Are you heading out on a Disney Cruise? We just returned home from our second, and wanted to share the must know Disney Cruise Tips we've collected after two voyages on the Disney Dream.
It's official. I'm Disney Cruise Line obsessed. We just got back from our second voyage out of Port Canaveral and I'm already planning another cruise as soon as possible. During both trips, we spent a few days at Walt Disney World FIRST….then took a cruise to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay. If you're coming from the West Coast, this schedule has worked really well for us. Our first Disney Cruise was the DVC Members Cruise with a double dip (that means two days) at Castaway Cay, and our most recent was the traditional itinerary with a stop in Nassau and a stop at Disney's private island. Both of these Disney Dream Cruise options were amazing, and I liked the variety of seeing both options. I will say, I learned a TON after our first cruise, and wanted to share these Disney Cruise tips that we utilized the second time around.
Disney Cruise Tips: What You Need to Know Before You Sail Away
Before You Go: There are a couple important things to do before you head out on your cruise. You can check in online in advance and register your children for the kids club (more on this to come). Pick an early arrival time (in fact I'd suggest picking as early as possible). There is lunch available on the ship, and you are essentially getting an entire extra day on the ship. The pools will be open. Know that you won't be able to enter your state room until 1:30….but you do get a ton of time to enjoy and explore.
Things to Book in Advance: While there are plenty of amazing experiences included in your cruise itinerary, there are some awesome additions that are worth booking in advance. You can book cabanas on Castaway Cay and spa services, Brunch or Dinner at the adults only dining spots Palo and Remy (the Palo brunch is my top recommendation it's to DIE for), a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience or spa experiences on board.
Pack a Boarding Bag: That early arrival time? Is great if you're prepared. You will be checking your bags when you get to Port Canaveral and they will be in your room AFTER it opens. I'd suggest packing a day bag with swimsuits, sunscreen, a change of clothes, anything else you'd like immediate access to. There are plenty of public restrooms on the ship that are open before you have access to your rooms. And you'll see people changing, and hitting the pools immediately (who doesn't love an extra pool day). There is also buffet lunch available on the ship upon boarding…..so be sure to plan for that.
Smaller Suitcases: As you pack for the cruise, keep in mind that the storage in a stateroom is minimal. You can store suitcases under your bed, so make sure they aren't massive. I usually bring extra hangers for the closet. There will be a hair dryer provided, and I've never used an iron or clothes steamer. I usually just steam wrinkled clothes in the shower as needed. One suggestion? I'd pack an extra duffel bag. That merchandise you buy? It has to get home somehow!
Record the Family Welcome: One of my Disney Cruise Tips? Be sure to record the family welcome. The staff greets each family BY NAME on embarkation day as they enter the ship and it's the cutest thing.
Attend the Kids' Club Tour: The Kids Club on the Disney Dream is called the Oceaneer's Club (it's for ages 3-12). The cost of this kids' club is included in the cruise cost (so is the cost of Edge and Vibe — the clubs for older kids). The It's a Small World Nursery for kids under 3 years old does have an additional fee and you can reserve it in advance online before your cruise. I have to admit on our first cruise, I was very concerned about whether Lydia would actually GO to the kids club. We attended the open house on the first day (when parents and kids can go into the club together to do activities and get to know the space) and it was the perfect transition. I was very impressed with the adult to child ratio and the security. The Oceaneer's Club has amazing activities, and after one visit she was begging to go back. On this last cruise, she went three times and loved it. You can check the schedule to see which activities will be happening. And if you're nervous? Rest assured, the staff can contact you on the wave phone (a portable phone available in your cabin that you can carry around the ship) or on the Disney Cruiseline App. They will let you know if your child is upset or needs you.
Prepare for the Safety Drill: The safety drill is required of all passengers before the cruise ship leaves Port Canaveral. Everyone. They will not start until every passenger is accounted for. It takes place in multiple locations on the ship. I've been assigned an outside deck and I've been assigned comfortable chairs in the theater. The drill takes about 30 minutes, which can be long for kids (or adults if it's chilly). Bring: jackets just in case along with activities and snacks for your kids if you think they'll need them. My suggestion? An Imagine Ink coloring book is perfect for filling them time.
The Sailing Away Party: The Sailing Away Party is one of the most fun and unique parts of a Disney Cruise. The party takes place on the top deck pending weather. If there is rain or cold, it will be in the atrium. Either location? Is a ton of fun. There is singing, dancing (with a literal kid mosh pit) and a TON of characters. Who doesn't love a Mickey send off to kick off a cruise departure?
How To Find Your Room: One of the most confusing things for me the first time on the Disney Dream? Was how to find my way around. A quick tip: on the Disney Dream, the cabin doors have a code: Starboard rooms have starfish clips and the port rooms have fish clips. Take note of which YOURS is so you don't get turned around. There are also three sets of elevators, so be sure to note which is closest to your room.
Where To Dine: There are three dining room locations on the Disney Dream: Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, and Animator's Palate. Your key card has a code on it, that indicates what YOUR dining rotation is. You'll have one night at each. And the best thing about Disney Cruise dining? Your servers follow your rotation. So the same people you see at dinner on night one? They'll be at your next spot on night two and you'll see them again on night three. It's really fun for kids, and the servers do an amazing job of getting to know your preferences. I was floored when my Diet Coke was waiting at the table on night two. Nothing beats that Disney customer service!
Castaway Cay: Prepare yourself. For the bluest water you've ever seen, endless soft serve, and pure bliss. Castaway Cay is one of my favorite places on earth, and I always want as much time as possible there. Rest assured, I'm not the only one. From the minute the ship docks, people are on the island, and most stay until the final call. A few tips: the further beach tends to be a bit quieter. We usually take the tram to the last stop and grab a spot there for the day. Then leave about an hour early to walk back to the ship at a slow and leisurely pace. If you are an early riser, the Castaway Cay 5k is a really fun way to see the island (and you can bring your kids along to enjoy the kids club on the island while you run). One more pro tip: there is exclusive Castaway Cay merchandise on the island. These items are not available on ship….so if you see something you love, snag it!
Stay on the Ship: Want a little extra time in the pools or on the slides? Stay on the ship during a port day. This last cruise we stayed on ship during the day in Nassau. The pools were relaxed, we got to do all the slides a million times and I loved loved loved having extra time on the ship. There are always movies playing on the pool deck, and it was uber relaxing to float in the pool while we watched Tangled. We ate buffet lunch (you can even bring it out to the pool deck if you'd like). And in the afternoon? I dropped Lydia off at the Oceaneers club while I enjoyed some time in the adult area. A total win!
Cove Cafe: Speaking of the adult area…..the Cove Cave is a must visit on the Disney Dream. The cafe is located on the 11th floor (behind the pool area) in the adults only section. It's a dreamy coffee shop that makes divine lattes with the cutest Disney latte art you've ever seen (let's not count the number of them I bought on our last cruise).
How to Find Each Other: When you're out at sea, you may be wondering how to contact each other. Yes, there is wifi available on board but you also have other options. You can text within the Disney Cruiseline App without wifi or you can use the wave phones that are provided in each state room.
Pirate Night: Pirate night is one of the best parts of a Disney Cruise. Yes, people dress up. Yes, you should bring something fun to wear that's pirate themed. There are two shows during the evening. Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean is earlier in the evening and features a show with Mickey and friends in pirate garb. Later at night (usually around 10:30 – 11 pm) there is a Jack Sparrow and Pirate themed show with one of the most amazing fireworks shows I've ever seen.
See the Shows: The shows on a Disney Cruise are BROADWAY caliber (in fact the Beauty and the Beast show on the Disney Dream has won a ton of industry awards). They're kid friendly, usually about an hour in length and a ton of fun. Plus they're a great way to start or end an evening. There are always two performances, an earlier one to watch if you're doing a later dinner seating or a later show time after the early dinner seating.
Take Advantage of Castaway Club Perks: Not your first Disney Cruise? One of my biggest Disney Cruise tips? Take advantage of the benefits you get as a member of the Castaway Club. After one cruise, you are automatically a member and the more cruises you take, the more benefits you get. From earlier online check ins to first access to reserve additional activities plus gifts on board, you get a ton of perks (you can see them all here).
Mickey Ice Cream Bars Room Service: Those magical Mickey Ice Cream bars? They're not just available at the end of dinner. Little known Disney Cruise tip fact? YOU CAN GET THEM DELIVERED TO YOUR ROOM. Yup, room service will bring you Mickey Ice Bars (they'll also bring continental breakfast). You should tip extra for the service, but it's worth it for those treats!
Pack the Night Before You Leave: Carrying bags off the ship? Not so fun. If you pack the night before, you can leave your bags outside your cabin door before 10:30 pm (using the tags the Cruise Line provides you) and they'll magically be waiting for you when you disembark.
Have you cruised before? What are your favorite Disney Cruise Tips?