Disney Cruise tips

When I plan for a vacation, I soak in any information I can find.  I love the planning stage. There is a lot of information out there and you can find some great insider info.  These tips have made my vacations.  In some cases, they are the things we remember most about our trip.  For that reason, I have compiled a lot of tips on cruising.  These tips will focus on Disney cruise line, but there will be a lot of info here that will apply to all cruises.

These tips are based on my experience and research for our cruises.  This is a lot of reading but it is good information.

disney cruise line disney wonder

*My favorite website for Disney vaca info is Disboards. They have forums for all things Disney.  Look for the disney cruise line section. This is my first stop for Disney vaca info. There is also an app for Disboards.

*Fish Extender or FE–funny name, best unknown tip for cruising with Disney.  This activity started on the Disboards.  On a Disney cruise, there are little fish mounted on the walls outside each stateroom.  If a worker has a note for you, they will put it in the fish.  This is a fish extender:

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You hang these pouches outside from the fish.  Before your cruise, go to the Disboards.  Look through the Disney cruise line forums.  You will find a thread for your cruise.  It will say something like October 14-7 night Mexican Riviera.  Just look for your cruise.  In that thread, someone will volunteer to handle the Fish Extender.  Look for this and sign up for it.  You will give them your cabin numbers and family info.  Number of people, genders etc.  Then you will get a list of the others participating.  You all put these fish extenders outside your cabins and throughout the cruise, you go drop off little gifts into these pouches.  It was so fun to come back to our cabin and look to see if we had any surprises.  These don’t need to be expensive or fancy gifts.  We got a lot of candy, stickers, crayons etc.  It was a special touch that made the cruise for us.  You can make your own fish extender or buy them on ebay or etsy.  People make them from all kinds of materials.  Plastic, fabric, duck tape etc.  You have to go early and find your fish extender group.  They close a couple months out from the cruise.  This is so everyone can get their packing and gifts settled before the cruise. I highly recommend participating in this activity.

*Disney has two dinner times.  6:15 and 8:15.  {most cruises have 2 dinner times} Early or main dining fills up FAST.  If you want 6:15 dinner, request it early.  We thought we wanted late dining so we could play longer.  Spend more time in port without worrying about hurrying back for dinner.  We forgot that we weren’t used to waiting to eat until 8:15.  We found ourselves and the children getting hungry around 5.  If we got something to eat then, we weren’t hungry when our dinner time came around.  It was a little awkward.  Consider which dining time works best for you.

*Disney has an option called Dine and Play.  This is only available on second dining at 8:15 p.m.  1 hour into dinner {at 9:15} workers from the kids club will come to the restaurant and pick up any kids that want to go to the kids club.  This is a great option for adults that want to have a leisurely dinner but their children are finished and antsy.

* In each stateroom there are 2 “wave phones”.  These are old school mobile phones.  These are great.  You can take them with you through out the ship.  If you split up, you can text or call each other.  The kids club will also text you on these phones if your kids want to be picked up.  You can call other rooms, guest services, dining etc.

wavephone

*You can bring a special item to have signed by Disney characters.  Drop these items off at guest services and they will be returned to your stateroom later in the cruise.  People bring t shirts, photo mats, vinylmation figurines etc.  You should bring sharpies with you for the signatures.  It is also nice to include a treat {candy etc} for the cast member who is signing your stuff.

*Your cruise fare does not include tips.  This is for every cruise line  that I know of.  You will need to tip your stateroom host/hostess, dining room waiter, assistant waiter and maitre d.  This amounts to $11-13 per person per day.  The workers on the ship count on tips for their wages. You can prepay your tips before the cruise {we always do this}.  A lot of cruises will automatically add tips to your onboard account.

turtle family blog

*You can save money by booking port excursions independently.  The cruise line will have activities you can book and do while in port.  We always book our own.  Sometimes, you will take the same tours and shuttles right along side those that booked with the cruise line.

*If you book an excursion directly with the cruise line and they run late, most cruises will wait for you.  If you book independently, they will not.

cruising with disney tips

*Disney gives all the children registered for the kids club a mickey band.  This is a sensor they wear around their wrists.  They scan this in to get into the kids clubs.  It is waterproof and can be worn in the pools.  This helps keep track of children in the clubs.

*If you loose your mickey band you will be charged $50.  You need to turn them in the last night of the cruise.  Don’t forget to get a receipt.

*Your child can wear their mickey band around their ankle.  It is less distracting there but can fall off easier.  If it falls off, the kids club will give you a new strap.  Don’t loose the sensor.

*The most people you can have in a standard stateroom is 4.  There are a few suites etc that can take more but mainly four.  If you have more people than that you will have to get two rooms.  There are a limited amount of connecting rooms.  Make sure and request these early.

*A state room will have a queen size bed and a couch that converts to a bed for 1.  Some rooms also have a pull down bed above the couch.  These end up like bunk beds.  Not all state rooms have this bunk bed option.  If you want to sleep 4 in your cabin, you will need to get one of these before they are gone.

*Finding Characters is easy with Disney cruise.  They tell you where they will be everyday.  It is listed on your personal navigator.  There is also a number you can call and it will tell you where to find characters.

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*There are several broadway type shows on a Disney cruise.  They run 2 times in the evening and sometimes there is a matinee performance.  If you have later dinner {8:15 p.m.} you go to the show at 6:15 and have dinner after.  If you have early dinner {6:15 p.m.} you go to dinner and then see the show after at 8:15.

*There are also variety acts in the evening.  Jugglers, hypnotists etc.  These guys are funny and a good show to plan on.

*Disney does not have a casino.  I personally love this.  It makes it more family friendly for us.  They do have bingo where you can buy cards and possibly win.  That’s it as far as gambling type activities.

great disney cruising tips

*There is a movie theater on board.  You can watch first run movies here.  {advantage of sailing with a company that makes movies} These are not just animated.  Lots of great movies play all cruise long.

*Disney has rotational dining.  This is exclusive to Disney cruise line.  You will rotate to different restaurants each night.  Your dining staff {waiter, assistant etc} stays with you.  They really get to know you.  Each night when you show up, they have your favorite drinks waiting.  They learn your tastes and recommend dishes based on knowing you.  You will develop a friendship with these people.  They will do anything they can to make your dining experience great.

*On a cruise, you can order all the food you want.  Not kidding.  You can order steak and lobster.  You can get 5 desserts if you want.  If you order a dish and don’t like it, your server will get you something else.  If you can’t decide between 2 appetizers, they will bring your both.  There is no shortage of food.

*Cast members on a Disney cruise come from all over the world.  It is fun to read their name tags and see where everyone is from.  Our favorite Disney cast member was from Estonia.  She taught us about her culture.  Our kids LOVED her.  We were lucky enough to see her again this last cruise.

*Your state room doors are metal.  You can bring magnets and decorate your doors.  It is fun to see these as you walk the corridors.

 *There are rooms and certain Disney cruises that have a partially obstructed port hole.  Because of this, you can get a view for the price of an inside stateroom.  These are 5020, 5022, 5024, 5520, 5522 and 5524. There are no steamer trunks for storage in 5020 or 5520 but those have the least obstructed view. The 22 & 24s are connecting rooms.

*You can send a box ahead of your cruise.  These will be delivered to your stateroom.  There are many restrictions and instructions for doing this and this info can be found on Disboards.

*There is a character breakfast on cruises lasting 7 days or longer {disney says 7 days but we had one on a 6 day cruise}.

*There are limited number of tickets for a tea party with Alice.  If you want to go to this, you will need to stop at guest services as soon as you board.

*You will have several formal and semi formal nights on your cruise.  Depending on how long you are cruising.  Some people go all out wearing gowns and tuxedos.  Others just slacks and skirts.

*It is customary to dress for dinner on a cruise.  Check with the cruise you are taking for specific guidelines.  Some are more flexible than others.  On disney, I have worn capris to dinner but wouldn’t go in shorts.  These guidelines don’t generally apply to children.

*Disney cruise line has a pirate night.  Some people dress up in costume some don’t.  You will get a bandanna for your head at dinner.  There will be a pirate party after dinner and fireworks at sea.

*If you would like to only sit with your party at dinner make sure and request a private table as you book.  Otherwise you could be seated with others.  Some people prefer this.

*There are laundry facilities on most cruises.  I have no idea how much they charge.  I avoid laundry on vacation.  There is also dry cleaning/pressing service.

*Disney has a main buffet that is open for bfast lunch and dinner times.  They have quick service places that serve concession food by the pool.  You can get pizza, burgers, paninis etc. here.  There are 3 main dining rooms.  You will be assigned to one of these each night for dinner.  There is also 24 hr room service and an ice cream station.  That’s right, you can get a soft serve ice cream cone anytime from 11-11.  There is also a drink station with soda/water/coffee/cocoa.

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*Bring a mug with you.  The drink station cups are half size.  It is nice to fill up a large mug/water bottle and carry it around.

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*If you do not have an international cell phone plan, turn your phone on airplane mode as soon as you leave.  Some carriers charge surcharges as soon as you reach 1 mile from shore.  These are hefty and not a surprise you want to get.

*Disney Kids clubs are the Oceanear’s club for kids 3-7 years old.  Oceanear’s Lab for 7-11.  These two clubs are secured and you must sign children in/out of them.  If you are between 3 and 11 yrs old, you can go back and forth in these two clubs.  The Oceanears lab has computers and video games and is geared towards older kids but some younger kids prefer it.  The Oceanears club has a big slide and lots of dress up clothes and is aimed at younger children.  My 8 year old preferred this club.

*Flounders reef Nursery is for is for infants 12 weeks to 3 yrs old.  This is a group baby sitting center.  You must make reservations if you want to use this service and there is a charge for it.  There is no in room babysitting.

*There are only 2 gift shops on the cruise.  They are not open at all times {I think this is a customs restriction} They also don’t have a huge inventory.  This is not the grand merchandising you will find at Disney parks.

*There is adult only fine dining aboard Disney cruises.  The charge is $20 per person and you must have a reservation.  These should be made beforehand.  The food is the highest quality and the staff exceptional.  You can have brunch or dinner.  If you eat here, most people swear by the chocolate souffle.  I LOVE the panna cotta.  It is like heaven on a spoon!

cruising tips

There are so many great tips for going on a Disney cruise.  These are a few that made a difference for our family.  One thing I have found about cruises is that you need to set your expectations.  If you are used to Disney parks and love being gone doing something from sun up to sun down, you will not find that on a cruise.  They are more relaxing.  Sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast.  Maybe take in a move or go to the pool.  Expect relaxation and then doing something adventurous in port.

I’m sure you all have some great tips I haven’t listed.  I’d love to hear them!

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Comments

  1. As a Disney fan, blogger, and writer for Chip & Co (a major Disney planning site) these tips are awesome. We have yet to participate in a Disney cruise…but we go to the parks every year. I’d love for you to share this at our Pinworthy Projects party tomorrow. Your pictures make me want to do a Disney cruise!
    Carrie @ My Favorite Finds recently posted..Pinworthy {FAVORITES}My Profile

  2. We are going on the Magic in 2 weeks! And we would like to book our own excursions, how do we go about doing that? Is there a website I can go to or does this have to be done once you dock and leave the ship?

    Thanks!

  3. We are sailing out of Galveston

  4. Yes we are stopping at Grand Cayman & Cozumel and we don’t want to book excursions thru Disney but would like safe, cheaper, and fun options – thanks!

  5. We are a family of 3 – 2 adults and a 4 yr old daughter – We would like to do beach/water type activities, the Turtle Farm sounds pretty cool! Do you remember how much it was and how would you get from the port to the farm? If I book the excursions directly, do they come and pick you up? Thanks for all the info!!!

  6. Thanks Connie for all your help! I think we’ve narrowed it down to Seven Mile Beach or Smith Cove for the Grand Caymans – our daughter is 4 so I think the beach will be fun for her and relaxing for us :)

    Did you guys also go to Cozumel? What excursions would you recommend there?

    Thanks!

  7. Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and say I really enjoy reading your articles.

    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?

    Thanks a ton!
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  8. Tabby Cecil says:

    Just curious if I had other questions would you please email so I could ask them to you also, we are going on our very first Cruise Oct. 2014 on the the Disney Wonder.
    Thanks for your time, loved reading your blog very helpful
    Thanks Again,
    Tabby

  9. You offer some fantastic advice here. My girlfriend and I took our first cruise this year to the Bahamas and it was awesome. I did a lot of research beforehand and came across an excellent resource guide that helped us save hundreds on our cruise. One of the best savings was a cabin upgrade at no additional cost. You can find this guide here – http://www.CruiseVacationTip.com.

    I really recommend this guide as there’s some valuable tips and information that anyone going on a cruise should be aware off. Thanks again for the great lens!!

  10. I must admit that even adults love Disney! I mean we grew up with Disney in our side. This is the most nice experience being a kid. Moreover, I still didn’t have the chance to tour around Disney Land. Thanks for this tips, I will surely visit there somehow. This is very helpful!
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