax before our next port adventure.

If it’s too late to do this for your next cruise, plan on it for a future cruise.

Disney Cruises FAQs

What is included in a disney cruise.

A Disney cruise offers a wide range of amenities and activities that are included in the price. Accommodations, all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and most entertainment are included.

Disney cruises also feature live shows, deck parties, character meet-and-greets, and youth clubs for children of all ages. Guests can also enjoy pools, water slides, sports courts, and fitness centers.

Additionally, Disney cruise guests can participate in onboard activities such as cooking classes, trivia games, and fitness classes.

While there may be some additional expenses for items such as alcoholic beverages, spa services, or shore excursions, the majority of amenities and activities on a Disney cruise are included in the price.

What are the best times of year to take a Disney cruise?

The best times of year to take a Disney cruise depend on several factors, such as weather, pricing, and crowds.

The busiest times of year for Disney cruises are during school breaks and holidays, such as summer, spring break, and winter holidays.

Prices are typically higher during these peak times, so if you’re looking to save money, consider booking during off-peak times, such as September or early January.

The weather at the cruise destination should also be taken into account, as hurricane season in the Caribbean occurs from June to November, which may affect cruise itineraries.

Ultimately, the best time to take a Disney cruise depends on your individual preferences and priorities, so it’s important to research and compare different options before making a decision.

Can you bring your own alcohol on a Disney cruise?

Yes! Guests ages 21 and older are allowed to bring a limited amount of alcohol onboard the ship in their carry-on luggage only. However, people cannot bring hard liquor on board.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Parents can bring some wine onboard. You'll need it!

Each guest over 21 may bring up to 2 bottles of wine or champagne. They can’t be larger than 750 ml each. Guests may also bring up to six beers, no larger than 12 ounces. All bottles must be new and completely sealed. Yes, they will check!

Overall, while guests are not allowed to bring their own hard alcohol on board a Disney cruise, there are many onboard options for purchasing and enjoying alcoholic beverages.

What are the different types of Disney cruises?

Disney Cruise Line offers several different types of cruises to suit a variety of interests and preferences.

Bahamian cruises

These cruises typically include stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas.

Caribbean cruises

These cruises can include stops in several Caribbean destinations, such as St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Cozumel.

Alaskan cruises

These cruises take guests through Alaska’s Inside Passage, with stops in ports like Skagway, Ketchikan, and Juneau.

European cruises

These cruises explore the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, with stops in ports like Barcelona, Rome, and Copenhagen.

Halloween on the High Seas cruises

These themed cruises take place during the Halloween season and include special events, decorations, and entertainment.

Very Merrytime cruises

These themed cruises take place during the holiday season and include holiday-themed events, decorations, and entertainment.

Star Wars Day at Sea cruises

These themed cruises feature special Star Wars-themed events, character meet-and-greets, and screenings of Star Wars movies.

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure: Check out which characters an on board for the best photo ops.

These are just a few examples of the different types of Disney cruises that are available. Each cruise offers unique experiences and itineraries, so guests can choose the cruise that best suits their interests and preferences.

What are the age requirements for children on Disney cruises?

Disney Cruise Line offers activities and programming for children of all ages, from infants to teenagers. There are different age groups for kids’ clubs and activities, so children can participate in age-appropriate activities and make friends with kids their own age.

Infants must be at least six months old at the time of embarkation to sail on a Disney cruise.

Children who are three years old and potty-trained can participate in activities at the Disney Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab.

Children ages 4-12 can participate in activities at the Disney Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, as well as the Edge Tween Club and the Vibe Teen Club.

Teens ages 13-17 can participate in activities at the Edge Tween Club and the Vibe Teen Club.

It’s important to note that some activities and areas on the ship may have different age requirements, and parents or guardians are responsible for supervising their children at all times.

Overall, Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of activities and programming to entertain children of all ages, making it a great option for families with kids.

What are the dining options on a Disney cruise?

Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of dining options to suit all tastes and preferences.

Main Dining

Guests rotate through three main restaurants, each with its own themed decor and menu.

The buffet restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a variety of options including made-to-order omelets, pasta stations, carving stations, and more.

Casual Dining

Guests can enjoy burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and other casual fare at several quick-service restaurants throughout the ship.

Adult-Only Dining

Disney Cruise Line offers several adult-only restaurants, including Palo and Remy, which offer fine dining and wine pairings.

Room Service

Guests can order room service 24 hours a day, with a selection of items, including sandwiches, salads, pizza, and desserts. My insider tip is to ask for Mickey ice cream bars!

In addition to these dining options, Disney Cruise Line also offers special dining experiences, such as a character breakfast and a pirate-themed dinner show.

Guests with dietary restrictions or preferences can also request special meals, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Overall, Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of dining options to suit all tastes and preferences, making it easy for guests to find delicious food and drink throughout their cruise.

What are the onboard activities on a Disney cruise?

Disney Cruise Line offers a wide variety of onboard activities to keep guests of all ages entertained and engaged throughout their cruise.

Character Meet-and-Greets

Guests can meet their favorite Disney characters throughout the ship, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and many more.

Disney Cruise Line offers several Broadway-style productions featuring classic Disney stories and characters.

Deck Parties

Guests can enjoy themed deck parties, including a Pirate Night party and a Marvel Day at Sea party.

Kids’ Clubs

Disney Cruise Line offers several kids’ clubs for children of all ages, featuring age-appropriate activities and games.

Pools and Waterslides

Guests can enjoy several pools and waterslides throughout the ship, including the AquaDuck water coaster on select ships.

Sports and Fitness

Guests can participate in a variety of sports and fitness activities, including basketball, soccer, yoga, and more.

Spa and Relaxation

Guests can unwind with a variety of spa treatments and relaxation experiences, including massages, facials, and aromatherapy.

Adult-Only Areas

Disney Cruise Line offers several adult-only areas, including a pool, restaurant, and nightclub, for guests to relax and unwind without kids around.

These are just a few examples of the many onboard activities available on a Disney cruise. With so much to do and see, guests of all ages are sure to have a fun and memorable experience on their Disney cruise.

How much does a Disney cruise cost?

The cost of a Disney cruise can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the ship, itinerary, time of year, and cabin type.

Depending on these factors, an average Disney cruise can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 per person for a 3—to 7-night cruise.

Disney Cruise Line also offers a variety of stateroom categories, ranging from standard interior cabins to luxurious suites. The price of the cruise can vary depending on the type of stateroom selected.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the price of a Disney cruise typically includes accommodations, meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and most entertainment and onboard activities.

However, the cruise fare does not include additional expenses such as alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, shore excursions, and gratuities.

Disney Cruise Tips Wrap-Up

Now you have my best Disney cruise tips! I hope this helps you plan your first or next Disney cruise! If you want more insider tips, sign up for a FREE 5-Day Email Course on How to Plan a Disney Cruise Like a Pro !

Oh and my biggest Disney cruise tip? HAVE A MAGICAL DAY!

Looking for more Disney cruise tips? Check out the top Castaway Cay activities , things to do on the Disney Fantasy , how to pin trade on a Disney cruise , and must-have Disney cruise experiences for kids !

20 Top Disney Cruise Tips for a Magical Adventure

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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.

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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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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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The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line ships and itineraries

Summer Hull

After decades of success making families smile and laugh at its theme parks, Disney dipped its toes into the world of cruising in 1998. Disney didn't just copy another cruise line's model for success or slap its name on the side of an existing ship. It created its own brand of cruising.

Disney went so far into charting its own path as to get special approval from the U.S. Coast Guard for its ships' lifeboats to be yellow instead of regulation orange, to tie into the colors of Mickey himself — black, red, white and yellow.

Now, Disney Cruise Line has five ships sailing in those signature colors, along with three more on order. In a normal year, those five ships take tens of thousands of families on sailings to the Caribbean , Mexico, Alaska, Europe, Bermuda, Bahamas, through the Panama Canal and even to Australia and New Zealand.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

disney cruise recommended tips

Having sailed four of Disney Cruise Line's five ships, I can say the experience is indeed special — especially if you have kids. But Disney's not a one-trick cruise line that's only good for one age group. It offers kids clubs and activities to suit babies through teens and has several adults-only areas of the ship . Its newest ship, Disney Wish , provides more cool spaces for adults than any previous vessel.

Disney's attention to detail transfers to its voyages on the sea. But unlike at the Disney theme parks, which can be a bit complicated to navigate, long lines and complex strategies are rarely a part of the Disney cruise experience.

Get the free planning help of a Disney vacation planner via TPG's partner, Mouse Counselors .

What TPG loves about Disney Cruise Line

  • Broadway-caliber shows and first-run movies.
  • Disney-level service and attention to detail.
  • High-quality Disney character interactions and kids clubs.
  • Innovative, included rotational dining.

What we could do without

  • Disney cruises are expensive.
  • The onboard Wi-Fi is not the fastest, especially on ships that haven't been upgraded. And it's not cheap.

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Cruise Line fleet

While Disney may be a household name, Disney Cruise Line is actually a small line. It currently sails just five ships, compared to 27 at its family-friendly competitor Royal Caribbean .

Of the five, two are smaller ships, and three are larger.

The largest ships in Disney's fleet are Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, at 1,115 feet long and 14 decks high, and Disney Wish , at 1,119 feet and 15 decks high.

These three ships each have a passenger capacity of 4,000 people spread out across approximately 1,250 cabins. The overwhelming majority of cabins on these ships have an ocean view or private verandah, with only 10%-12% being windowless inside cabins. (On its oldest four ships, these interior rooms have a "magical porthole" that displays a live feed from outside to replicate a window.)

Disney Treasure , expected to join the fleet in 2024, will be in the same larger Triton class of ships as Disney Wish.

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Wish is currently a workhorse of short three- and four-night sailings from Port Canaveral , Florida, to the Bahamas, home to Disney's private island , Castaway Cay.

Disney Fantasy often sails weeklong cruises out of Florida. With the addition of Disney Wish to the fleet, Disney Dream now spends its summer across the Atlantic, offering European cruises from May to September, then spending much of the rest of the year based out of Fort Lauderdale.

The smaller two ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet are Disney Wonder and the line's first ship, Disney Magic .

These two ships are 984 feet long and 11 decks high, and each has the capacity for 2,713 passengers across 875 staterooms. On these two smaller ships, 70% of passenger cabins have ocean views or verandahs.

Disney Wonder is often on the move and currently splits its time among Alaska , the South Pacific, Hawaii, California, Mexico and beyond. Disney Magic spends part of its year based out of Galveston, Texas, or New Orleans and much of the rest based out of Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Related: Best destinations you can sail to on a Disney cruise

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Cruise Line destinations and itineraries

Disney Cruise Line has about 370 annual departures scheduled that range from two- to 15-night sailings. Many new-to-Disney itineraries have recently become available as the line is adding new ships for the first time in a decade.

Disney Cruise Line destinations include:

  • New Zealand
  • Pacific Coast
  • South Pacific

Disney Wish has, by far, the highest number of annual sailings, with 105 three- and four-night cruises departing from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. These sailings all go to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay; some also stop in Nassau, Bahamas.

Some Disney cruises do what's called a "double dip" and make two stops at the private island, where you can step ashore without leaving the Disney bubble.

disney cruise recommended tips

Pro tip: If you go to Castaway Cay, rent a bike for a little exercise and a self-guided tour of the island. Or, you can run the at-your-pace 5K that morning around the island.

Coming in summer 2024 , Disney will have a second exclusive beach destination in the Bahamas — Lighthouse Point.

This won't be an entire private island like Castaway Cay, but it will be an exclusive beachfront space designed for Disney Cruise Line with many similar offerings to Castaway. Disney Magic, Disney Wonder and Disney Fantasy will call on this new destination for the first time in 2024.

disney cruise recommended tips

Related: Best tips and tricks for sailing with Disney Cruise Line

Who sails Disney Cruise Line?

Let's start with the obvious: Families love Disney Cruise Line.

The ultimate sweet spot for taking a Disney cruise starts when a child is at least 3 years old and potty trained (the criteria that get them into the included kids clubs) and lasts until they outgrow their love of Disney characters. Remember, Disney now includes the "Star Wars" and Marvel brands and offers themed cruises featuring those characters, too.

A Disney cruise costs more than a similar cruise on a line like Royal Caribbean , so it's easiest to justify the expense when your kids love Disney the most.

So, yes, the stereotype that Disney Cruise Line is full of families is 100% correct.

You'll see many families with kids in those preschool, elementary and middle school years. But you'll also see families with little babies (the minimum age is 6 months on most sailings, 1 year on Panama Canal and transatlantic sailings), tweens, teens, college-age kids and even grandparents who have made a Disney cruise an enjoyable multigenerational travel tradition.

Related: Comparing Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises for families

disney cruise recommended tips

You'll also see cruisers who love Disney regardless of age and are proud to wear their Mickey ears while hearing the first seven notes of the "When You Wish Upon a Star" melody blown from the ship's massive horn.

Just like you don't need kids to have a great time at Disney World or Disneyland, you can happily cruise as adults without offspring on Disney Cruise Line. All the ships have active adults-only sun decks, pool and lounges. Disney Wish especially invested in its adult offerings with an infinity pool, along with more bars spread around the ship instead of being clustered into one main area.

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Cruise Line cabins and suites

At a basic level, Disney Cruise Line offers five main types of cabins across the fleet. In its simplified version, the types of cabins on a Disney cruise include:

  • Windowless inside cabins
  • Ocean-view cabins
  • Verandah cabins (with private balconies)
  • Verandah cabins with concierge service
  • Suites with concierge service

These cabins start at 169 square feet for a standard inside cabin and go up to a two-story, 1,966-square-foot Tower Suite on Disney Wish .

disney cruise recommended tips

Unless you are OK with the smallest space on the ship or have a budget for the largest, the sweet spot for price and comfort on Disney Cruise Line vessels is probably the cabins that are around 204 square feet and usually come with a queen bed, single sleeper sofa and upper-berth pull-down bed and a split bath.

This split bathroom situation places a sink and the shower/tub combo in one bathroom and the toilet and another sink in the other. Each has its own separate door, so someone could use the toilet/sink room while another takes a shower, all in private and at the same time.

You'll find this cabin layout within the Deluxe Inside Staterooms, Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms and Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah categories.

The Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms and Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah add about 40 more square feet to the equation. If you want the largest within those room categories, search for rooms that can hold five people on the Disney Cruise Line website.

disney cruise recommended tips

Pro tip: You can ask your cabin host for cartoon bedding for the kid's bed if you think your child will be excited to come back from dinner to one of their Disney favorites.

You can connect many of the cabins on the ship , which is often a much more economical solution for a family looking for more sleeping space (and bathrooms) than upgrading to a multibedroom suite. Roughly speaking, a family of four will pay about 50% more for two cabins than they will for everyone to stay in one cabin of the same size.

Related: 7 nights. 4 people. 1 cruise ship cabin. Can we survive?

If you are going all-out on a particular trip, or are simply working with a larger budget, Disney concierge suites are special.

The smallest available room with this service is the Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, which isn't all that different from the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, other than the included concierge service. From there, you can go up to the one- or two-bedroom suites.

Be prepared for sticker shock, though, as these suites will almost certainly be near or over five figures on many sailings.

While pricey, Disney concierge service eliminates almost all of the potential pain points of a Disney cruise (not that there are many pain points to begin with).

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney concierge service gets you access to the Disney Concierge Lounge, which has food offerings multiple times per day and a fully stocked fridge with sodas, juices and bottles of water.

In the evenings, you'll find included beer, wine and spirits in the lounge — which you can also take with you as you head out to dinner or to enjoy the view from the deck.

The Concierge Lounge also has its own private deck, and Disney characters have been known to make a private appearance there during the cruise. (Don't worry, you'll get a heads-up.)

disney cruise recommended tips

Related: Is Disney Cruise Line concierge service worth it?

You also have your own check-in area at the port and are among the first to board the ship, which can mean extra time to enjoy having the waterslides to yourself. At the end of the cruise, you can have a private elevator that takes you down to be some of the first off the ship — which should protect you from a long line to say goodbye.

There are other perks of the concierge level, too, such as early front-row seating at shows, included popcorn and the ability to submit your request for meal reservations at Palo or Remy, cabanas on Castaway Cay, spa treatments, character meet-and-greets or whatever else you wish before other guests. These can be made for you starting 120 days before your sailing, which is before all other guests except those with the highest elite status tier in the Castaway Club .

disney cruise recommended tips

Passengers on their first Disney cruise don't get to make those reservations until 75 days out if they aren't in the concierge level. The reality is the hottest items are often booked up by then, especially on shorter cruises when there's less time to do everything.

Those in the concierge level in one-bedroom suites and higher can also order room service from the restaurants to their cabin, which means you can have a hot breakfast on your verandah if you wish instead of the regular continental options available to most guests.

disney cruise recommended tips

If you are on the fence about concierge service, it's arguably most valuable when you are on a shorter cruise, have some specific popular must-have items on your reservation wish list or want someone else to take care of everything. You can also inquire about discounted upgrades at the port, assuming rooms are left unsold on your voyage.

Pro tip: Regardless of your cabin, bring magnetic Mickey or nautical-themed decor for the entrance, as most of the cabin doors are magnetic. Decorating is a fun tradition on a Disney cruise.

Related: Review of sailing in a suite with Disney concierge service

Disney Cruise Line restaurants and dining options

You will not go hungry on a Disney cruise. From room service to evening dinners, meals are (mostly) all included.

Rotational dining

On each Disney ship, three main dining rooms serve as dinner restaurants that participate in rotational dining. Each ship has its own lineup of themed rotational restaurants, but the concept remains the same on each.

Each night, your tablemates and servers will move from one restaurant to the next as a team. This way, the servers get to know that you always want to start with a glass of red wine, or your kids' food needs to come ASAP so you can take them to the kids club as soon as they finish, or (in my case) your daughter wants a side of barbecue sauce with ... everything.

disney cruise recommended tips

You must choose between an early and a late dinner time, with your showtime opposite your dining time. Some restaurants, such as Animator's Palate, are found on multiple ships, while others are unique to one ship, such as Tiana's Place on Disney Wonder and all of the rotational restaurants found on Disney Wish .

Included restaurants on Disney Magic

  • Animator's Palate
  • Lumiere's
  • Rapunzel's Royal Table

Included restaurants on Disney Wonder

  • Tiana's Place
  • Triton's

Included restaurants on Disney Dream

  • Enchanted Garden
  • Royal Palace

Included restaurants on Disney Fantasy

  • Royal Court

Included restaurants on Disney Wish

  • Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure
  • Worlds of Marvel

At these restaurants, you can order whatever you want on the menu at no extra charge, with a few exceptions (for example, alcohol and specialty drinks cost extra).

While many guests dress up a bit for dinner (compared to their afternoon pool deck attire), most stay relatively casual for the rotational dining restaurants. Disney does not impose a specific dress-up requirement.

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney cruise ships offer many other dining options beyond the three included themed restaurants — most included, some not.

Room service

Room service is mostly free (other than sodas or alcohol), though the menu is limited if you aren't staying in a concierge-level cabin. Still, it's free room service, so I'm not one to complain.

Pro tip: Fill the breakfast card out the night before and hang it on your stateroom to get breakfast exactly when you want it the next morning.

disney cruise recommended tips

And you haven't lived until your kids learn how to call and order free Mickey ice cream bars to the cabin ... every night (just be sure and add a tip).

Buffet and grab-and-go

Your Disney cruise will also include a buffet known as Cabanas on the original four ships and Marceline Market on Disney Wish. The buffet is usually open for breakfast and lunch, though not in the evening hours.

disney cruise recommended tips

In addition to the buffet, a few grab-and-go quick-service restaurants on the pool deck serve salads, chili, pizza, barbecue and more, depending on which ship you're sailing.

Don't miss these options, as some are quite good. They are typically open from late morning until later into the evening.

disney cruise recommended tips

Room service, the buffet and the on-deck food counter dining options don't cost extra and are available to you in addition to or instead of your rotational dining.

disney cruise recommended tips

You'll also find included ice cream on one of the upper decks. A pro-level hack is to get Mickey churro waffles from the buffet in the morning (only available some mornings) and add vanilla ice cream for a vacation-worthy breakfast.

disney cruise recommended tips

Extra-cost, adults-only restaurants

At the top of the "costs extra" list are the restaurants Palo (found on all five ships, though it's Palo Steakhouse on Disney Wish), Remy (on Dream and Fantasy) and Enchante (only on Disney Wish).

Remy is a fancy adults-only French restaurant that costs $125 per person for dinner (more if you order drinks). This is the type of place where men need jackets and women are expected to wear dresses, pantsuits or a skirt and blouse. Enchante on Disney Wish is similar — you're dressing up for these meals.

disney cruise recommended tips

Palo is also fancy, though a notch less fancy than Remy. You'll see jackets and dresses in Palo, but you can also get by with nice jeans if you want. This adults-only restaurant serves Northern Italian fare and starts at about $45 per person for a multicourse brunch or dinner, though you can also order a la carte for dinner, which could cost more or less, depending on your order.

I can say with 100% certainty that if you enjoy a nice meal, this is worth the extra $45 once during your cruise . From the breadbasket to the dessert, it's all amazing. You'll gain 5 pounds, but you won't regret a bite.

These reservations are hard to get, especially for brunch, so you'll want to make them the second you are eligible and keep checking back for cancellations if you miss out the first time.

disney cruise recommended tips

Coffee shops and snack shops

On a Disney cruise, the snacks and pastries you'll see in the coffee shop or kiosk are all included, but the specialty coffee will cost extra. Drink prices are roughly similar to Starbucks, if not a notch lower. Be sure and ask for the Cafe Fanatic card if you're a regular, as your sixth drink will be free.

disney cruise recommended tips

In addition to the included soft-serve ice cream and Mickey bars available via room service, your ship may have some shops with extra-fee ice cream. This can confuse kids, so I want to warn you beforehand. On Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wish, you'll find an ice cream shop stuffed with candies, gelato and ice cream — all for an extra charge.

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy also have a juice bar that costs extra.

The exact bars will vary by vessel, but you can expect spots like a wine and Champagne bar, a pub, a laid-back lounge and a bar with live entertainment.

These bars are a lot of fun and are not to be missed if you like live music or a nice drink at the end of the day. Keep an eye out in your app for when and where the happy hours are on board if you want to save a few dollars on your drinks. Some bars also offer a sommelier bin where you get a nice glass of wine at a discounted price — as long as you put the bartender in charge of choosing your drink.

disney cruise recommended tips

Some of the drink-tasting classes that you book in advance can be a good value if you're a fan of the drink on offer and are interested in learning a little bit while you sip. You'll want to book these before sailing, as many do sell out.

disney cruise recommended tips

Food on Castaway Cay

If your cruise takes you to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, you're in luck, as there's plenty of included food to eat there, too.

Just like on board, some of the food on Castaway is included, while alcohol and specialty drinks are not. The Cookie's and Cookie's Too lunch shacks on the island are both included, so load up on hot dogs, barbecue, hamburgers, fries and all the fixings. Vegetarian options are available.

While the food options here are somewhat basic, they still make for a fun and free meal.

disney cruise recommended tips

However, if you don't like what is on offer on the island, you can always hop back on your ship for lunch and then continue your afternoon on the island after you eat.

disney cruise recommended tips

Entertainment and activities on a Disney cruise

A valid reason to want to sail with Disney is the onboard fun that awaits — especially for those who love Disney characters and stories.

Theaters and shows

Each Disney cruise ship features two theaters. In the massive Walt Disney Theatre, you'll enjoy Broadway-caliber evening shows such as "Beauty and the Beast," "Frozen," "Tangled," "Disney Dreams," "The Golden Mickeys" and more. If you want a good seat, arrive about 30 minutes early since seating is first come, first served.

disney cruise recommended tips

The Buena Vista Theatre screens first-run Disney films. These will be the same films still showing in theaters on land. If you happen to be at sea when a new Disney movie premieres on land, you'll also get that same first look at sea.

Pirate Night is a staple on many Disney cruises in the Caribbean. On that themed night, expect everyone to be dressed in their pirate-y best for the evening, so pack accordingly. Your dinner will also have a pirate theme, followed by a fun show up on deck, complete with fireworks.

disney cruise recommended tips

Pro tip: If you plan to stay up late for Pirate Night, try to work in a nap that afternoon so you don't miss out on the nighttime fun.

Game shows, karaoke, bingo and more

The extensive lineup of interactive game shows, trivia, karaoke, dance parties, bingo and more listed in the Disney cruise app are worth checking out. Some of these are adults-only, while others are fun for the whole family. Most are included in the price of the cruise, though bingo does cost extra — and you could win real money.

disney cruise recommended tips

Other interior attractions and activities

Meeting Disney characters is a fun part of a Disney cruise.

You can make reservations to meet the popular princesses, but most characters are easy to walk up to and meet via a short line. Or, even better, you often see them roaming about the ship at unexpected times.

disney cruise recommended tips

You can work off some of those treats and drinks at the onboard fitness center on each ship.

The Senses Spa & Salon is a full-service spa with everything from massages to pedicures and hair care. Promotions are available if you book more than one treatment. If you have a Disney Visa card , you can also save 20% on select onboard services.

Pro tip: The showers in this part of the ship are full-size, in case you are getting a bit claustrophobic in the shower in your cabin.

disney cruise recommended tips

If you like getting away to relax, look at purchasing access to the Rainforest Room for heated stone loungers, aromatherapy showers and even hot tubs on the larger ships. You can buy a one-day or full-cruise pass to this area of the spa, but get a tour first as the layout and inclusions in this space vary dramatically from ship to ship.

disney cruise recommended tips

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Little cruisers can be transformed into a princess or pirate at sea at the onboard Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which does themed kid makeovers and sells costumes as part of the package. You'll need an appointment; expect to pay $100 to $200 for most packages.

This is a fun thing to do before meeting a princess, before a more formal night or anytime you want to see a huge smile on your kid's face. If you have a princess dress or outfit from home you want to use or reuse, you can purchase a cheaper package at Bibbidi Bobbidi.

disney cruise recommended tips

Decktop attractions


All of Disney Cruise Line's ships have some kind of waterslide on board.

The AquaDuck waterslide on Dream and Fantasy takes riders in single or double tubes 765 feet from Deck 12 up and down, through the forward funnel and on a four-deck drop. It's pretty epic. AquaMouse on Disney Wish is also an inner tube-based ride and is not to be missed.

These lines can get long, so I recommend riding first thing when you board if the port is warm enough. Nighttime rides usually have short waits, too.

Disney Magic has the most thrilling waterslide in the fleet, called AquaDunk, and Disney Wonder has its own waterslide in the AquaLab splash area.

disney cruise recommended tips

Each Disney ship has multiple pools, though if you've never been on a cruise, you may be initially shocked at how small they are — and how busy they can get.

As with the waterslides, we recommend enjoying these first thing when you board if you want to try them without crowds. Otherwise, you won't find so many people in the pools on port days, early in the morning and right before dinner. There are thousands of people on the ship and only a few small pools, so plan accordingly.

Each ship has a pool and hot tub area for adults 18 and up. It can also get busy, but typically less busy than the family area. Select ships also offer an in-pool bar area for adults.

disney cruise recommended tips

The adult sun deck is a nice place to grab a chair and relax, even if you have no intention of getting in the water.

disney cruise recommended tips

Splash pads

Your little one has to be potty trained to use the onboard pools. The option for those still in swim diapers is some splash areas, such as Nemo's Reef and Dory's Reef.

disney cruise recommended tips

Sports deck

If you want to be more active, head to your ship's sports deck to play basketball, foosball, miniature golf and more. You may even have some sports simulator options beyond your traditional in-person fun.

disney cruise recommended tips

Children's programs

As a parent, my favorite part of a Disney cruise might be the included kids programs that children actually want to attend. If the kids are happy for a few hours, the parents can actually relax, too.

Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab for children ages 3–12

All five Disney ships have amazing spaces for kids in the 3-to-12-year-old range in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab.

Here you'll find video games, an indoor slide, fun programs and games with the staff, arts and crafts, surprise character visits and more. Your kids need to be potty trained to stay in this club, so use that as motivation for a kid approaching 3 years old before your next cruise.

disney cruise recommended tips

Your kids don't need an appointment to pop in here; they can come anytime from open to close — and the club stays open pretty late.

Parents can stay with kids and play during open hours on the first day and select times on other dates, but most of the time, the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are kids-only. Your kids will check in and out by scanning a special MagicBand that also tracks where they are within the kids clubs.

Disney Wish has the added perk in the kids club of a slide that takes the kids straight from the main atrium and into the fun.

disney cruise recommended tips

Know that once your child turns 8, you have the option of giving them self-checkout privileges. While kids up to 12 are welcome in the main Oceaneer Club, they may start moving up to the tween club by the time they are 10 years old.

Edge tween club for children ages 11–14

When your kid outgrows the fun in the main kids club, don't worry. Edge is waiting just upstairs.

Technically, Edge is for kids ages 11-14, but you can get your 10-year-old in with permission — and once they figure that out, it's probably all over for the "little kid club."

Edge is a much smaller space, but tweens have tons of fun playing video games, having dance parties, doing crafts, playing trivia games and more with their newfound cruise friends.

disney cruise recommended tips

This club does not utilize parent sign-in and -out, so you need to trust your kid if they are coming to Edge. If your 10-to-12-year-old child visits Edge, they can also play at the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club, so they have options.

disney cruise recommended tips

Vibe teen club for children ages 14–17

Get ready to be jealous of this one. On Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the teen club has its own set of small pools at the front of the ship.

Inside all versions of the teen club, Vibe, you'll find a tech-friendly world with loungers, dance parties, smoothies and other teen-approved fun. Some of the coolest inside space on Disney cruise ships is dedicated to teens ages 14-17, but you can request for your child to attend this club starting at 13 years old.

disney cruise recommended tips

'It's a small world' nursery for children 6 months to 3 years old

While the three previously mentioned kids clubs are free and do not require reservations, the nursery operates differently. You will need to make reservations, and the fee is $4.50 per half-hour for the first child and $4 per half-hour for each additional child.

disney cruise recommended tips

What to know before you go

Required documents.

The specific documents you will need will vary by cruise destination. Having a passport is always a good idea, but it's not technically required on all Disney cruises. For example, round-trip cruises originating in Port Canaveral, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, San Diego, New Orleans, New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico, often do not require a passport.

Passports, when required, must be valid for at least six months. For cruises from international ports, you'll need a passport. Note that it is important that the name on your reservation be exactly as it is stated on your passport or other official proof of nationality.

Related: Tips for getting a child's passport

Disney Cruise Line adds a service gratuity of $14.50 per person per day to final bills. If you are unhappy with the service you receive, you can lower this amount. Of course, you can visit guest services and adjust it upward, too.

To give an idea of the cost, a four-person family on a four-night cruise would pay $232 in recommended tips. The amount is split among your team of dining room servers who quickly learned your kids' preferences for dinner and your cabin hosts who made your room look like magic while you were out enjoying yourself.

disney cruise recommended tips

An 18% gratuity is added to onboard spa, bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs. You can always add an additional gratuity for any of your services or servers.

While room service is free, it's customary to add a few dollars of tip when you sign the "bill."

While some gratuity is included at Palo and Remy, you'll likely want to add an additional tip if you enjoyed the service. If you stay in a concierge-level room or suite, it is customary to tip the Concierge Lounge hosts at the end of your cruise a recommended amount of $8 per night per guest.

Related: Everything you need to know about tipping on cruise ships

Disney Cruise Line's Wi-Fi, Connect@Sea, is in the process of being upgraded, so speed, bandwidth and cost vary by ship.

If you are on a ship that charges by day instead of by the amount of data used, expect the prices to vary from $12-$36 per day, depending on the speed you select. There are often discounts for buying Wi-Fi access for the length of the cruise.

If you are on a ship that still charges by the amount of data used, we recommend not doing that and connecting either when you are in port or via a plan from your cellphone provider.

Related: What's the best international phone plan right now?

Carry-on drinks policy

Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne (no larger than 750 milliliters) or six beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage. You can keep drinks chilled in the small fridge in your cabin.

Guests wishing to consume wine or Champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corkage fee of $26 per bottle.

disney cruise recommended tips

Smoking policy

Smoking is permitted only in designated deck areas. It's forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies, and those who violate this rule will face a $250 cleaning fee.

For an additional fee, Disney ships offer full-service laundry and dry cleaning services that will pick up and deliver clean clothes to your cabin.

Ships also provide 24-hour, self-service guest laundry facilities equipped with washers and dryers, along with detergent and complimentary ironing equipment. You pay for the facilities by using your Key to the World card. These services can get busy during sea days on longer cruises, so plan accordingly.

Electrical outlets

All cabins are equipped with multiple 110-volt outlets, which are standard in the U.S. and Canada. Cabins on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are equipped with a combination of 110- and 220-volt (European) outlets.

Small electrical appliances such as electric shavers, curling irons and flat irons with standard North American plugs will function on board; 110-volt items should not exceed 1,500 watts, and 220-volt items should not exceed 2,000 watts. A hair dryer is provided in every cabin for your convenience, but you may bring your own as long as it meets the guidelines above.

The currency on Disney Cruise Line ships, regardless of location, is the U.S. dollar.

When you are on the ship, you will not need cash or a credit card — all incidentals, purchases and services will be charged to your cabin folio. Your Key to the World card (or your DisneyBand+ on Disney Wish ) serves as your onboard payment method. The only exception is if you want to tip a crew member in cash.

In port, you may wish to carry cash or a credit card to buy snacks and souvenirs or to tip your tour guide.

Drinking age

For most Disney sailings, the drinking age on board is 21.

However, on round-trip cruises departing European countries with a lower drinking age, passengers 18-20 years of age can drink alcohol on board with signed parental consent. For round-trip cruises from Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane, guests 18 years of age and older may purchase and consume alcoholic beverages without parental consent.

disney cruise recommended tips

During the day, people dress casually. If it's a sea day in a warm-weather destination, and you're bound for the top deck, that means looking like you're going to the beach. T-shirts, shorts and bathing suits (with a cover-up to go inside) are fine.

During the evenings, dining attire in the three main dining restaurants is "cruise casual," meaning no swimwear or tank tops, but you don't have to put on a party dress. That said, many guests do dress up a bit in the evening, but it's not required unless you are dining in Palo, Remy or Enchante.

Cruises that are seven nights or longer schedule one "formal night" — though even then, it's only encouraged, not required. On that night, you will see suits, sports coats, cocktail dresses and similar from some guests.

Pro tip: Be sure and pack that pirate gear for Pirate Night.

Related: What to pack for your 1st cruise

Disney Cruise Line loyalty program

Disney Cruise Line has a simple loyalty program, the Castaway Club , with four "elite status" levels that you earn based on how many cruises you've taken with Disney. A three-night and 10-night cruise both count as one sailing for these purposes.

  • Silver: One completed cruise
  • Gold: Five completed cruises
  • Platinum: 10 completed cruises
  • Pearl: 25 completed cruises

Related: The TPG guide to cruise line loyalty programs

This isn't the kind of loyalty program where you earn free cruises the way you earn free flights with airline miles. Instead, as you go up in status, you earn perks and earlier access to booking cruises and activities — which is key for getting those hard-to-snag adult dining or Castaway Cay cabana reservations

disney cruise recommended tips

Silver members

  • Book new cruise itineraries one day before the general public and book onboard activities 90 days before sailing.
  • Get a "welcome back aboard" gift (such as a bag), have access to a Castaway Club members-only line when boarding and access to a Castaway Club direct phone number.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 33 days before the general public.

Gold members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings two days before the general public and can book onboard activities 105 days before sailing.
  • On eight-night and longer voyages, Gold Castaway Club members are also invited to a private reception with special entertainment. There are also select merchandise discounts available to Gold members and higher.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 35 days before the general public.

Platinum members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings three days before the general public and can book onboard activities 120 days before sailing.
  • Priority check-in at the cruise terminal.
  • Complimentary evening dinner at Palo or Palo Steakhouse for themselves and everyone in the cabin age 18 and older.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 38 days before the general public.

Pearl members

  • All of those perks, but you can book new sailings four days before the general public and can book onboard activities 123 days before sailing.
  • Exclusive cruise terminal check-in (where available)
  • Unlimited Digital Photo Package.
  • Select port arrival time with online check-in starting 40 days before the general public.

How much does a Disney cruise cost?

Magic ain't cheap, and Disney cruises are expensive. They aren't the priciest voyages out there, but they will cost more than cruises with family-friendly competitors such as Royal Caribbean by a noticeable margin.

For a family of four, the cheapest Disney cruise currently available (not counting the two-night cruises in Australia and New Zealand) is about $2,500. An ocean view will add about $90 and a verandah will add about $500.

On these shortest cruises, concierge-level cabins and access start at a little over $5,000 for a family of four.

Those sorts of prices will only be available during the offseason, such as in mid-to-late January and early February or for repositioning cruises as the ship moves from, say, Puerto Rico to Florida. That same cruise during spring break can cost double or more, so the more date flexibility you have, the better.

A seven-night cruise in the Caribbean will likely start around $5,000 for a family of four. Expect Alaska and Europe cruises to start at $5,000 to $6,000 for inside cabins for a week, and prices go up for longer sailings and upgraded cabins.

disney cruise recommended tips

You can save money on your next Disney cruise by putting a $250 deposit down while you are at sea on a previous Disney cruise. It's a popular way to get 10% off your next cruise.

Another way to save on a Disney cruise is to look at a one-way repositioning sailing , as those often price lower than other similar cruises. For example, the cruise line may need to end a cruise in a particular port to reposition the ship to do some sailings from there. You'll have to get yourself back home from that port, but you may save on the cruise in the process.

Related: 15 ways that cruising newbies waste money on a cruise

How to book

You can book your Disney cruise directly with Disney Cruise Line either over the phone or online, but I'd argue you shouldn't.

Cruises are easy to enjoy but can be complicated to plan if you are new to this type of travel. This is an industry where a travel agent is still a good call. You want someone who can help you pick the right cabin type and location for your group and keep track of when you can snag those onboard activities you really want.

When the wave of pandemic-related cruise cancellations hit in 2020, I was so grateful to have a travel agent — instead of me — spending time dealing with the cruise line.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Another reason to consider going through a travel agent is to get onboard credit. Some travel agents will offer onboard credit based on the amount you spend on your Disney cruise. This is credit you can use toward drinks, spa treatments, excursions or anything else you can charge to your room.


Generally speaking, the sooner you book a Disney cruise after it goes on sale, the better, as prices usually only go in one direction — up.

Whether you use a travel agent or not, make sure to maximize your credit card points when paying for the cruise by using a credit card that offers extra points for travel purchases and maybe even offers some built-in travel protections .

  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3 points per dollar on travel and dining and an annual up-to-$300 travel credit.
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points per dollar on travel.
  • The Disney Premier Visa Card is also a good option, specifically with Disney Cruise Line, as it gives you access to a 0% introductory annual percentage rate for six months following the purchase date on eligible Disney vacation packages, such as a Disney cruise (then a variable APR of 19.24% to 28.24% applies). The card also gets you 10% in savings on some onboard activities and packages while at Castaway Cay.

Related: How to save money on booking a Disney cruise

Bottom line

Whether you are on a three-night trip to Castaway Cay or a bigger crossing to the South Pacific, a Disney cruise is a special vacation that actually feels like a vacation.

The classic styling of the original four ships, the modern storybook styling of Disney Wish, the vast number of inclusions, the rotational dining, waterslides, private island, fun kids clubs, Disney characters, high-caliber entertainment and Disney service shine through.

You'll certainly pay more for the privilege of sailing with Mickey and Minnie than with some other family-friendly lines. But for those with kids in that Disney age range, or for adults who know and trust the Disney brand, it's hard to go wrong in choosing Disney Cruise Line for your next vacation.

More stories to help you plan your next cruise:

  • Best Disney ships for everyone
  • Everything we know about Disney Treasure, joining DCL in 2024
  • Everything you need to know about Disney Wish
  • Best credit cards for booking a cruise

Flying Off The Bookshelf

101 Disney Cruise Tips & Tricks

disney cruise recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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
  • Guide to Disney Magic Restaurants + Dining

disney cruise recommended tips

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Disney Cruises Top Tips- Essential Hacks for Your Disney Cruise Experience

Disney Cruises Top Tips- Essential Hacks for Your Disney Cruise Experience

Disney may be one of the latest players in the cruise line game, but by no means does that make them “lesser” of an option. Quite the opposite. With 6 cruise ships currently sailing and another on the way, Disney has developed one of the most immersive, exciting, and fun lines of cruises ever to sail the 7 seas. Yet, planning for a Disney Cruise Line vacation never felt so overwhelming. Some tips on the Disney Cruise Line would be great, right?

You may have been to one, two, or multiple Disney theme parks already and you want something more. Or, you might not be much of a theme park person but still want to experience the Disney magic. Either way, planning your Disney Cruise Line vacation doesn’t have to be so tricky.

As an experienced cruiser, I’ve come up with the top tips to make the most of your Disney Cruise Line experience. Read on for your one-stop shop of Disney Cruise Line tips!

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In this planning guide:

Disney Cruise Top Tips: Know Before You Go!

Disney Ship

There are some important tips and bits of information to know that will make your Disney cruise a smooth and fun vacation. Here are the most important things you need to know.

Gather Your Required Documents


All guests must provide a valid government-issued photo ID to board the ship at the start of any cruise.

In general, cruises from international ports require you to have a passport that’s valid for at least 6 months prior to the start of your vacation as well as a travel visa. This means that round-trip cruises coming out of places like Port Canaveral, San Diego, Galveston, and even San Juan, Puerto Rico often do not require a passport. Make sure to provide your passport number at least 7 days before the start of your cruise.

When arriving at the port terminal, additional documents are required . Make sure to complete these documents using the My Online Check-In . When completed, bring the Online Check-In Port Arrival Form with you to the ship.

Bring Motion Sickness Medicine


If you are prone to motion sickness, don’t forget to pack medicine for it. From past experience, the onboard stabilizers on the Disney ships make movement quite minimal, but it surely doesn’t hurt to be prepared. If you forget your medicine, don’t worry, because the onboard Health Center supplies motion sickness medicine among other health-related products. Additionally, reserving a room closer to the middle of the ship is a great way to plan around those more prone to motion sickness, as the middle of the ship tends to experience much less movement than the front or back.

Gratuity is Expected

Disney Party

One difference between cruise vacations and other types of vacations is that gratuity is customary on cruises. Disney recommends a gratuity amount of $14.50 per night, per stateroom guest, including infants and children. If you’re staying in concierge-level staterooms or suites, Disney recommends $15.50 per night, per stateroom guest. Your gratuity is distributed to the Crew Members who take care of you during your stay:

  • Dining room server
  • Dining room assistant server
  • Dining room head server
  • Stateroom server

You can pre-pay your gratuity online (no later than 3 days before the start of your cruise) by visiting My Reservation s in your Disney account or through your travel agent (like Brooklyn from Get Away Today !). If you don’t get the chance to pre-pay, Disney will automatically charge your onboard account the suggested gratuity amount. Additionally, you have the option of visiting Guest Services while onboard to make any changes to your gratuity amounts.

Note that this gratuity does not include gratuities for the following:

  • Extras added to rotational dining meals such as alcoholic beverages
  • Adult dining locations such as Remy and Palo
  • Food or drink in shops and outdoor or poolside eateries
  • Room service
  • Port adventures
  • Senses Spa & Salon
  • Concierge Lounge Team
  • Any other additional services

The Safety Drill is Mandatory

Disney Cruise Ships

On the first night that your ship sets sail, all guests must attend the pre-departure assembly drill. This is in compliance with the US Coast Guard and international safety regulations.

Plan Your Port Adventures


This Disney Cruise Line tip is crucial! Make sure to reserve your Port Adventures well in advance. That way, you’ll get to experience the adventures you really want. With its popularity, Disney Cruise Line experiences fill up quickly, so we advise booking your Port Adventure as soon as your booking window opens up.

Familiarize Yourself with the Ship

Disney Cruise Atrium

Each ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet is unique in their theming and experience offerings. In 2024, the Disney Dream will sail to the Bahamas and western Caribbean. The Disney Wish will sail to Nassau, the Bahamas, and Castaway Cay. The Disney Fantasy will sail to the eastern and western Caribbean. The Disney Magic will sail to the Bahamas and Caribbean and will include stops to Disney Cruise Line’s newest Bahamian destination, Lighthouse Point. The Disney Wonder will sail to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Ensenada for the first half of 2024 and then will sail to Alaska for the second half!

Free Disney Cruise Line Vacation Quote

Disney Cruise Ship

Our favorite Disney-approved re-seller,  Get Away Today,  can get you a no obligation Disney Cruise Line vacation quote for free! In addition to great discount prices, their customer service and easy support is absolutely fantastic. They have an entire department dedicated to making sure every order has a wonderful experience and they are on-call to help you during your vacation if you need them.

And at no additional charge, you get FREE concierge Disney Cruise Line services! These services include having Get Away Today’s Disney Cruise Line expert Brooklyn take care of all your reservations and price monitoring for your trip. This really takes all the stress out of planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Rather than waking up at odd hours of the night to book all your reservations, why not let their travel agents take care of it for you- for free!

Get A Free Vacation Quote Now!

Explore Your Disney Cruise Activity Options Before Boarding

Disney Nursery

With Disney, there is so much to do for everyone in your family. With all that Disney offers onboard, make sure to explore the Disney Cruise Line website to plan what you want to do!

Here’s just a handful of the activities you can experience – for all age groups!

Kid’s Activities (ages 3-12)

Disney offers some of the best themed kid’s clubs that I (as a Disney adult) am very jealous of. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab offer activities for kid’s to enjoy. Kids can also swim, play arcade games, watch movies and shows, play sports, participate in deck parties, and meet with their favorite characters!

Teen Activities (ages 14-17)

Vibe and The Hideaway are both clubs that offer teen-specific activities. Teens can also enjoy teen-specific parties, teen-only excursions, and Buena Vista Theatre.

Tween Activities (ages 11-14)

Like we said, Disney offers activities for everyone. Look for Edge, a tween-only club. The Hideaway was also designed for tweens. There are also tween-specific parties, and much more.

“it’s a small world” Nursery! (up to age 3)

With babies in mind, parents can rest assured knowing their children are safe and have something to do. At “it’s a small world” Nursery! children ages 6 months to 3 years (or 1 to 3 years on Transatlantic or Panama Canal itineraries) can stay here. Qualified Disney Counselors take great care of your children’s needs. Note that reservations are highly recommended and additional fees apply.

Adult Activities

While the kids are having their own fun, Disney offers a plethora of activities for adults. From spas to fitness centers to nightclubs and lounges, your needs are covered. Additionally, Disney offers adult-only itineraries for Port Adventures such as an adult-only side of Castaway Cay, beer, margarita, tequila, and wine tasting, cocktail hours, and the Quiet Cove Pool.

If you’re looking for more food options, both the Palo and Remy restaurants are fantastic fine-dining options for an additional fee.

Pro Tip : Although the age-specific clubs and play areas don’t allow parents, all kids club spaces empty out for the “ open house ” when anyone can check out the theming of these wonderful clubs.

Do Not Sleep on the Disney Cruise Entertainment!

Disney Pirates

Disney Cruise Line is known for its absolutely incredible entertainment. From its live Broadway-style musicals to its fireworks at sea (that’s right – fireworks at sea), you surely won’t be disappointed.

And of course, the character meet-and-greets are a can’t-miss, especially for a Disney vacation! You can meet Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Minnie in their special Disney Cruise Line outfits, sometimes specific to your cruises theme. Additionally, while the meet-and-greet lines tend to be short, many times, your favorite characters roam freely around parts of the ship and surprise guests in places they don’t expect!

Holiday Cruises and Special Days at Sea

Disney Halloween

The Disney Cruise Line is known for its holiday themed cruises. Two of the most popular ones include the Very Merrytime and Halloween on the High Seas sailings.

On the Halloween on the High Seas sailings, guests can experience trick-or-treating events, enjoy spooky movies, and marvel at the Halloween décor. On the Very Merrytime sailings, guests can meet their favorite Disney characters dressed and decked out for the Holidays, meet Santa Claus, and of course, eat special themed treats. Heck, you can even spend Thanksgiving at Sea or ring in the New Year with a New Year’s Eve cruise .

Disney also offers the Marvel Day at Sea , where guests can stand alongside some of their favorite Marvel heroes and participate in action-packed entertainment. For the Pixar fans, Pixar Day at Sea gives guests a chance to sing, dance and play with their favorite toys, supers, and monsters. The theming options truly feel endless!

Save Both Time and Money During Your Disney Cruise

Disney Ship

What if I told you that if you took advantage of these strategies to save both time and money, you’d then be able to experience more? If that got your attention, read on.

Start out with a 4-5 Day Cruise

Disney Cruise Destination

This tip helps provide you with much more value for your money. Although Disney Cruise Line offers 2- and 3-day cruises, this length of time is simply not enough, especially for first-time Disney cruisers. We recommend starting with a 4- or 5-day cruise to allow yourself a comfortable amount of time to learn the ways of cruising, understand how Disney does cruises, and truly soak in this magical adventure. After reading about all of the offerings we discussed earlier, it’s absolutely worth investing a little extra money into a longer cruise!

Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App

Disney Cruise App

Just like how the mobile app makes navigating Disneyland and Walt Disney World easy, the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App makes it easy to access your cruise schedule, plans, daily activities, entertainment, restaurant menus, destination details, and more!

Pro Tip : The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App even allows you to communicate with fellow passengers, family, and friends with its handy chat feature. The best part? You can use this feature without having to purchase a wireless package!

The Carpet is Your Guide

Disney Cruise Room

This tip is a huge time saver! Your first time on board a cruise ship can be very disorienting, but in true Disney fashion, no detail is left untouched. To find your way toward the front or back of the ship, use the carpet. It was designed in one particular direction, so if it’s right side up, you’re heading to the front of the ship. If it’s upside down, you’re heading to the back of the ship.

BYOWB: Bring Your Own Water and Beer

Disney Cruise Show

This Disney Cruise Line tip helps you save money that you can allocate for more experiences. Especially handy if you want some extra cash for cocktails, make sure to bring a case of water and make sure it’s sealed in its original packaging. Additionally, make sure you have it with you as a carry-on and not checked into your luggage.

Not really a cocktail person? You’re in luck – you can actually bring your own alcohol onboard. However, there are some limits: guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 mL) or a 6-pack of beer (no larger than 12 oz) at the beginning of your voyage and at each port of call. Just like the case of water, make sure you have these with you as a carry-on.

Pro Tip : While there are water fountains and refill stations on board, they can be quite a walk from your room. Even if you choose not to drink any alcohol, the case of water will come in handy for this reason.

Fountain Drinks are Free

Disney Cruise Slide

If you’re a fan of the refillable mugs at Walt Disney World , you’ll be happy to know that you can get unlimited refills on soda from the soda fountains onboard! They’re located on the pool deck and the buffet area. It’s a great idea to bring your own refillable mug to save a few extra dollars, but Disney does offer a huge, 22 oz refillable glass mug you can purchase onboard!

Most of the Food Onboard is Free too!

Disney Cruise Food

Don’t worry about packing snacks because most of the food onboard is free! Most restaurants, buffets, poolside snacks, and 24-hour room service are all covered. The restaurant exceptions are the adult-exclusive dining at Remy and Palo on the Disney Fantasy , Cove Café, Sweet on You, and snacks sold at the entrance to the Walt Disney Theatre and Buena Vista Theatre). However, if you’re not sure if a particular restaurant is free, just ask a Cast Member.

The Best Time for Dinner

Disney Cruise Dining

Take advantage of timing your dinner. Disney cruises offer two dinner options: Main Seating (starting between 5:45pm and 6:15pm) or Second Seating (starting between 8:15pm and 8:30pm) seating, with your evening entertainment showtime opposite your dinner time. If you have an early dinner, you have the late show. If you have a late dinner, you have the early show. We advise planning for the late dinner.

Why? At 5:45pm, you’re more than likely to still be full from all the free food earlier in the day. You’ll also likely feel rushed because all of the other fun experiences onboard. And especially if you’ve got little ones, it can be hard for them to stay awake to watch an 8:15pm show after your early dinner. So you’re likely better off watching the early show when everyone has more energy and then grab a quick dinner before heading to bed!

Be Adventurous When Ordering Dinner

Disney Cruise Tangled

Since your food at dinner is included, don’t be shy, especially if you’re looking to be adventurous or want to try several food options. If you’re deciding between two appetizers, try both! If you want to try an entrée you’ve never had before, go for it! Better yet, when it comes to dessert, why not make your own sampler so you can try multiple options?

Speaking of Dinner, You Can Change Your Assigned Dining

Disney Cruise Dining

On the Disney Cruise, you and your party are assigned a dinner rotation through the included restaurants on the ship. This means that your serving team and any other guests you sit with will rotate with you. However, if for whatever reason the guests you’re assigned with don’t work out, feel free to ask Cast Members at Guest Services to make changes.

Pro Tip : You also have the ability to request specific seating at the restaurant of your choice, such as the Enchanted Garden booths. While nothing is guaranteed, requests can always be added to your Disney Cruise Line reservation!

Snag Your Disney Cruise Line Merchandise Quickly

Disney Cruise Merchandise

The most popular Disney Cruise Line merchandise tends to sell out quickly and generally doesn’t get restocked, so if you see something you really like, you should probably make the purchase on the spot. Note that the shops onboard the ship are only open while the ship is at sea.

Avoid Crowded Pools: Go Early or Late

Disney Cruise Pool

Just like one of the most proven strategies to avoid long lines at Walt Disney World , the most proven strategy to avoid crowded pools or long lines for the slides is to head to the pool either in the mornings or late afternoons while everyone starts to get ready for the evening. Additionally, mid-day on sea days are most likely the busiest times in the pool, so you’d want to avoid hitting the pool at that time.

Combine Your Disney Cruise with a Disneyland or Walt Disney World Trip

Disney Cruise Disneyland

For those who love visiting the Disney theme parks, combining your theme park trip with a Disney cruise can make for one of the most magical vacations ever! Combine a Disneyland trip with a trip aboard the Disney Wonder , which departs from San Diego, just 2 hours away from Disneyland. If you’re on the East Coast, why not combine a Walt Disney World trip with a trip aboard the Disney Fantasy or Disney Wish ? Both of these ships depart from Port Canaveral, just 1 hour away from Walt Disney Wrld.

Find the Best Deals on Disney Cruise Tickets

Disney Cruise Port

Make no mistake, Disney Cruise Line tickets tend to be more expensive than other cruise line competitors, but in my experience, the value you receive on your Disney Cruise Line experience far exceeds the price you pay. With that being said, there are certainly some great tips to save a few extra dollars here and there!

Disney Cruise Line Special Offers

Disney Cruise Turtle

This tip works well when planning your vacation to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and of course, your Disney Cruise Line vacation. Throughout the year, Disney Cruise Line offers plenty of special offers to help save you money on your next Disney Cruise. This includes limited-time offers, discounts for Florida residents, and discounts for Canadian residents. Make sure to check the Disney Cruise Line website frequently to see which offer works well for you!

Book as Early as Possible

Disney Cruise Show

When it comes to cruises in general, it’s important to know that booking your Disney Cruise early is a great way to save money on a Disney cruise. When it comes to pricing, Disney is different from other cruise lines because they use a tiered booking system, meaning the lowest ticket prices are offered first. In general, Disney Cruise Line tickets typically go on sale about 18 months before the sail date. As staterooms fill up, so do prices!

Sail Off-Peak and Be Flexible

Disney Cruise Pixar

Another great tip when planning your Disney Cruise Line vacation is to book during off-peak times of the year, which typically costs less money than during peak seasons. Additionally, having flexibility with your sail date can save you more money than you think. One itinerary that costs $2,000 in September (when kids are back in school) can cost up to 3 times more compared to the same itinerary in December.

Sail One-Way

Disney Cruise Alaska

Several times per year, Disney changes the homeport locations for their cruise ships. This means that they need to transfer their ship to their next cruising region to prepare it for the next season or cruises. When this happens, you have the ability to sail one way, starting in one port and ending in a different one. Also known as repositioning cruises, these one-off sailings cost much less than round-trip cruises that end in the same spot. The thing to keep note of is the cost of the one-way flight you’ll be taking to accommodate for your repositioning cruise!

Let Disney Pick Your Cabin

Disney Cruise Christmas

If you’re not very picky about which cabin you get, letting Disney pick your cabin can save you quite a bit of money! All you need to do is select a room type and then let Disney assign you to a specific cabin location when you get closer to your sailing time. When booking, make sure to read the fine print since this ticket-type comes with additional restrictions.

Upgrade Your Room at Port for Less

Disney Cruise Terminal

While this may not always be available, if higher room categories go unsold, you may be able to snag them for a better price at the port right before you board your ship. Again, there’s no guarantee, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask!

Save 10% by Putting a Deposit for Your Next Cruise While Onboard

Disney Cruise Tangled Show

One of the easiest ways to save money on your next Disney cruise is to book it while you on your current one! When you are onboard, you can put a $250 placeholder deposit on a future Disney Cruise to be used within 2 years and save 10% on the total cost of that cruise.

The best part is that you don’t have to choose which cruise you want to do at the moment! And, if you don’t book another Disney cruise in the next 2 years, that $250 placeholder deposit will be refunded back to you. This deposit can be made on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app .

Booking 2 Connecting Rooms vs. 1 Suite

Disney Cruise Room

A suite might be a great way for your family to have a little extra space. But if your budget is a little tighter, booking 2 connecting rooms may end up being significantly cheaper than buying a suite.

Book Your Disney Cruise Adventure with Get Away Today

Disney Cruise Slide

All of the current Disney Cruise Line itineraries are available to book now! After viewing the current available dates , make sure to come back and request a free quote from our travel partner Get Away Today for our cruise. For a limited time, Mickey Visit readers get up to a $400 onboard credit!

Get Away Today is our first choice when it comes to authorized retailers for theme park tickets. They have worked with Disney for over 33 years and offer the lowest prices on multiple-day tickets to Walt Disney World, making them Disney’s largest travel partner! Mickey Visit readers also receive exclusive prices. They’re a highly reputable source and also offer concierge-level services for planning vacations to Walt Disney World.

They also provide exclusive discounts on hotels, transportation, tickets, and more to Mickey Visit subscribers . Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get the most up-to-date deals!

Discount Disney Cruise Line Tickets

Disney Cruise Destination

In addition to authorized retailers such as Get Away Today , you have several other options for finding discount Disney Cruise Line tickets. Make sure to read through each option to see which may work best for you!

Wholesale Resale Stores

With wholesale resale shopping becoming more and more popular, stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco occasionally sell discounted Disney Cruise Line tickets. Keep in mind that many of these stores don’t usually advertise their discounts. However, if you frequently shop there, you’re more than likely to catch them at the right time.

Discounted Disney Gift Cards

A popular strategy among Disney guests is to purchase Disney gift cards at a discounted price. Guests can then use these gift cards toward the purchase of their theme park tickets. The most popular example is using a Target RedCard credit card to take 5% off the face value of a Disney gift card purchased at Target. Note that wholesale stores sometimes offer Disney gift cards at even higher discounted rates around the Holiday season, so make sure to compare prices when looking for the best deal!

Discounted Disney Cruise Line Tickets Through AAA

If you’re a AAA insurance member, you’re in luck. AAA typically offers discounts for its members through its website, many times offering some of the lowest tick prices to guests. AAA members can purchase tickets through the AAA website, in-person, or by telephone.

Military Discounts

Walt Disney was an American Patriot through and through. So it should come as no surprise that Disney partnered with the military and Department of Defense to offer some of the most effective rates on select Disney Cruise Line tickets. Note that this only applies to new bookings and that these special rates are limited to a maximum of one stateroom per military member, per sailing.

All active and retired military personnel and Department of Defense civilian employees are eligible. The best part? The discount also extends to all the dependents in their group.

Guests who qualify can purchase their discounted Disney Cruise line tickets through their local military base in the tickets and services office or through their specific human resources department. Make sure to check what discounts are offered.

Plan Your Disney Cruise Line Vacation

Now’s the time to start planning! To get a head start to planning your Disney vacation, subscribe to our FREE Deals newsletter . Here you will have access to useful planning information, exclusive Disney deals, and access to the lowest-priced Disney tickets anywhere. Find more information on planning your vacation here:

  • Disney Cruise Alaska 2024 and 2025 Guide
  • Disney Cruises – Ultimate Guide
  • Your First Disney Cruise: Top Ten Tips
  • 2024 Disney Cruise Packing List

How much you can tip for a Disney cruise can vary according to preference, but Disney recommends a minimum gratuity amount of $14.50 per night, per stateroom guest and $15.50 per night per stateroom guest staying in concierge-level staterooms or suites.

Choosing to be in the front or back of a Disney cruise ship depends on the type of experience you’re after. If you’re looking for the least amount of movement while out at sea, the mid-ship feels the least motion, followed by the aft (back of the ship). The front of the ship tends to feel the most motion at sea. Additionally, if you like to spend a lot of time on the balcony, the aft tends to feel the least amount of wind when at sea.

How much money you should save for a Disney cruise depends on the type of experience you’re after, such as where you’re going, how long you’re traveling, and which ship you choose. However, the cheapest cruises can start at around $1,000 for two guests.

How much extra you can tip cruise staff can vary according to preference, and Disney does have a minimum recommendation for gratuity for the Crew Members who take care of you during your stay. However, this gratuity does not cover things such as room service, port adventures, the spa, food or drink in shops and outdoor or poolside eateries, or adult dining locations. For these experiences, tipping can start at 15% and can go up according to preference.

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About Stephen Cabebe

A California native, Stephen found his love of all things Disney through his wife. He loves anything to do with Disney history, down to the minute details. If you don’t find him at Walt Disney World, he’s either practicing as a physical therapist, sharing his love of exercise on Instagram, or writing for his personal blog!

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Ultimate List of Disney Cruise Line Tips and Secrets for 2024

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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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.)

disney cruise recommended tips

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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended tips

  You may be able to experience things like:

  • A Marvel Day At Sea
  • Pixar Day At Sea
  • 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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.

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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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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.

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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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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! 

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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 recommended 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. 

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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.

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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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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.

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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 recommended 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.  

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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!

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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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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. 

disney cruise recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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 recommended 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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disney cruise recommended tips


disney cruise recommended tips

disney cruise recommended tips

Disney Cruise Line Tips for First Timers

D isney Cruises can be so much fun for families. In addition to the daily port visits, you will also enjoy activities, shows, fun kids’ clubs, delicious food, character greetings, shopping, and so much more.

If you are headed out on your first Disney Cruise Line cruise, you’ll definitely want to be prepared. Preparing for a cruise can often be stressful for families, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect. Since we absolutely want you to have the best experience, here are a collection of Disney Cruise Line tips for first timers.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, and purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links (or calling the number) may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. We’ve been on a media preview cruise and two cruises as part of Disney Social Media Moms (as well as 12+ cruises that I paid for on my own). All opinions are my own.

Book Your Disney Cruise

First, you’ll want to book your cruise. If you really aren’t sure what to do, it’s a good idea to go with a Disney travel agent, who can help you remember key dates (for final payments, etc). Otherwise, you can book directly through Disney. You’ll need to research sailing dates, ships, itineraries, and stateroom categories before you book.

When booking a Disney Cruise, I recommend booking with Get Away Today. Plus, when you mention Family Travel Magazine, you get an extra $25 on board credit! Give their agents a call at 877-510-2929.

Think about the type of experience you want to have. Obviously, an Alaskan cruise is much different than a Caribbean cruise. For a first cruise, I like the Disney Wish 3-day itinerary. It’s a good way to get started cruising, without too much risk. Many families even combine that agenda with a Walt Disney World trip for a Disney land and sea vacation .

Disney Cruise Line currently has five ships (the Dream, the Fantasy, the Wish, the Magic, and the Dream). While these ships do vary in size and amenities, I would generally recommend starting with the itinerary you want to go, rather than the ship.

You’ll also have your choice of staterooms. My family typically books a family stateroom with verandah. I like being able to stand out on the verandah throughout the day, and it also extends the room a bit. Other options include interior, oceanview (but no balcony), and concierge rooms.

When you book, you’ll also choose a seating time for dinner. I prefer the earlier time when traveling with my kids. Be sure to select a time when booking your cruise, and if your preferred time isn’t available, you can get on the waitlist.

Research Your Disney Cruise 

After you’ve paid your deposit, it’s a good idea to do some research – about the ship, and the ports of call. You’ll find that there are so many excursions offered, and you’ll want to book them ahead of time because they do fill up.

Keep in mind the ages of your kids – some of the excursions are definitely too challenging for younger kids, but the Disney Cruise Line website does a fantastic job showing that info. You should also research the different entertainment and dining options available on board, that way you know exactly what to expect.

Remember that you don’t have to do an excursion in every port, if you don’t want to. There’s always the option to explore on your own, or to stay on the ship.

In Grand Cayman , for instance, I booked a day stay at a hotel on Seven Mile Beach. I contacted the hotel directly for that, and just took a cab to and from our destination. Just keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for getting yourself back to the ship in time at the end of the day. If you don’t want to be worried about that, booking an official excursion is your best option.

Book Hotel, Airfare, and Transportation

I always recommend arriving the night before sailing if you are flying into your port of call. That will help avoid the potential of flight delays.

If flying into Orlando International Airport , I like to stay at the  Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport  (see the  reviews on TripAdvisor  and book here ). You should also plan transportation to the port.

When we sail out of Port Canaveral , I prefer to take the Disney shuttles, which makes it nice and easy. Port Miami and Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale) are very close to the respective airports, which makes it easy to get there.

Check In For Your Disney Cruise

As a first-timer, you’ll be able to check-in 75 days before sailing. Disney Castaway Club members are able to check in earlier, which means that you may find some excursions that are already booked up by the time you check-in.

I definitely recommend that you already know which excursions you want, so you can book them right after checking in. Prepare a second and third choice option as well.

At this time, you’ll also fill out the guest information form, the payment authorization form for your on board purchases, and some other forms. If you need special services when on board, this is the time to request them.

You can also book certain on board experiences, like a meal at Palo. Because you’ll be one of the last to check in, you’ll want to do it right when your booking window opens. Your cruise will have to be all paid off before you are able to book anything.

Prep Door Decorations and Fish Extenders

If you aren’t aware, many Disney Cruise Line guests participate in a fun little unofficial program called  Fish Extenders . Essentially, you get together with other families and swap little gifts throughout your cruise. It’s completely optional, but can be a fun thing to do. My fish extender post contains all of the information that you need to know.

In addition, many families decorate their stateroom doors, so you’ll want to check out my post on decorating your Disney Cruise Line stateroom door  if you are interested in doing that.

Most families do some form of decorating, so you’ll probably want to do at least something. It’s a good way to be able to identify your door among the sea of doors that look exactly the same.

A relatively new tradition on cruise ships (not just Disney) is cruise ducks. It’s completely unofficial, but some guests hide rubber ducks on the ship for others to find. You can learn more about cruise ducks on this post.

Shop Before Your Trip and Pack Appropriately

There are shops on the ship, but they aren’t open when the ship is in port, and they have a limited selection of merchandise. So, you’ll want to have everything you need in your suitcase . Be sure to pack any medications you definitely need, as well as anything that you may potentially need on your trip.

Bags are delivered throughout the afternoon and evening, so you’ll want to pack a day bag for the first day on the Disney Cruise Line . We typically put essentials, sunscreen, medications, electronics, and evening dinner apparel in our day bag.

That way, if our suitcases don’t show up before dinner, we are still prepared. We also put our door decorations in that day bag so we can start decorating right away.

You won’t be able to get in your room until the early afternoon, so you won’t want your day bag to be too heavy. If your kids are older, you may want everyone in your family to carry a small backpack to spread out the weight.

If you are traveling to a warm weather destination, you may find yourself wearing a bathing suit much of the day. In that case, you may not need as many daily clothing items as you’d expect.

We often rewear things on a longer cruise because we aren’t wearing them for more than a few hours. Overpacking isn’t a big deal – but keep in mind that there isn’t tons of space in your stateroom.

If your ship will have a pirate night , you may want to bring pirate apparel. It’s totally optional, but many guests do dress up. We never dress up for pirate night, but we are generally in the minority. You’ll see all levels of pirate dress, from t-shirts and bandanas to full costumes.

Bring whatever you are comfortable in. Kids may like to have glow sticks for pirate night as well.

There are a few cruise specific things you may want to bring. The doors in the room are magnetic, and along with door decorations, I like to bring magnetic hooks.

That gives us a few places to hang wet clothes beyond the shower. I bought ours at the Container Store, but these from Amazon.com are similar. You may also want to purchase autograph books in advance. They are also available on the ship, but shops don’t open on the first day until after you set sail.

If you are participating in a fish extender exchange , in addition to your gifts, you’ll want to buy or make a fish extender. There are lots of options on Etsy. Fish extenders can be as deluxe or as basic as your want. I’ve seen some people use a tote bag, while others have personalized, embroidered fish extenders.

Activities on the Ship

Even if your kids don’t generally love kids’ clubs, they’ll probably love the clubs on the Disney Cruise Line. As a result you may find yourself with some free time.

When you book at the activities available to book on the app, you’ll probably see some availability for beverage seminars. These are adult-only, and include martini tasting, wine tasting, and mixology. I’ve done most of them, and we always enjoy them.

During your cruise, you’ll be using the Disney Cruise Line app often. You’ll want to download that while you are still able to access cellular data. The app includes a daily schedule, menus, and information about the various ports of call on the trip.

You can also communicate with other passengers on the ship using the app, even if you don’t purchase WiFi or have cellular service turned on. My family regularly uses the app to communicate because it’s a great way to keep in touch as we head in different directions throughout the day.

Disney’s Castaway Club

Once you’ve completely your first sailing on the Disney Cruise Line, you’ll be a member of Disney’s Castaway Club. Castaway Club members receive a lanyard at check in.

For your first sailing, you won’t receive one. They are pretty handy to have, however, so you may want to bring a regular lanyard or purchase one on board to hold your Key to the World card.

Disney Cruise Line is rolling out MagicBand use on the ships. These are optional, and you do have to purchase them separately.

You won’t have to sign up to become a member of the Castaway Club – it just happens when you complete your first sailing. There are four levels of the club, and you’ll get different perks and benefits as you sail more times.

What’s Included on a Disney Cruise Line trip

As you budget for your Disney Cruise Line trip, you’ll probably want to know what’s included. Alcohol, packaged snacks, premium coffee, popcorn, excursions, premium meals (in Remy, Enchante, and Palo), photos, the spa, and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique all cost extra. If you don’t prepay your tips, you’ll do that on board as well.

To know what to expect on your first day, be sure to read this post .

More Disney Cruise Ships Resources: Click to read more about the Disney Cruise Line ships including restaurants, tips, itineraries, activities, and more.

The post Disney Cruise Line Tips for First Timers appeared first on Family Travel Magazine .

Disney Cruises can be so much fun for families. In addition to the daily port visits, you will also enjoy activities, shows, fun kids’ clubs, delicious food, character greetings, shopping, and so much more. If you are headed out on your first Disney Cruise Line cruise, you’ll definitely want to be prepared. Preparing for a …

Tips for A Walt Disney Land and Sea Vacation

Posted on Published: 06/17/2024

With all of the different Disney vacation options available, it can be hard to choose just one. Luckily, due to the proximity of Walt Disney World to Port Canaveral , it’s easy to plan a Walt Disney Land and Sea vacation.

Incorporating both a theme park trip and a family cruise, this type of trip is a fabulous option for those families who want to experience two aspects of Disney vacations. If you do plan one, here are some Disney Land and Sea tips to make your experience the best possible.

Disclosure: I’ve done several Walt Disney World land and sea trips, including two during Disney Social Media Moms. I paid for my participation in those but also received perks and discounts. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliates and booking through these and or clicking/purchasing through these links can result in a commission paid to us.

When booking your Walt Disney World vacation, consider purchasing through our affiliate Get Away Today . They offer great prices on tickets and can book many hotels.

Disney Wish docked at Castaway Cay, a fun component of a Disney Land and Sea vacation

Walt Disney Land and Sea Vacation Review & Tips

Plan the correct vacation order.

Because a Walt Disney World vacation is a hectic experience, while a Disney Cruise Line trip can be pretty relaxing, you’ll want to get your vacation order right. I recommend doing the theme park part of the vacation first so that you can enjoy some relaxing on the cruise ship at the end of your vacation.

Most people will do a three or four-day Disney Cruise, so the new Disney Wish is often the best option for that. It departs from Port Canaveral, which is a short distance from the parks. After you finish your Disney family trip, port transportation can take you right from your Walt Disney World resort hotel to the Port (for an additional fee).

Decide on Length of Stay

The length of your Disney Cruise is likely to be about 3 or 4 days, depending on which specific cruise itinerary you book. So you’ll want to decide how long you can be gone from home, and then book the Walt Disney World portion of your trip for the time you have available.

If you want to experience all four parks, I’d plan for at least one day each at Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and two days at the Magic Kingdom.

However, if you’ve been to all of the parks already, and just want a taste of visiting Walt Disney World for a few days before the cruise, you may just want to book two or three days there. That’s what we usually do.

Carrousel at the Magic Kingdom

Keep Track of Dates

You’ll need to stay organized when planning your ultimate Disney vacation. You’ll have different dates to keep track of – from the Walt Disney World dining reservations date to the check-in date on the Disney Cruise Line (which is also when you can book excursions and other cruise activities).

You won’t want to miss out on any activities or plans, so definitely keep track of all of the dates that you’ll need to know. Put everything in your calendar as soon as you book so you are ready.

Keep in mind that you will need to have fully paid off your cruise before you can book port adventures and onboard adult dining. These booking dates depend on your Castaway Club level so make sure you understand that in advance.

It’s easy to forget the second half of your trip when you are focused on the first half but don’t let that happen. Excursions and activities sell out on the Disney Cruise Line ships, so take the extra time to be prepared for your trip. You won’t want to be disappointed, especially for a vacation that isn’t cheap.

Consider a Travel Agent

A travel agent can help you book both the theme park and the cruise portion of your Disney land and sea vacation package. They can also assist you with dining reservations and will remind you when the various deposits will be due.

Booking through a travel agent doesn’t cost extra and can be a great option if you are concerned about forgetting something important. They can also help you find special offers and discounts that can be used during your trip.

The Disney Fantasy docked at Castaway Cay

Pack Appropriately

You’ll have access to laundry facilities at your hotel (definitely if you are staying on Disney property), and on the cruise ship. However, you probably won’t want to waste your vacation time washing clothes. I never want to, unless the laundry facilities are right in the hotel room.

Pack appropriately, and you’ll have enough clothing to wear for the whole vacation. I find that I’m often in my swimsuit for most of the cruise, so I’m able to wear my regular outfits at least twice. You’ll want to have at least one nice outfit for the cruise – especially if you dine at one of the adult-only restaurants, like Palo .

If you have some things that you’ll only want during the cruise, keep those items together in one suitcase. That way, you’ll know that you don’t need to open that bag at all during the first part of the trip. Travel packing cubes can help.

After the land part of your vacation, put all of your dirty clothes in one bag, so you won’t even need to touch it during the cruise part of your trip. Just store that suitcase under the bed in your cruise stateroom. You can take a look at our vacation packing lists to see what types of things you’ll want to pack.

Evaluate Transportation

We usually stick with Disney transportation, which means that we don’t need to rent a car. We take Disney transportation between the parks, and cruise ship transportation to and from the port. With the elimination of the Magical Express, however, you’ll need to book transportation from Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World .

You do have to pay for the cruise ship transportation (both to and from the port). You’ll also receive a specific pick-up time from Walt Disney World to the port, so you’ll have less flexibility about when you leave.

If you are flexible, I find it to be the best option, but others like to rent a car or book a private car.

With the new permanent Disney cruise terminal at Fort Lauderdale , some guests may want to sail through that port. In that case, you’ll either have to drive to Fort Lauderdale from Walt Disney World, or may want to consider taking the Brightlite Train from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale.

Enjoy Everything

Taking a vacation with multiple components can be tricky. You may be anticipating a later part of the trip more than the current part of the trip. The best thing to do is to enjoy everything as it happens. Do advance work before you leave so that everything is set up.

Then, enjoy everything, from the Magic Kingdom to Pandora at Animal Kingdom, embarkation day on the ship, and relax at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Plan Your Budget

These types of vacations can be expensive, so do your research in advance. Much of your cruise expense will be included in the cost of the cruise, but things like bingo, excursions, and alcohol can add up.

Just be sure to set a specific budget of what you are willing to spend during both components of your trip, and keep track of your spending. That way, you won’t be surprised when you get the final bill at either checkout.

Have you ever done a Disney land and sea vacation?

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Thinking of booking a cruise? Here are the lines you should — and shouldn't — sail with.

  • Before you book a cruise , it's important to understand that not all cruise lines are equal.
  • Each cruise line has amenities, entertainment, and experiences tailored to specific cruisers.
  • Carnival is good for families, Virgin Voyages for solo adults, and Cunard for mature travelers. 

Insider Today

I am a very, very avid cruiser. Last year alone, I spent 73 days on cruise ships .

I've sailed with most major lines, from kid-focused Disney Cruise Line to the sometimes-naughty Virgin Voyages. When people ask me which cruise ships I recommend , my answer isn't so straightforward.

Each cruise line is unique, offering amenities, entertainment, and experiences tailored to specific cruisers. What you book will depend on your needs, wants, budget, and what you'd rather avoid.

So, I've done some research about popular cruise lines and combined my personal experiences to help you decide which cruise line to book with.

After all, this is kind of the year of the cruise , with travelers predicted to set sail at some of the highest rates in years throughout 2024.

Here's what you need to know about some of the major cruise lines before you book your next trip.

Editor's Note: Price ranges were calculated at the time of publication based on available listings on each cruise site. Cruise pricing is per person, based on double occupancy and the cheapest stateroom/fare available. Prices were calculated before taxes, port charges, and other fees. Itineraries with added tours built-in were not included when calculating this information.

Carnival Cruise Line

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $ | Prices range from $156/pp for a two-day getaway from Sydney to $3,273/pp for a 10-day Alaska cruise

Ideal for: Budget travelers, intergenerational groups, families, and partiers

Skip if: You're looking for a high-class, elegant experience or a quiet, laid-back vibe

Highlight: All Carnival cruises come with itineraries loaded with fun activities. Some ships have especially exciting features like the first roller coaster at sea, SkyRide zip-line-style aerial bikes, and themed parties.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like to wear a tux or ball gown or have a quiet cruise experience.

Launched in 1972, Carnival Cruise Line is one of nine cruise lines owned by parent company Carnival Corporation & plc. It's the company's largest cruise line, with 27 ships. Its cruises typically range from two days to 29 days.

Carnival Cruise Line offers year-round cruises in Australia, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico and seasonal cruises in Alaska , Bermuda, Canada, Europe, Hawaii, and New England.

Celebrity Cruises

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $233/pp for a three-night Key West & Bahamas cruise to $6,912/pp for a 7-night Galapagos cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and solo travelers

Skip if: You're looking for a slower-paced classic cruise

Highlight: All Celebrity Cruises come with amazing outdoor spaces like The Lawn Club with real grass on the top deck of Solstice Series ships and the Rooftop Terrace on Millennium Series ships. You also won't want to miss the Magic Carpet , which allows guests to hang out while suspended above the ocean on some ships.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who want to attend lectures about their ports of call.

Celebrity Cruises began sailing in 1997. There are 16 ships, which sail on itineraries ranging from three to 19 nights to nearly 300 ports of call in 70 countries.

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$$ | Prices range from $249/pp for a two-night cruise from Southampton, England to Hamburg, Germany, to $19,158/pp for a 111-night World Voyage

Ideal for: Sophisticated travelers and mature cruisers

Skip if: You're looking for a high-energy cruise, hoping to travel with children , or craving adventurous activities

Highlight: All Cunard cruises come with white-glove service. You won't want to miss Cunard's famous 3:30 p.m. afternoon tea, gala evenings, and fine dining arranged by stateroom grade.

Possible cons: This is a very formal cruise with strict dress codes. You won't find water slides or pool parties here.

Founded in 1840, Cunard offers a classic cruise experience with cruises ranging from two to 116 nights.

Its four ships sail to Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.

Disney Cruise Line

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$$ | Prices range from $422.40/pp for a two-night cruise from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia, to $5,592/pp for a 12-night Mediterranean with Greek Isles cruise

Ideal for: Disney adults , families, and intergenerational groups

Skip if: You don't want to vacation around a bunch of children and you crave peace and quiet

Highlight: All Disney Cruise Line cruises come with heaps of Disney magic in the way of special events and details. You won't want to miss character meet and greets, pirate-themed parties with fireworks, and passengers trading pins and leaving treats inside decorative pouches hung on stateroom doors.

Possible cons: There is a significant child population on most of these cruises and not much adults-only entertainment. Dinners in the main dining can get loud, and, just like at the theme parks, there can be many queues for activities and other offerings.

Disney Cruise Line first set sail in the 1990s and has five active ships, with the new Disney Treasure set to debut in December. The line has sailings all around the globe, and most range from two to 15 nights.

Holland America Line

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $94/pp for a one-day Pacific Northwest cruise to a $27,399/pp for a 132-day Grand Voyage

Ideal for: Music lovers and sophisticated world travelers who appreciate European hospitality and smaller ships

Skip if: You're young, traveling with children, or want to party

Highlight: All Holland America Line cruises come with a dose of Dutch hospitality and elegance. During my cruise with the line, I enjoyed the Dutch cuisine and Music Walk , which features live performances at B.B. King's Blues Club, Rolling Stone Rock Room, and Billboard Onboard.

Possible cons: The line takes its formal nights really seriously and attracts an older crowd.

Holland America Line has had ships sailing the globe for over 140 years. Its 11 ships cruise to more than 425 ports of call on seven continents, and cruises range from one to 118 days.

MSC Cruises

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $ | Prices range from $80/pp for a three-night Mediterranean cruise to $46,149/pp for a 116-night World Cruise

Ideal for: Budget travelers, families, intergenerational groups, big groups

Skip if: You're looking for lots of food options or top-tier entertainment

Highlight: All MSC Cruises offer great value — and good pizza

Possible cons: The cruise fare does not include many dining options, and the evening entertainment skews old-school and a bit more basic than some other cruise lines that do Broadway-worthy shows.

MSC Cruises has 22 ships, with one more projected to join its fleet by 2025. The line has sailings all around the globe, and most range from two to 118 nights.

Norwegian Cruise Line

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $79/pp for a one-day Australia cruise to $4,379/pp for a 10-day European cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and solo cruisers

Skip if: You're looking for structure, ballroom dancing, and fancy dinners

Highlight: All Norwegian Cruise Line cruises offer freestyle dining. You won't want to miss its Broadway-level shows and generous drink package, which is often offered complimentary.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like formal dress codes, and some dislike the à la carte pricing.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been sailing the world for over 57 years. Its 19 ships visit 400-plus ports on seven continents, and cruises typically last one to 25 days.

Princess Cruises

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $127/pp for a two-day Australia Seacation to $24,098/pp for a 98-day World Cruise

Ideal for: Mature solo travelers, couples, and retirees

Skip if: You're looking for lots of activities and party vibes. Princess Cruises tend to attract an older crowd, and the shows and activities reflect this. There aren't many events offered each day. On the three cruises I sailed with Princess, the entertainment was primarily musicals, piano players, and singers backed by an orchestra. There were only a handful of children on each cruise.

Highlight: All Princess Cruises offer Discovery and Animal Planet-exclusive shore excursions — and many have an excellent onboard lecture series.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like to party, love water slides, or have teenagers.

Founded in 1965, Princess Cruises has 16 ships that sail to 330 destinations worldwide on itineraries from three to 111 days

Royal Caribbean

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $196/pp for a two-night Hong Kong cruise to $8,266/pp for a 13-night Arctic Circle cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and intergenerational travelers

Highlight: All Royal Caribbean cruises come with fun activities and a broad range of entertainment options. Some have the Ultimate Abyss , the tallest slide at sea, or the glass capsule North Star , the tallest viewing deck on a cruise ship. You won't want to miss the Oasis Class ships' seven distinctly themed neighborhoods and Royal Promenade, a mall-like thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, and lounges that runs the length of the ship.

Possible cons: Many of its ships are mega-ships, so this isn't the line for you if you want a more intimate trip.

Founded in 1968, Royal Caribbean sails to about 240 destinations on six continents. Cruises range from two to 22 nights.

Royal Caribbean has many of the world's largest cruise ships in its fleet of more than 20 vessels.

Virgin Voyages

disney cruise recommended tips

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $415/pp for a four-night roundtrip cruise from England to Amsterdam to a $3,072/pp for a 13-night Canada, Carolina, and Miami cruise

Ideal for: Child-free travelers, health enthusiasts, the glamorous, and those who don't like strict rules

Skip if: You want a classic cruise, need structure, or can't handle playfulness (and, sometimes, naughtiness)

Highlight: All Virgin Voyages are child-free, and everyone gets unlimited WiFi, access to group fitness classes, and gratuities included in their fare. You won't want to miss its famous Scarlet Night, 20 eateries (every venue is considered specialty dining), and eclectic shows like "Untitled DanceShowPartyThing."

Possible cons: There aren't traditional song-and-dance shows, assigned dining times, and nightly portrait photography

Virgin Voyages has been sailing its "Lady Ships" inspired by superyachts since 2021. Three nearly identical ships are currently in service, and a fourth one is set to set sail later this year.

Virgin Voyages sails to about 100 destinations in Australia, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom on cruises ranging from three to 16 nights.

disney cruise recommended tips

  • Main content

Tips to save time and money on summer travel: Fly, drive and cruise for less

VIDEO: Summer travel tips with The Points Guy

As travelers get ready to hit the road, take to the skies and head out on the high seas this summer, experts have some simple tips that could help you save both time and money.

Cost-effective tips for air travel this summer

Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, shared the team's newly released annual report of the best airlines with "Good Morning America," which sums up the most reliable U.S. airlines striking a balance between reliability, cost, experience and value.

This year, Kelly said "Delta came in at No. 1 for the sixth year in a row," noting the airline "didn't win in any one of the four major categories, but they're strong consistently across the board."

"In reliability, I want to give a shoutout to Allegiant Air, which is a smaller, low-cost air carrier -- they did not bump a single passenger in 2023," he said. "Getting where you need to go is a big part of air travel, so kudos to them."

disney cruise recommended tips

With most major carriers increasing baggage fees across the board, Kelly applauded Southwest Airlines, which he said "still allows two checked bags free."

Domestic deals to save on summer travel

The average airfare has dropped again, according to the latest inflation data from May, which means that it's actually 6% cheaper to fly now than this time last year.

Katy Nastro, travel expert and Going.com spokesperson, told "GMA" that airfare is now 19% cheaper than June of 2022, when airfare was at its highest price points. She said it's also cheaper than February 2020, when air travel was still "normal."

To take advantage of the three-month streak of cheaper prices, travelers can look for deals both at home and abroad.

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disney cruise recommended tips

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"There's a lot of great domestic fares," Kelly said. "We're seeing New York to San Francisco for $197 round trip."

He also noted that now is a great time to visit wine country in Northern California.

Additionally, he pointed to deals on airfare to and from cruise port locations. "New York to Miami $87 round trip -- that's a great jumping off spot for cruises," he said.

The Points Guy team has also tracked fares from Los Angeles to Charleston for under $200.

"Charleston is a great food city, but there's also beautiful beaches in that part of the country that you shouldn't overlook," he said.

disney cruise recommended tips

The Transportation Security Administration recently reported its second busiest day in history, with nearly 3 million people screened across the country.

Even with record travel numbers, Kelly said there have yet to be any "major meltdowns" at airports or specific airlines, but sadly said it's a different story when it comes to getting to the airport.

"Our roads can't handle the crowds -- I highly recommend people leave early for the airport," Kelly said. "Traffic is an issue. So if you're a procrastinator like me, don't be, and head to the airport a little earlier this summer."

Check in early for flights to earn access to upgrades

As soon as the check in window opens within 24 hours of a flight, experts encourage using the airline's app to seamlessly check in and avoid any issues, especially if you're checking bags, because with some fee policy changes, it could cost you more by making that choice in person the day of your flight.

Plus, checking in early also offers more possibility, depending on your loyalty status, to receive any upgrades.

Avoid lost luggage with 'baggage hygiene'

The ramp director at Newark Liberty International Airport told ABC News to make sure you remove old bag tag stickers from previous flights that could potentially send your baggage to another airport.

disney cruise recommended tips

The ramp director also suggested removing any ribbons, which is a common way to identify baggage, because it could obstruct the printed locator tag.

Get through security with ease by separating certain items

Whether it's a quick weekend getaway or you've become a carry-on packing pro in order to avoid paying for checked luggage, there's another simple step to take before getting to the security checkpoint that can hopefully speed things along.

Every airport is built differently and requirements for what to put in a bin whether you're in the Clear, TSA pre-check, or standard security line seemingly vary at an array of locations when it comes to what needs to be taken out or off like liquids and shoes.

Put items that are known to be problematic at security, such as batteries, candles, baby wipes, food or other items that may obstruct the X-Ray from getting a clear read, into their own designated removable pouch or section of your carry-on so that it can be easily removed and rescanned a lot faster.

Summer of cruises with deals at hot destinations

disney cruise recommended tips

There are still some great deals at sea to capitalize on later this summer, with some as low as $50 a night in August, according to ABC News chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis .

"A four-night Key West and Bahamas cruise starting at $242 a person. A four-night short Caribbean cruise for $251 a person. And a four-night Bahamas cruise for $209 a person," she shared. "Really, the bottom line here is the more flexible you can be and the more all-inclusive you book, the better deal you're going to get."

Road trip and hit the road for less with lower gas prices

disney cruise recommended tips

Jarvis said Americans can road trip for less than it would have cost this time last year with gas prices at $3.46 on average nationwide.

"That's down about $0.13 a gallon from where we were last year," she said, adding that "AAA is forecasting that a number of states are going to see their states dip below $3 a gallon in the coming weeks."

Up Next in Travel—

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