15+ Helpful Disney Cruise Tips From a Non-Disney Person
Earlier this year, we took the boys on a Disney Cruise, sailing the Disney Wonder, which took off from San Diego and stopped in Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada, Mexico. Let me preface this blog post because we are not huge Disney people. We watch Disney movies and have taken the kids to Disneyland once, but we aren’t Disney gurus by any means.
But, I will say the Disney Cruise we took was one of our favorite vacations for two reasons:
- There was a little bit of everything for everyone in our family. Adult meals and bars, kids events, family activities. There really was something for everyone on the boat.
- It was nice to sail at sea and visit different places, but be able to sleep in the same room each night. We didn’t have to worry about changing hotel rooms or transferring to other cities via plane or car.
If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and booking a Disney Cruise. Here are tips from a non-Disney parent
Before the Cruise
Reserve a room with a veranda
A veranda is a balcony, connected to your room. Having the Veranda made our room feel even bigger. It was nice to go out and sit on the veranda while at sea and especially when we arrived at new ports. It was relaxing and the boys enjoyed it too. We used this as a way to get out of the room without actually getting out of the room.
Download the Disney Cruise App
Everything you need to do related to your cruise will be done on the Disney App. You can get notifications about activities, sign ups, events, etc.
Book your excursions as soon you are able
When you book a Disney cruise you will be assigned a level of status. Based on your status, you are given a date to start booking excursions. For example, we were allowed to start booking on January 9, which is what we did. I spent the evening picking out excursions for us to do on and off the boat. I was surprised by how many were already sold out.
Check in for the cruise at midnight EST
Ok, this is a sneaky little tip on how to book as early as possible. So, you are given a date when you can start booking excursions and checking in. As I said before, we were given January 9 as our booking start date. That means at 12:00am we can start booking our excursions. But, I quickly realized that I could not log-in to book excursions at 9:00pm PST, since my computer did not say 12:00 am.
So, I changed the clock on my computer to EST and it was now 12:00 am. I was able to log-in and start booking excursions three hours earlier than in my time zone. This gave me a three hour headstart and also kept me from having to stay up until midnight. I did the same thing when checking in for our flight, because the sooner you check in, the sooner you can board the ship. We wanted to get on the ship as early as possible to enjoy the amenities available.
Make a reservation for a Palo Brunch and/or Dinner
The Palo meals are adult only meals, no kids allowed. They are hosted in a fine dining area on the ship. If you have kids with you, you can drop them off at the Oceaneer Club prior to heading to brunch or dinner. Personally, I thought the brunch was much better than the dinner, both both were very enjoyable. The food is inspired by Northern Italian cuisine and does not disappoint. Sign up for these right away, because they book up quickly.
Pack a refillable water bottle
There are beverage stations to fill up your water bottle around the ship. We didn’t have to worry about cups and could take our drinks on the go. The boys could grab a drink whenever they wanted without having to head over the the beverage station. I kept our water bottles in a beach bag, as we explored the ship.
Pack sunscreen and sun protection clothing
It can get hot and sunny at sea, so don’t forget to pack items to protect your family from getting a sunburn. Nothing ruins a trip like being unable to move well because your skin is burnt. I like packing clothing that has built in sun protection so we don’t have to constantly apply sunscreen, but I always pack a few bottles to use just in case.
We used the pool area quite a bit, even when it was a bit chillier, because the sun beaming down on the sundeck made it quite warm and comfortable. And sometimes, the ship would block the wind, which was nice.
Make sure your passport is up to date
If you take a cruise on a closed-loop route, you do not need a passport. But, if you wish to get off the ship and explore at ports in a country different from your own, it is wise to have a passport with you. I also like to have the kids’ passports for identification purposes.
On the Cruise
Review the Disney Cruise Ship App regularly
The schedule for all activities on the ship will be in the app, review this regularly to make sure you make it to your favorite events. This includes character experiences, family activities, formal productions, movie screenings, and so much more. Participate in the activities that interest you.
Store your suitcases under the main bed
There is plenty of space under the main bed in your cabin to store your luggage. Put it there so it’s out of the way and you don’t have to think about it until it’s time to pack up. I like unpacking our suitcases and using the closet and drawers to store our clothing and shoes. Things are more easily accessible and you’re not lugging out a giant suitcase each time you need to change your clothes.
Tip your room attendant well from the first night
I appreciate all of the hard work room attendants do to make our stay comfortable. We tipped our attendant generously on the first night and he was extremely helpful the rest of the trip. He was able to grab things for us that we needed for our room, he prepped our room numerous times per day, he left notes for the kids. It all made the trip even better.
Visit the Oceaneer Club with your kids during open house hours
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably know that any sort of drop off with my kiddos can be challenging. Part-time preschool, gym daycare, babysitter drop offs are always a bit touch and go. Sometimes they are great and sometimes not so great. We took the boys to the kids club during their open hours so we could all explore together. This made future drop offs with them much easier because they were familiar with the clubhouse.
Send one parent ahead to grab seats for evening shows
For evening shows, send one parent to wait in line for the show while the other parent entertains the kiddo(s) at the shop nearby. If your kids are like ours, waiting in line is painful for everyone. So to mitigate any meltdowns while waiting in line, my husband would stand in line and the boys and I would window shop at the stores nearby. It was great to distract the boys and then head into the theater once my husband already had seats.
We had told the boys they would each get a toy at the end of the trip. So each night there was a show, we went to the store and browsed through all of the toys. Then by the last day of the trip, they knew what they wanted to get and it made the actual purchase much easier.
To change your dinner time, check out the guest services station
If you want to adjust your dinner time, check in with guest services to see if another dinner time is available. We were lucky enough to get an early dinner time at 6 p.m., but many people ended up with an 8 p.m. dinner time, which would not have worked well for our family. A friend on board was able to change their dinner time to the earlier session, which made it much easier for their family.
If you’re traveling with friends, request that your dinner tables are combined
We traveled on the cruise with another family and we were able to get our dinner tables combined. I loved this… was probably my favorite part of the cruise. Our friends visited guest services when they arrived on the ship and requested our tables be put together.
We would see them throughout the day at various activities, but it was so nice to reconnect with them each night. The kids sat at one end of the table and the adults sat at the other end. It was like having an adult double-date every single night.
Take advantage of happy hours
If you partake in alcohol on the cruise ship, it can get pretty pricy. An easy way to curb the cost is to attend happy hours where drinks are discounted. You will find the happy hour times and location on the Disney App when aboard the cruise. It was nice to have a cocktail while playing bingo with the kids.
Get loose with your schedule, if your kids will tolerate it.
There were so many fun activities that happened after our kiddos’ typical bedtimes. We wanted to experience it all with them so we let them stay up past 10pm most nights, but then they slept in during the mornings. There were activities in the morning, but few compared to the rest of the day. So we didn’t feel bad letting them get some extra rest.
If your kids can be flexible, having a more spontaneous schedule can keep things exciting for both the kids and the parents. But, I totally understand if you’re in a season of life where your kids thrive on a schedule. If that’s the case, keep with it!
Skip the daily spa pass.
On the first day, we toured the spa and booked a pass where we could use the spa amenities daily. It seemed like a great way to unplug and unwind each day while the kids were at the kids club. But a lot of other people thought this was a great idea too, which made it busy. And I often forgot to build it into our daily schedule, so I didn’t go as often as I would have liked. When I did remember to go to the spa, it was often busy and I couldn’t enjoy the amenities the way I wanted to because I had to wait for an open spot.
Overall, the Disney Cruise was one of our best vacations. The shows, the meals, the excursions, and the on-board activities all surpassed my expectations. Traveling with a toddler and a young kid was so easy and enjoyable. I was hesitant to go on a cruise, worried we would feel trapped or not have fun. And it was the exact opposite. The large ship, endless activities, and fun amenities made it all worth it. I look forward to taking our next cruise. If you book a cruise with Disney, I hope you take these tips into account to make the most of your trip.