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20 Disney Cruise Tips: What To Do and NOT Do Before Going On A Disney Cruise

20 Disney Cruise Tips: What To Do and NOT Do Before Going On A Disney Cruise

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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?

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 are 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

Book Early

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 think about is that popular itineraries can sell out quickly. So 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 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.

Check the date if you haven’t used it in a while 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 also have passports, including babies!

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.

cAnna and Elsa Frozen Meet and Greet on Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship
We pre-booked this Meet and Greet with Anna and Elsa. Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

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. So glad we did that!

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    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 ones 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.

    Image of Disney Cruise Minnie Mouse ears
    Save room for purchases like these cute Disney Cruise Minnie ears! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    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

    When it comes to booking opportunities that you missed when your advance reservations window opened, getting there early can help.

    Even if you have everything all lined up, it’s such a relief just to get on 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
    There is free soft serve ice cream on the pool deck! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    There is free soft-serve ice cream on the pool deck! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    When you book an early port arrival time, you can get onto the ship sooner and begin enjoying many of the cruise line 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 info at the ready. You’ll need your login information for the site as well as other travel info 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

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

    Regular clothes for some experiences are a must (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.

    Castaway Cay Activities: a Complete Guide to Beaches and Events featured by top US Disney blogger, Marcie and the Mouse: Things to do at Castaway Cay on a Disney Cruise
    We LOVE playing at Castaway Cay in the Bahamas! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    There are tons of things to do in Castaway 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 in case 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 liquid in addition to anything listed above, there could be severe legal penalties.

    Other restricted items include aquatic items, some 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.

    Image of a woman wearing a Minnie Mouse dress posing on a Disney Cruise ship
    Because we managed our time well when we arrived, we were able to take photos on board the ship before it got too crowded! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    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 cruise 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 start off with 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 of the cruise. Accommodations, all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, and most entertainment are included in the cost of the cruise.

    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 in the cruise’s 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.

    Image of a woman holding a wine bottle on the balcony of a Disney Cruise ship
    You can bring wine, beer, or champagne. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    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.

    Image of two boys dressed in Star Wars outfits with 2 storm troopers at Star Wars Day at Sea on a Disney Cruise Ship
    My kids (and hubby) geeked out during Star Wars Day at Sea! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

    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

    Infants must be at least 6 months old at the time of embarkation to sail on a Disney cruise.

    Toddlers

    Children who are 3 years old and potty-trained can participate in activities at the Disney Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab.

    Kids

    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

    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.

    Buffet

    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.

    Live Shows

    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.

    On average, a Disney cruise can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 per person for a 3- to 7-night cruise, depending on these factors.

    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, additional expenses such as alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, shore excursions, and gratuities are not included in the cruise fare.

    Disney Cruise Tips Wrap Up

    Now you have my best Disney cruise tips! I hope this helps you plan for your first Disney cruise or your next Disney cruise!

    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!

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