Embarking on your first Disney Cruise? Here are our BEST Disney Cruise Tips for Total Beginners. Much like any Disney Vacation, the more you know before you go, the better. This list will help you navigate dining, boarding, activities, money, ports, and more. Here are some Disney Cruise tips to know before you go!
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Disney Cruises have become some of our favorite types of vacations. Every Disney cruise we’ve taken has been nothing short of magical! But there is a bit of a learning curve for first time Disney cruisers, especially if you’ve never cruised at all before this! We’re sharing some of our favorite tips for beginners on Disney Cruise Line. We have been lucky enough to have sailed on all five Disney Cruise ships. So we hope this post helps you feel more prepared for your next Disney cruise.
- 1 Tips For Planning for a Disney Cruise
- 2 Tips for Choosing a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise
- 3 Tips for once you’re onboard a Disney Cruise
- 4 Tips to Save Money on a Disney Cruise
- 5 Tips For Tipping on a Disney Cruise
- 6 Tips For Internet on a Disney Cruise
- 7 Tips for Dining on a Disney Cruise
- 8 Tips for Excursions on a Disney Cruise
- 9 Tips for Kids Clubs on a Disney Cruise
- 10 Tips for Adults on a Disney Cruise
- 11 Tips for Meeting Characters on a Disney Cruise
- 12 Tips for Packing for a Disney Cruise
Tips For Planning for a Disney Cruise
Here are a few basic Disney Cruise Line tips to help you navigate the waters of being prepared for your cruise!
Book your Disney Cruise through a Travel Planner
Booking through a travel agent is one of the easiest ways to make the trip planning process go smoothly. They can help you choose an itinerary, choose a stateroom, help you prepare for your trip, offer tips and suggestions and best of all, travel agents are free to use! They will also monitor the price of your cruise so that you get the best deal possible. And many travel agents offer extra perks like onboard credit. There’s really not a lot of reason not to use a travel agent, even if you’re someone who prefers to do most of the planning yourself. You’re paying for a travel agent with your cruise fare whether or not you actually use one. So you might as well take advatage of their services.
What is the best length of trip for a Disney Cruise?
This will depend a lot on what kind of vacation you’re looking for. But in general, we recommend not planning any less than a 4-night cruise. The reason for this is that generally, a 3-night cruise does not allow for any days at sea. Part of what you’re paying for on a Disney Cruise is to enjoy the ship and on the 3-night cruises, you just don’t get much opportunity to do that. We love the longer cruises and always opt for those if it’s possible. But for a first timer we think no less than a 4-night cruise is a great place to start.
Check-in for your Disney Cruise 30 days before
Check-in for your Disney Cruise starts as early as 40 days before the start of your cruise. This is depend solely on your Castaway Club status. Pearl and Concierge can check in 40 days beforehand. Platinum at 38 days. Gold at 35 days. Silver at 33 days. And first time sailors at 30 days. If you’re hoping to get an early Port Arrival Time, you’ll want to check in as soon as that window opens, which is 12am EST. You can learn all about the check in process on Disney Cruise Line here.
Choose the best Port Arrival Time for YOU
When you check-in online you choose a Check-In time. This is not your boarding time, but rather the time you can arrive at the cruise terminal and begin the check-in process. We like to choose an earlier time if possible, so that we can grab lunch onboard, and explore the ship before it gets too crowded. Many cruisers even go straight to the pool right away! Which why we recommend bringing your swim gear in your Disney Cruise carry on. However, keep in mind, the best port arrival time is the one you can actually stick to. If you arrive too early, they’ll turn you away and you’ll just cause more congestion at the terminal. If you show up late, you may have to wait until even later to board.
Choose the best port arrival time for, and your check in at the terminal will go smoothly.
If you’re taking the Disney Cruise Line bus from a Walt Disney World Resort or airport, you can just choose the earliest time you see available. When you arrive at port with the Disney Cruise Line bus is when they allow you to start checking in. So you’re not held to the same time restrictions as those arriving by other means.
The Boarding Process on Disney Cruise Line
The Boarding Process is one of those things that you worry about way too much, and then when the time arrives, you realize it was actually really easy. Be sure to have your cruise documents ready when you arrive so checking in at the port goes smoothly. The boarding process will vary slightly from port to port, but here is the general idea of how you can expect it to go.
Updated Boarding Process at Port Canaveral for 2023
Boarding at Port Canaveral is currently slightly a bit different. When you arrive, you’ll be sorted into lines based on your port arrival time. Disney Bus cruisers, this doesn’t apply to you. When it’s time for you to enter the building, you’ll actually check in at the desk first. Be sure to have your cruise documents out. You’ll be given a boarding number at this point. Once you’ve been checked in, you’ll proceed through security, and then up the escalator to the terminal. Here you’ll wait until your boarding group has been called and then you can get on the ship!
You also no longer get your Key to the World card prior to boarding. These are left at your stateroom door and you can pick them up when you get on the ship.
Boarding Process Steps (Pre-pandemic- will vary slightly to 2023)
- Arrive at the cruise terminal
- Leave checked luggage(with the proper luggage tags for your cruise ship attached) with a porter.
- Then, you’ll be directed to a security checkpoint.
- After you’ve gone through security, which is very similar to airport-style security, you’ll again be directed to the appropriate line for Check-In!
- At this point, you will need passports (or whatever type of travel I.D. your cruise destination requires) as well as your cruise documents. P.S. The mysterious cruise documents will be different based on your situation and cruise choice. You will have received your Disney cruise line pamphlet in the mail, and believe it or not, if you open that baby up— it’s got a list of the documents you will need! All we needed was our passports and signed documents from the My Disney Cruise Line site. The documents mostly state we understand the charging privileges and the hazardous materials rules.
- Then it’s photo time. You don’t have to have your photo taken, but you can if you want.
- You’re then given your Key to the World card and a boarding number.
- Wait for your number to be called
And you’re done!
Know what Cruise Documents You Need
Every Disney cruise will require your check in form as part of your Disney Cruise documents. This can be printed off once you’ve checked in, or you can just show the QR code on your phone at port. In addition to this, know what forms of identification you’ll need. Most closed loop US cruises (meaning they begin and end at the same port in the US) only require a government issued birth certificate and photo ID. You’ll receive information regarding what types of identification you’ll need from Disney Cruise Line, but this information is also available on the Disney Cruise Line website.
However, it’s extremely important to understand why you might want to bring a passport instead. A Passport is generally going to be safer and make check in easier. But also, in the rare case of an emergency, if you needed to be transported back to the US via air transport, a passport would be required to enter the country. Birth certificates and enhanced driver’s licenses are only accepted at land and sea crossings. We recommend you read all about what documentation you need for a cruise here so you can make the best decision. We personally always take our passports on our cruises just to be safe!
Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App
This is a must do and we highly recommend downloading the Disney Cruise app before setting sail. At home, you can manage your reservations, book port adventures, see your itinerary and more. And there’s a super cute countdown on the app that can help get you in the Disney mood.
Once you’ve set sail, the Disney Cruise Line app is the only thing that can be used on the ship’s Wi-Fi for free. Well, kind of. iMessage also tends to work on the ship’s Wi-fi but it’s spotty. Disney Cruise Line has recently gotten rid of paper navigators and now requires the use of the app to access the daily schedule.
The Disney Cruise Line app has tons of useful information. And you’ll likely use it most of your trip. Things like your dining rotation, activities and even the drink of the day are listed here. We recommend taking a look the day before or in the morning to see what your day will look like. You can favorite activities, keep track of planned onboard fun and port adventure times, and find out when characters will be available.
Tips for Choosing a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise
Choosing a stateroom on a Disney Cruise can be a tough decision. We always recommend looking online for room reviews, photos, videos or anything you can find. Not all rooms are made alike! We have an entire post about how to choose a stateroom, because there’s a lot that goes into it. If you’re working with a travel agent for your Disney Cruise, they can help you find the best room based on your preferences and budget.
Other things to consider are which floor you want to be on, which side of the ship you want to be on and what things you want to be near, or away from.
Is a porthole or verandah room worth the extra cost on a Disney Cruise?
Wondering how to Choose a Stateroom on a Disney Cruise? There’s a lot that determines which kinds of Disney Cruise stateroom is best. But depending on your itinerary, length of cruise and just personal preference, it definitely could be!
This is actually a pretty highly debated topic in Disney Cruise Line Facebook groups. Should you spend the extra money for that porthole? Or even the verandah? This is a very personal preference and will really depend on how you vacation. We personally love going back to our stateroom to recharge, so for us, having that beautiful ocean view out of a porthole in the comfort of our room was really priceless.
If you don’t plan to spend any time in your room, we would recommend saving the extra money and option for an inside stateroom or porthole. Obviously, some people need a window (me) and others need quick access to fresh air. So both of these things can be a deciding factor in your choice. We’ve stayed in both a verandah room and a porthole and don’t regret the cost of either. That being said, I don’t think I’d personally spend the extra money on a verandah for a shorter cruise, but again, it’s a personal preference!
Tips for once you’re onboard a Disney Cruise
You’re onboard the ship, hooray! Here are a few Disney Cruise tips to help you once onboard.
Attending the Safety Assembly on a Disney Cruise ship
The only thing you HAVE TO DO on a Disney Cruise is attend the safety assembly. If you do nothing else, you must go to the safety assembly on the first day. It will be on your navigator and is usually around 4 p.m. If you don’t go, they will come find you. This is serious business and the only thing you absolutely have to do while onboard. You don’t have to disembark at the port, you don’t have to go to dinner, you don’t have to go to the shows or participate in any of the activities, but you do have to go to the assembly. It is mandatory.
Make sure to see the shows onboard the Disney Cruises
Even if you choose to do nothing all day but lay by the pool and relax, you need to take the hour out of your evening and attend the live shows. They are incredible and so fun. We have been to Broadway and seen shows there, so we can honestly tell you that the talent, costumes, and stage sets are all right up there with the best of them.
We were lucky enough to see Frozen in its inaugural year on the Disney Wonder. And if you think you’ve seen Frozen or heard the song Let it Go too many times, you’re wrong. This show blew my mind! We also had the pleasure of seeing a new Beauty and the Beast show on the Disney Dream and it was one of the most fantastic shows we’ve ever seen. We only met a few other people who chose not to go to the shows, and they regretted not going. If you find after going one night that it’s not for you, that’s fine! But give it a try. You probably won’t regret it.
And get there early! We recommend about 30 mins early if you want a good seat as seats do fill up quickly, especially on the smaller ships.
Explore the Ship or Take a Ship Tour
If you’ve never sailed on a cruise before, some of the lingo can be difficult to get used to. What the heck is starboard? Where is the Aft? There are maps all over the Disney Cruise ships, learn them. Disney does offer walking tours of the boat on the first day to help you get acquainted with your ship. Or you can do this on your own! We highly recommend this little walkabout. Sure, it may cut in a little to your first day on the boat, but it will keep you from getting lost later.
On our Very Merrytime Cruise long ago, we found out that the Disney Dream has a fun Mid-ship Detective Agency game that helped us orient ourselves to the boat and have a blast at the same time. This game is only available on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy; but we highly recommend taking time to play them if you have the chance!
Know when the Onboard Shopping is available
Forget your swimsuit, sandals, or sunscreen and want to buy it on board? Or maybe you saw the cutest sun hat that you’d love to wear at Castaway Cay in the shops on the cruise ship. It’s important to know when the shops are open for business so you can plan accordingly, especially if you’re buying something you need. As a general rule, the shops will be open at sea, and closed when at ports. Specific gift shop hours can be found in the Disney Cruise Line App and at the individual shops.
This is especially important for those taking a 3-night cruise. The 3-night cruises go FAST, like really fast, and the shops are only open for a short time during the entire itinerary since they’re closed at port. So, if you’re hoping for some souvenirs, we recommend learning when the shops will be open, and plan to wait in line.
Make time to relax on your Disney Cruise
Make time to relax! There is so much to see and do on a Disney Cruise ship, but there are also so many opportunities to take a little break from doing anything at all. On our last cruise on the Disney Wish, we spent about 45 minutes at the very front of the ship just enjoying the view. You can only do this on the Disney Wish, and honestly, it’s pretty cool!
Understand how Rotational Dining Works
Disney Cruise Line uses a unique strategy for dining called rotational dining. Each night you’ll rotate to one of the three main restaurants onboard, and your servers rotate with you. This gives everyone the chance to experience every restaurant, and your servers will get to know you. They’ll get to know what you like and what you don’t like, and they really make the Disney Difference on these ships. You can read all about Rotational Dining Here.
Start Early to Beat the Crowds
Plan to be early everywhere. Arrive early for the shows. And early for Pool Time. Or early for Trivia. If you guys follow any of our tips regarding beating the crowds at Walt Disney World, you know we ALWAYS recommend getting an early start. There’s good reason we never stop saying this. Because it actually works for just about every situation. Disney Cruises are no different. The main pool area, which is also where you can grab unlimited soft serve, quick-serve meals and watch movies all day, gets very busy especially on Sea Days. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, get there before 11 am. This will ensure that you can grab a seat and enjoy the ambiance. Or just relax for a few moments before the crowds really start arriving. The pool area is busiest from 11 am-3 pm most of the time, and it can get pretty packed.
Alternatively, if you are traveling sans children or your kids are in the kids clubs, the adult-only area is usually pretty calm and serene. So hopping over to that side is a great way to give yourself a break from the crowds.
The only exception to this is meals. You don’t really need to arrive early unless you want to. The doors don’t open until just a couple minutes before dinner has started, so if you arrive early, you’ll likely just be waiting around with everyone else. This is one scenario when arriving right on time will make you wait the least.
Decorate your Cruise Ship Door
You can make door decorations to spruce up your door. We always make our door decorations and love coming up with different ideas and themes. Or if you’re not as crafty, or just don’t have time, there are plenty to be found on Etsy. Many other people bring magnets, garland and other decorations. It’s an easy way to add a little extra magic to your cruise! And helps you find your door too. The hallways are long and seem never-ending and the door magnets will help you find your way!
Watch the Cruise Ship Morning Show
Every morning, the cruise director and activities director will air a 15 minute-ish show on your cruise TV from 6 am-noon. This little show gives you all the info of everything that is happening onboard that day. Our cruise director was hilarious and we absolutely loved this show as something to watch while we were getting ready.
Be Prepared for Sea Sickness on a Disney Cruise
Let me tell you a little story called “I don’t get seasick”. Once upon a time, there were two sisters who thought they didn’t suffer from what some people call seasickness. They happily enjoyed their Disney Cruise for three whole days feeling fantastic. On the fourth night, however, their cruise ship was cruising at 21 knots to get back to Port Canaveral on time the next day and suddenly they began to feel much less than fantastic and had to lie down. They even missed a meal and ordered room service because they just couldn’t walk around the boat anymore feeling queasy. Luckily they had brought Sea Bands and were feeling better after a while. But it was a close call.
We had an itinerary that was pretty tight and had to make it back to port at a certain time. So, we had to go full speed ahead on our last night and it left the ride pretty bumpy. We had brought Sea Bands as a “just in case” and were so glad we did. You can also bring Dramamine or any other motion sickness OTC if you prefer that route. Sea-Bands are even great for kids, so grab some just in case. Check out what to buy before your Disney Cruise so you can go prepared.
Attend Pirate Night on your Disney Cruise
If traveling in the Caribbean you will have the chance to take part in Pirate Night. Pirate Night is one of our favorite activities on a Disney Cruise! Dress up as little or as much you want but either way Pirate Night is lots of fun. They have a special Pirates of the Caribbean menu for dinner too. Plus, you can get special Pirate themed treats later at night. Play Pirate games and attend a Pirate dance party. The famous fireworks usually happen at 10:30 pm over the water which are just amazing! Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line that is currently allowed to shoot fireworks at sea, so don’t miss it. It’s a lot of fun. So just trust us and go.
If you’re sailing on any Disney Cruise ship except the Disney Wish, there is a late-night pirates buffet at Cabanas. We are hoping that Marceline Market will later have this available on the Disney Wish too!
Get to know your Waitstaff and Room Host
Your waitstaff and room host/hostess will be with you throughout your entire trip. Even though you will not be in the same restaurant the whole time, your servers are scheduled on the same rotation as you are. So basically, you will see them every day. Unless you skip dinner of course. Get to know them; they are invaluable resources for excursion recommendations, newbie questions, best places to see the fireworks from the boat, best things to do at the port, etc. They’re extremely interesting people and love to interact. We learned so much from the friendly staff on board that it really is the equivalent of having your own tour guide. They’ll be excited to share their experiences and thrilled to hear yours. Many of them are from all over the world so take the time to get to know them, you’ll be glad you did.
Tips to Save Money on a Disney Cruise
Cruising with Disney on a budget? Here are a few things to know that can help you avoid sticker shock at the end of your cruise.
Know What’s Included in your Disney Cruise Line Vacation
A Disney Cruise is generally all inclusive! But that doesn’t mean that it includes everything. There are some things completely excluded. Knowing this ahead of time will save you a lot of time and heartache later. All of your meals, soft drinks from the drink station, hot cocoa, tea and coffee from the drink station, soft-serve ice cream from Eye Scream, kids clubs, and main evening entertainment are included.
What’s not included on a Disney Cruise
Most of your everyday items and services are included on a Disney Cruise vacation. However, there are some things that aren’t. Things like alcoholic drinks, specialty coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies are all available for an extra cost. If you decide to eat at Palo or Remy, fine dining experiences are not included, so if you plan to indulge in either (or both!) of those, plan for an additional cost. Here you can find a full list of everything that’s not included on a Disney Cruise.
Port Excursions you want to participate in at your port of call or Castaway Cay (like snorkeling) are also extra. Spa services and gratuities are also not included. Room service is included, but the gratuities for it are not. Most activities are included, however, occasionally there are some that are not. Things like alcohol tastings generally will cost you more and are anywhere from $25 per person to $55 per person. The Royal tea for little ones is also an additional cost. Movie theater snacks like popcorn cost extra as well, though you’re also welcome to bring your own snacks in. Wifi is also not free.
The Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wish all have sweet shoppes that include items at additional cost. Onboard the Disney Fantasy, you can find specialty items at Sweet on You. And onboard the Disney Dream, Vanellope’s is home to gelato, cupcakes, cookies and more.
Now, don’t get us wrong, we love to treat ourselves on vacation. But if you’re trying to keep your spending in check onboard your Disney Cruise, you can easily avoid many of these charges by replacing them with the free options instead.
Bring your own Snacks to the Movie Theater and Stage Shows
If you’re planning to attend the nightly stage shows(which, yes, you are) or if you’re going to the movie theater, don’t feel obligated to purchase snacks at the concession stand. These are not free unless you’re sailing concierge. And you can actually bring your own snacks into the theater! Another fun tip about the concession stand onboard Disney Cruise ships…. you can get many of those coveted popcorn buckets onboard! They’re usually cheaper on a Cruise than inside the Disney Parks. Which is a great bonus and you do get refills for less too! And if you want to save even more on popcorn, you can actually bring your own Disney Parks popcorn bucket to get inexpensive refills as well!
You can bring alcohol on a Disney Cruise
Disney Cruise Line actually allow guests 21 years and older to bring their own wine, champagne and beer on board. If you are planning to drink while on your Disney Cruise vacation, but want to stick to a budget, we recommend bringing some of your own alcohol. While the drinks on the cruise ship are delicious, they are expensive and can add up quickly. Alcohol must be brought in carry-on luggage and wine and champagne come with an extra corking fee. There are limits to this of course. For Disney Cruise Line’s full alcohol policy, click here.
Bring your own bottled water on a Disney Cruise
You can also bring your own bottled water onboard a Disney Cruise. This can save you a lot of money if you prefer bottled water, because the bottled water onboard is a bit expensive. You can bring one case of bottled water and it must be sealed and in the original packaging. You can find more information about bringing bottled water on your Disney Cruise here. Alternatively, you can also just bring a water bottle and refill it at the drink stations for free.
You can also purchase bottled water onboard. But know the case of bottled water on board can be expensive so if you choose to go that route, be sure to budget it in. You can also order this for your stateroom ahead of time via the Disney Cruise Line website.
Bring a Water Bottle
As we mentioned previously, you are allowed to bring your own bottled water onboard. You can also just bring a water bottle. Drink stations are open on the top deck 24/7, so you can fill up your water bottle pretty much any time.
Book your Next cruise BEFORE you disembark
If you LOVED your Disney Cruise and want to start planning another, the best time to book is while you’re still on the boat! This is one of our best ways to get a Disney Cruise on a Budget. Disney Cruise Line offers a discounted deposit, a percentage off your next cruise and on rare occasions, a stateroom credit on your next booking. This is very easy to do! All you have to do is go into your Disney Cruise line app, and there will be a button that says “save 10% on your next cruise”. Click that, and make your deposit. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive an email stating that you have booked a placeholder.
After you’ve received that email, you can either forward the info to your Disney Travel agent, so that they can take care of the reservation for you; or you can call into Disney Cruise Line yourself when you’re ready to choose your specific itinerary for the discounted cruise.
Tips For Tipping on a Disney Cruise
Tipping on a Disney Cruise is always a bit elusive! Especially since you have so many people helping you. Your waitstaff alone consists of at least three people.
How do you tip on a Disney Cruise?
Seriously, this may be the most important tip on this list! Or at least the one that will save your eyes from bleeding when you see your post-cruise final bill. As far as gratuities are concerned, Disney Cruise Line automatically figures a tip amount for your head server, assistant server, server, and room host/hostess. Typically the gratuities are $14.50 dollars per person, per night. So, if you know how many nights you’re sailing, and how many people you’re bringing, you can do the math and add it to your Disney Cruise Budget. You can find the current gratuities for Disney Cruise Line here.
As a courtesy, Disney Cruise Line will charge the default amount to your account at the end of the trip for all these servers. You can choose to change your default tip amount at the concierge desk onboard. You can add more or less, it’s up to you. So if you feel a specific server or host deserved a different tip than the automatic amount, just be sure to settle it with guest services before you disembark.
Gratuities for other services on Disney Cruise Line
For all other gratuities, like for spa services and some of the specialty drink locations, even on Castaway Cay (if you’re going there) the tip will be built in. It will show you on the receipt and is usually calculated at 18%. Again, if you want to tip higher, just add in the amount you want to tip, otherwise, it is already figured for you. You can add additional gratuity to these charges; but you don’t have to.
Is cash accepted onboard a Disney Cruise?
Nope! The most accepted form of payment is your Key to the World card. That said, you use your Key to the World card just like you would a magic band at Disney Parks. Your credit card is attached to it. You can choose to settle your account with cash but this is done at Guest Services at the end of your trip. You can also settle your onboard account with Disney Gift cards, but again you just have to do this at guest services. Or they will charge the card on file. Everything charged during your stay will be a part of this bill. Because of this we highly recommend that you have your Key to the World card on you at all times.
Tips For Internet on a Disney Cruise
You’re on a Disney Cruise, you don’t need the internet right?! As much as we believe in the power of unplugging, we know it’s not always possible. Unlike some other cruise lines, Disney WiFi is not free and is not included with your cruise fare. Here are a few tips on using the internet onboard your Disney Cruise.
The Wi-Fi on a Disney Cruise Can Be Expensive
Wifi has recently changed on Disney Cruise ships, and it’s a little better than it once was. Prices range from $12 per day-$36 per day. We found that anything less than the Basic Plan at $24 per day, was kind of useless. But that is just our experience!
The Wi-Fi on a Disney Cruise can be pretty bad
We learned this the hard way when we got stuck at sea during hurricane season on the Disney Wish. We had no intention of purchasing WiFi, but since we do most of our work online, when we saw that we would have an additional 2 days at sea, we realized quickly that we needed Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, everyone else realized this at the same time. And the WiFi was quite difficult to get working properly.
Get an international data pan for WiFi onboard the Disney Cruise ships
Do you really need Wi-Fi? Maybe check with your phone provider for international packages that could be cheaper. Verizon currently offers Travel Pass, which is an add-on that will allow you to use your phone abroad for $10/day on your current plan. So if you normally have 4 GB/month, you can use Travel Pass just as you would at home and it will just deduct that from your regular monthly data allowance. Another option is renting or buying Skyroam. Skyroam is a hotspot that will tap into another country’s Wi-Fi without racking up those international fees on your phone bill. The biggest issue with Skyroam and other alternative options is that it will not work at sea, only once you are in port, so keep that in mind if you choose to go that route.
Some of the larger cell service carriers offer Cellular at Sea. This allows you to use your cell phone data while at sea. So if you really need internet, it’s a good option to look into.
Tips for Dining on a Disney Cruise
Looking forward to eating on your Disney Cruise? Here are a few tips for dining on a Disney Cruise.
Every Restaurant on a Disney Cruise is all you care to enjoy
It’s not really advertised as all you can eat, but it basically is! Disney Cruises are known for their food. And they always have a great selection. So maybe you want to try two appetizers? Or maybe all of the desserts? Go ahead! You can order everything on the menu if that’s what your heart desires. And no, it won’t cost you extra.
How does dining work on a Disney Cruise?
On a Disney Cruise, your dinner rotation is set. It’s called Rotational Dining and will be the dining schedule you have your entire cruise. You can find this information in your Disney Cruise line app. This lets you know which restaurant you will be in on which nights. On your cruise itinerary online it will show if you have the first seating or second seating. The first seating is at 5:30 and the second at 8:15. You can request to change this if you choose to. They can’t always accommodate requests for changes, but it never hurts to ask. Sometimes there is an option to change this ahead of time. And sometimes, you have to wait to get onboard. As always if you have any questions about your dining rotation, just ask Guest Services.
What is Rotational Dining on Disney Cruise Line?
Rotational dining is a system that is unique to Disney Cruise Line. Each night you are assigned to one of the three main dining rooms. And each night when you switch dining rooms, your waitstaff rotates with you. It gives them an opportunity to get to know you and what you like; and you get to know them! You can read all about rotational dining onboard a Disney Cruise ship here.
What restaurants serve breakfast and lunch on a Disney Cruise?
This will vary from ship to ship, and even between itineraries. But every ship that has a Cabanas onboard will serve breakfast and lunch at Cabanas. These meals will be buffet style. Usually, two other restaurants onboard will serve breakfast and lunch as well so that you have options. However, during the phased reopening of Disney Cruise Line, this is not always the case. On our most recent cruise, they actually only had one restaurant other than Cabanas available for these meals. The ship was sailing at a lower capacity, so it wasn’t really an issue, but good to note. You can find out who’s serving what meals in your Disney Cruise App.
You May be Sitting With Strangers at Dinner
Eating with strangers may or may not appeal to you. As a first-time cruiser though it totally took us by surprise! There is a chance that if this is your honeymoon cruise or you’re celebrating a special occasion, you may be seated alone. You will need to let Disney Cruise Line know ahead of time though if you want that option. This seating layout is part of the Disney Cruise Rotational Dining Schedule.
Since we were a party of three traveling together we were paired with another party of three. When just my daughter and I traveled, we were actually seated with two other families. While it’s not a big deal and we’re happy to make new friends, it just took us by surprise. We’ve eaten at Biergarten in Epcot before, so the idea of eating with strangers is not totally new. But we’re giving you this heads up so you don’t have an awkward first meeting. As a side note, if you are paired up with another family for dinner seating, you will be with them for the entire duration of your Disney Cruise. So be nice, get to know them. Hakuna Matata.
If you’d prefer to dine alone, however, you can always request a private table. Disney Cruise Line does not guarantee that they will provide you with a private table, but they will accommodate you if they can. You can do this by requesting a private table in the Disney Cruise Line app or your account on their website. You can also stop by guest services while on the cruise.
Tips for Excursions on a Disney Cruise
You’ve booked your Disney Cruise Line excursions and are ready for adventure! Here are a few tips for navigating your Disney Cruise Line excursions with ease.
Disembarking the Ship
Each day that your cruise visits a port of call, you will be given instructions on when and where you can disembark. Whether or not you’ve booked your excursions through Disney or a third party, you’ll need to know how to access the gangway to get off the ship and what time you can do so. If you booked through Disney Cruise Line, you can find all of the information in your Disney Cruise Line app. Know what documents you’ll need to get on and off the ship. Usually, your Key to the World Card is required and photo ID for those over 16. But they will make the announcement on both the morning show and over the speaker system to let you know what you should bring.
Don’t Feel Obligated to leave the Cruise ship at your Port of Call
Honestly, we actually struggled with this concept. Your goal for a cruise is to sail somewhere, right? Not necessarily! It could be that your goal is just to sail. In fact, after getting back on the boat early for our Disney Nassau Cruise, we were amazed to see how many people never actually left the ship! And we’re living it up with the ice cream and movies. It’s your trip and you get to choose how to spend it.
We love supporting the local economy when we cruise. But we also know that not every port is right for every person. So there may be a location on your itinerary that just doesn’t suit you and that’s ok.
Tips for Kids Clubs on a Disney Cruise
One of the best parts of a Disney Cruise Vacation is the kids’ clubs! These clubs are incredible. And even if you think your child may not be interested in the, we highly recommend visiting on the first day for Open House. Even the shyest of children may change their minds when they see how cool these spaces are.
Even if you don’t have kids, you can check out the Open House. The Kids Club Spaces tend to be some of the best on the entire ship. This is especially true for the Disney Wish.
It’s A Small World Nursery is for ages 6 mos-3 years and reservations are required. It’s also the only kids club that isn’t free, and it’s actually more of a babysitting service. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are for those 3-12, and in my opinion, are the best kids’ clubs of all! Edge is for tweens, ages 11-14. Vibe is for teens 14-17, and The Hideaway, or 1820 Society is for cruisers between 18-20. You can find the hours and activities for each kids’ club on the Disney Navigator app.
Tips for Adults on a Disney Cruise
If you’re an adult without children, you may be wondering if a Disney Cruise is right for you. Of course it is! You’re never too old for something you love. So if you love Disney and want to explore the world of cruising, then a Disney Cruise is for you. They have plenty of adult-only spaces and activities along with the Disney magic you love.
Disney Cruises Are Great for an Adults Only Trip
We always see many Adult only groups on our Disney Cruises. Whether you’re a childless couple that loves Disney, or want to plan a girls trip, or are just a single person who wants to travel solo, Disney Cruises are for everyone. There are so many things to do for Adults on a Disney Cruise just out to have some fun! You can visit the adult-only pool, bars, clubs, the spa, Serenity Beach if you port at Castaway Cay and of course the famous Palo or Remy adults-only restaurants.
The Disney Cruise Adult Deck
Even if you brought the kids, you still may want to head over to the adult only areas at one point. They’re just a little quieter, and may give you a much-needed escape. If you are traveling with children you can still have some fun too because the kids clubs are amazing and will give you a well-deserved break if needed. The Kids Clubs are separated by age group and staffed by a cast member, usually with crafts and games on hand. So feel free to just drop the kiddies off.
Tips for Meeting Characters on a Disney Cruise
There are so many fun characters to meet on a Disney Cruise! They don’t always announce who will be out, but they do mention when and where characters will be out. Just look at the daily navigator in your Disney Cruise app and it’ll show you what time a character is meeting, and where. Then you can see for yourself if you want to stand in line to meet them!
There are also a ton of free roaming characters onboard a Disney Cruise, so just keep your eyes peeled! We’ve had some of the most fun character interactions with free roaming characters.
Disney Cruise line has a pretty cool meet and greet called the Royal Gathering. During the Royal Gathering, you can meet various princesses all at once. We’ve gotten to to meet Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana. Moana, Rapunzel and Belle all in one location. But you need to make sure you get tickets. These are FREE and can be booked ahead of time through your Disney Cruise Line Itinerary. Booking opens up at 12am EST, and tickets often go fast. If you decide at the last minute that you want to meet them, you can always check with Guest Services to see if there are any available. There is a cast member in charge of just checking your Disney Cruise Line Navigator, so be ready to show that when entering the Gathering.
Tips for Packing for a Disney Cruise
Packing for a Disney Cruise is a little different than most other vacations. Not only do you need to know what to bring in your Disney Cruise carry-on for the first day; but you also need to pack several different types of clothing for different occasions.
Pack Layers for a Disney Cruise in Any Weather
Even on some of your warmest cruises, remember you are on the ocean. It can get very breezy at night, causing you to wish you had brought that extra sweater or jacket. We have found that mostly during the day, we could do tees and shorts but at night needed a little something extra. Check out what to pack for a cold-weather cruise.
What to Pack for a Disney Cruise Vacation
Not sure what to pack for your Disney Cruise Vacation? We have an entire post dedicated to packing for a Disney Cruise, along with a free printable.
We hope these Disney Cruise tips have been helpful. And have helped you get excited about your next adventure with Disney Cruise Line. Have a magical cruise and Bon Voyage!
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .