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10 Tips for your FIRST Disney Cruise

So you’ve booked your very first Disney cruise, now what? I know we were beyond thrilled to see what Disney could do on the high seas, but we were venturing Into the Unknown... you know you were singing that :) We have traveled to the parks since I was a little girl, I have been a Cast Member and we now take our own kids. Preparing for a week or more at the parks I had down to an art form…. Dining reservations, CHECK! Fast passes, CHECK! But there are no fast passes in the middle of the ocean. Rotational dining? (what does that even mean?) I need to pick my PAT? What do I even bring with me on this trip? Well, after four Disney cruises, one that was 7-nights WITHOUT our kids, here are my top 10 things to know before you have your Sail Away Party with Mickey and Friends!


Oh no!! Your flight has been delayed or even worse it has been cancelled. Or maybe you are driving in, but now you are caught in construction traffic! I mean let’s be honest, there is ALWAYS construction going on somewhere. Maybe you had car problems and are stuck till your car is repaired (this has happened to us). My point to all this, NEWS FLASH Disney will NOT, I repeat NOT hold that ship in port for you. You are not Disney royalty. And NO Ariel will not be talking to her ocean friends to help you meet up with that ship at sea. Anything can happen, so come in the day before, find a local restaurant to have dinner and be Hakuna Matata (it means no worries, at least for your cruising days). P.S. this also applies to boarding times in your port of calls. Don’t believe me? Google “videos of pier runners”. PLEASE do not be those people!


Now that I hopefully have you on board with coming in the day before your magical voyage, let’s talk about matching shirts. Just as many love wearing matching shirts or doing some cosplay while at the parks, many enjoy doing this for cruises as well. Creating shirts is a fun way to get excited for your upcoming trip. Another great reason to do matching shirts, Disney has photographers taking professional pictures of you as you are boarding. You can get creative on your own with sayings, pictures or hit up Pinterest for some great ideas. Checking out everyone’s fun shirts while waiting for your boarding number to be called is a great way to pass the time too. Plus, you never know who you might see while waiting. (Mickey and some of his pals are usually there in the terminal greeting you as you are waiting.)


Yes, this IS a thing! And quite honestly after we booked our first cruise I immediately had to find out as much as I could about Disney cruises. So, I went to Facebook (isn’t that where everyone goes for important information?) You can type in your ship name and sail date to find your cruise page. It will allow you to connect with people that will be on your cruise. Ask questions, join Fish Extender (FE) groups, etc. (FE is a mutual gift exchange that your cruise group puts together. This is optional.) Being a part of your Disney Cruise Facebook group is also another fun way to get excited and count down till your cruise.


Disney has rotational dining, what does that mean? Well each ship has 3 main dining rooms and each night you will dine in a different restaurant. Once on board, you will learn your dining rotation on your Key to the World Card — we'll explain this in a future blog post. You will either have Main Seating (usually 5:45pm) or Second Seating (usually 8:15pm). You will also be assigned a wait staff that will be with you each night. This allows them to get to know what your likes and dislikes are. Have a picky eater, let them know and they can get food from just about anywhere on the ship for you. I LOVE crème brulee and they went to the other restaurants to find it for me. Unfortunately, they were out, but our head server was able to write down the recipe for me. If you are on a 7-night or longer cruise you can make reservations for a character breakfast at no additional charge. And there is also adult only dining, that requires a reservation and a fee. You can begin making these reservations at your online check in.


First time cruisers may begin their online check-in 75 days prior to sail date. This is where you will choose your PAT (Port Arrival Time), book excursions and make any dining reservations. Your PAT is the time they want you to ARRIVE at the port to begin your check in, it does not mean you are getting on the ship at that time. Once on board, have lunch, hang by the pool, maybe hit up the AquaDuck and grab some UNLIMITED ice cream. (I mean who doesn’t like ice cream?!) You will also fill out forms on whether you are cruising with a passport or using a birth certificate. YES, I am going to put my two cents in here, whether it is required or not, do yourself a favor and get one. Why? Because emergencies happen, if you are on an island and do not make it back to the ship now you need to fly home. Having that passport will make the hassle of getting home so much easier.


Aaaaarrrgh!! Pirate Night is a must for everyone of ALL ages. And yes, it is another time to dress up and have a swash buckling good time. There are costumes on board for purchase or bring something from home. You will see adults and kids dressed up. The year we surprised our kids with the Christmas cruise, I convinced all 3 to be pirates for Halloween. (I was thinking dual purpose here.) Your dinner will be pirate themed, characters will be decked out in their pirate attire, and there is a party on deck that night — which includes fireworks. Disney is the only cruise line that has permission to have a firework display at sea. (Other cruise lines might be jealous, because if you look out into the sea you can usually spot other cruise lines close by watching.)


Who doesn’t want to look like a princess, a captain or pirate? The ships offer these makeovers which are similar to Walt Disney World. While we have not done the princess or captain makeovers, the pirate night makeovers have been a hit with my kids. They have different packages and different choices of how they want their makeup to be done. You will want to make reservations ahead of time for this and can do so during your online check in. You can also try booking once you are on board.


This is a great place to let the kids have some fun with the counselors while you go relax by the adult-only pool and maybe have a drink or two! Or maybe you just want to take a nap on deck. There are plenty of activities going on throughout the day and you can find a schedule in the Disney Cruise Line app. Our last cruise on the Disney Dream, I decided to take a tour of the kid’s club with our boys. They played Disney Infinity, checked out Andy’s Room and we got to see the Star Wars set up. (My boys are HUGE Star Wards fans, so this was super cool to them. Who am I kidding I was pretty impressed, too!) You can pre-register your kids for the kids club while you are doing your online check in. (Are you seeing a theme to all this online check in stuff?) This will save some time once on board. The kids receive a magic band to scan them in and out. There is a charge for the band, but if you return it at the end of your cruise you will be refunded. You must be on the pick-up list and know the password that you created previously. They can also notify you when your child is ready to be picked up either by your stateroom phone or by messaging you through the Disney Cruise Line app. Please know that they do have a nursery for young ones aged 6 months - 3 years, and this is the only club that requires a fee and reservation.


You know what else is included in your cruise? Movies, Broadway style shows and meeting the characters. { Side note - we pack our own candy and snacks to bring to the movie theaters and shows instead of purchasing on the ship. } Movies that are showing are listed in the Disney Cruise Line app and are usually offered several times throughout the day. If you have the Main Dining time, the Disney Broadway shows will be after your dinner. If you have Second Seating, it will be before your dinner. We have seen some AMAZING shows (not going to lie I have cried at some). Make sure you make some time to see at least a few throughout your cruise. As for characters, they are out quite a bit throughout your sailing. You can check your app for times and where they will be. Please know as of now the Frozen and Princess Meet and Greets are ticketed events. You, yep you guessed it, can make a reservation for it during your online check in. There is no charge, they just limit the amount of people for those meet and greets. Also, people love to get creative on what they have the characters sign. More on this another time, but my mom and I thrive on coming up with creative ideas each time we cruise.


Last, but not least, what should you take with you! Here are a few suggestions that I have felt useful during our cruises.

// Sunscreen

And I mean pack more than you think you'll need. Yes, you can purchase more on the ship, but brands are limited.

// Clothespins

We use these to hang up wet suits in our bathroom. You'll find a retractable clothesline in the shower and the clothespins help keep them secure.

// Door Decorations

This is super fun to do while waiting for your trip and then helps you locate your room easier. Please note you cannot use tape, etc. on the doors, so make sure to use magnets (they will remove your décor if you use something other than magnets).

// Carry-on Bag

Pack swimsuits, sunscreen and any medications that you need in here. No need for towels, they have plenty on the ship. While we have never had an issue with getting our luggage before our dining time, there can be times that luggage is delivered late.

// Passports, Birth Certificates & Identification

This is for obvious reasons since you will be leaving the country. Most closed-loop cruises do not require a passport, but it's best for everyone traveling to have one just in-case something happens at one of your port stops.

// Formal Attire

Most cruises have an optional formal night. We love this as it's an opportunity to dress up and get some great family pictures. You will see tuxes and ballgowns and some in shorts and tee shirts that night.

// Pirate Night Attire

Dressing-up is highly encouraged, but not required.

// Sweater or Sweatshirt

Sometimes the decks and dining rooms can be cool.

I hope this information was helpful and that you have a magical cruise with Disney Cruise Line!

- Jenn



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