Disney Cruise Tips
Last year my in laws treated the entire family to 8 days of pure fun! A Disney Cruise! We were so excited to be taking our kids and joining our family on such a fun vacation. My sister in law is the queen of a finding the deals and so we booked the cruise 4 or 5 months before we were actually going to leave, making it more affordable for us to all go. She did a ton of research about what to expect on the cruise, in the ports of call and activities on the ship. We felt like we were super prepared for this trip, and were excited to have the best time!
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Disney Cruise Tips
This 8 day cruise left from Galvaston Texas and had 3 ports of call: Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, Port Canavaral Florida to spend the day at Disney World, and Key West Florida. It was the perfect schedule to enjoy everything on the boat, and then change it up with some fun on land too.
My kids were 2 and 4 which is a good age for a Disney cruise. The only problem is that my daughter was a very mature 2 and wanted to go to the big club with her brother. They have a nursery for infants and toddlers 3 months to 3 years. Flounders Reef Nursery does charge an hourly fee if you want to put your kids in the nursery. It cost $6 an hour for one child. They have cribs, rocking chairs, high chairs and everything needed to take care of infants. Little Miss didn’t love going there, so we only took her there twice. She would just cry when we dropped off big brother at the Oceaneers Club. In order to go to the Oceaneers Club you had to be 3. That looked more fun to her. Big brother liked his club for awhile but would always want to go with his older cousins to the Oceaneers Lab. Parents have to drop off and pick up their younger children at the Oceaneers Club. Each child is given a wrist band when you register them for the club (more on that later) with all your information so they can reach you if there is a problem or if your child tells them they want to go.
My niece and nephew were the PERFECT age for a Disney cruise (8 years old). They were old enough to sign themselves in and out of the lab, they still liked running into the characters on board and were big enough to go do other activities around the ship (like play ping pong with Captain Hook).
Going on a Disney Cruise was on my bucket list, and it was a trip to remember. My son still talks about the Mickey Boat and would rather go back to the Mickey Boat than go to Disneyland. I’m sure we will go on another one once our youngest is a little bit older. I love to cruise and have been on 3 before this one. This cruise was a little different however, because I was almost 5 months pregnant. In fact when we were going to book the cruise I had just found out I was pregnant and we had to move our departure date up 2 or 3 weeks otherwise I was too far along in my pregnancy to be allowed on board. Here is Disney Cruise policy straight from their website:
Women who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of their embarkation date or who will enter their 24th week of pregnancy during the cruise will be refused passage due to safety concerns. Neither a physician’s medical statement nor a waiver of liability will be accepted. In addition, Disney Cruise Line cannot be held responsible or liable for any complications relating to pregnancy at any stage. Infants under 12 weeks old will not be allowed to travel aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.
So keep that in mind when you book your cruise.
20 Tips when planning a Disney Cruise
Here are more tips my sister in law and I came across as we planned for and learned from our first Disney Cruise experience.
Dinning Times: When booking your cruise with small children, try and book early to reserve the early dinning time. 8:00 dinner was just too late for us. Also if you have a large party that all want to sit together. Booking early gives you a better chance of that.
Next Stop Disney World: If your cruise has a stop for Disney World (which was totally awesome), book your shuttle from the terminal to the park as soon as you can. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to Disney World. We wanted to be there as soon as the park opened and were surprised at how many of the early times were already booked when we booked our shuttle.
4 Parks – 1 Day: We knew we had one day at Disney World and we wanted to see as much of it as possible. About a month before leaving for the cruise, my sister in law went on line and printed off maps of each park. We decided which rides we wanted to go on at Disney World. We tried to pick the ones that we couldn’t ride at Disneyland. Once we decided on the rides, we planned our day at Disney World. The day before our port for Disney World, we mapped out our schedule. We had already booked the shuttle to take us to Epcot to start off the day. Once we hit those rides we went to the next park and then the next and so on. I couldn’t do all 4 parks in one day. I was only able to go to 3. But my sister in law and her family were able to ride all the big rides they wanted at each park because we had mapped out and had a plan ahead of time. We also packed 2 umbrella strollers that were nice to have when going around Disney World. We didn’t want to have to rent a stroller at each park so we brought our own. They folded up and we could store them under our bed in our cabin.
Embarkation Time: When you complete your on-line check in, they ask you to pick an embarkation time. The earlier you complete this registration, the earlier time you can get to check in at the terminal to board the ship. Try and get all your party at the same time.
Oceaneer Lab & Club: Register kids for club and lab on the ship. Don’t wait in the long line at the terminal. Get on board, eat, check out the ship and register the kids right at the club or lab during the registration times. The lines are much shorter. There you will get the kids wrist bands that they can wear the entire cruise. The staff at the club or lab will put them on your children the first time they go in to play or hang out.
Suit Up: Pack a bathing suit in your carry on. You won’t have access to your luggage for a few hours but you can enjoy the pools. So if you carry on your suit you can enjoy the pool and they probably won’t be as crowded.
Check out the Buffet: They do serve food on the ship the day you embark. So bring snacks and hold out for a late lunch and you can eat for free on the ship at the buffet.
Cast Off Party: Don’t miss the cast off party on the top deck. The kids, and my husband and I, had a great time as we set sail. They have fun music and dancing. We got to see some of the characters that were on board. It was a great party and everyone should be there.
Baby Items: If you don’t want to pack baby items (diapers, wipes, baby wash, etc.) you can pay to have them delivered right to your stateroom. They do have to be ordered a couple weeks in advance. I didn’t need any of these items, but this is a good option if you are limited on space.
Character Breakfast: The first morning of our cruise there was a Character breakfast. You should find your dinning tickets in your stateroom. On them they will tell you which restaurant you will be eating in each night. I loved that we were able to eat in every dinning room. That is something Disney cruise is known for, rotational dinning. Anyway, on our tickets it had a character breakfast time and date. Don’t miss it! It was an opportunity for the kids to see all of Mickey and Friends characters, have their picture taken with them and get their autograph. Each character goes around to every table. So be patient and you will get your chance.
Pool Rules: Only children that are toilet trained are allowed to enter the pools. This what the website states regarding this policy:
For the health and safety of our Guests, parents must observe U.S. Public Health Service requirements by allowing only children who are toilet trained to enter shipboard pools and spas. Diapers and swim diapers are not allowed.
Nothing will force you to potty train a stubborn 2 year old, than the idea of not being able to get in the pool on the Disney Cruise! That is about all I did the 2 months prior to our cruise. 🙂
Sand Castle Building: If you have a stop at Disney’s Castaway Cay (pronounced Key, we learned), which is also a must, they do sell beach toys for the kids to build sand castles and dig and what not, but we packed our own. Yes we knew they would probably be sandy and a mess when it was time to go, but if you paid money to buy something on the island, you would want to bring it back anyway. So save some money and pack a couple beach toys from home.
Dear Family: There is also a post office on the island that you can send postcards from. Each postcard will have a special postmark on it, from Castaway Cay. So bring some cash if you want to send some mail from the post office. They don’t allow you to use your ship card for the post office.
Castaway Cay: There is no need to pack beach towels for your beach stay on the island. They have beach towels there for you to use. Find a nice spot for your family to lounge, with a nice umbrella and bring a good book. There are lots of activities to do on the island like rent a snorkel to check out the reef, feed the sting rays, rent bikes. They do have bikes with kid seats on the back so you can go on a family bike ride. My kids were too young to really plan for any excursions on the island. But really all they wanted to do was dig in the sand and run in and out of the water.
Sign Here Please: I made some matching Disney Cruise shirts for our family to wear the day we got on the ship. Once we were all boarded, my sister in law and I took our kids shirts and put each one in a plastic ziploc bag with a black sharpie. We took it down to Guest services and gave them to the crew to have the characters sign the shirts. You could choose Mickey and Friends or Princesses. They returned the shirts to use by the end of the cruise. No waiting in line to get all those autographs! You could also bring a pillow case or we saw someone bring a nice mat for a picture frame to have them autograph. Just make sure you get this done right at the beginning of the cruise so they have time to get it signed and returned to your stateroom. UPDATE: I don’t think Disney Cruise offers this program anymore. You can still bring a shirt and have the characters sign it when you do meet and greets on board.
AARGH Matey: Our ship had a pirate theme night. At dinner all the servers and waiters were dressed as pirates and at each place setting there was a mickey bandana. If you want to get into the spirit of it all, bring something for your kids or yourself to dress up. You’ll be ready to meet Jack Sparrow when he makes his rounds on the ship.
Tea with Alice: Something we found out that first day was that our ship offered Tea with Alice. My sister in law happened to see it in the first “Cruise Navigator” (the daily agenda they give you each day) we got when we got on board. She went down to guest services and signed up the girls to have Tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter. They only offered it one day and maybe there were just a few tea times. But it’s not well known so keep an eye out for it. Little Miss couldn’t get enough of the “tea”! UPDATE: Some cruise ships have a tea with princesses and will cost an additional fee. These need to be booked early to gaurantee a spot.
Friendship Rocks: At the end of the cruise, the children that have been attending Oceaneer Lab or Club have the option to participate in a performance for all the parents. They sing songs and it’s really cute. If they participate, they get a fun t-shirt.
Can You Hear Me Now: Cell phones don’t work for most of the cruise. You can use the camera on your phone, but you won’t be able to call others. In each stateroom there are 2 phones that you can use while on board. They were a life saver for keeping our group in contact and knowing where everyone was. They also work at Castaway Cay. But you don’t want to lose them. They cost big bucks to replace.
Bottoms Up: Disney Cruise has an all you can drink soda fountain out by the pools. You can have as much soda (and ice water, hot chocolate and coffee) as you can drink for free from the soda fountain. They do have cups, but they are not so big. We brought water bottles for the kids and kept them full of ice water. I just wish we would’ve brought bigger cups for us to fill up and keep in our room.
Say Cheese: My biggest regret of the cruise was that I didn’t bring my good camera. I thought I didn’t have room to pack it, nor did I want to lug it around with me. So I just brought my little point and shoot camera. Next time I will make the room for my camera. My point and shoot took horrible pictures and I didn’t get as many as I should’ve because the memory of my point and shoot would fill up too fast. We did bring a water proof camera for our day at Castaway Cay, but you want to make sure you have some good pictures of your trip. Luckily my sister in law brought hers.
Turning Green: My last tip is this. If you get sea sick, get in the pool. Seriously. It totally helped. I have been on 3 other cruises and never had a problem with sea sickness. I don’t know if it was because I was pregnant or because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is more rough than if we had left out of Florida. But I had terrible sea sickness. I had not thrown up my entire pregnancy until the first 2 days of our cruise. Since I was pregnant the only thing I could take was dramamine and that wasn’t working. I went to see the doctor who basically said sorry, go sit in the pool. After I paid almost $4 for a ginger ale (since it was delivered in a can from room service) I decided to give it a try. It totally helped. The water in the pool moves with the motion of the boat. So if you’re in the pool, you move with the motion of the boat. Luckily the kids did great with dramamine.
Make sure you have all the information and registrations ready to go when you go through embarkation and debarkation. The process is really easy if you have all the info readily available. Keep the daily Cruise Navigator handy so you know what is happening at all times onboard. They have fun things going on in the club and lab (like wii tournaments and singing with princesses), and they have designated times and areas for meeting characters. The shows they put on are just wonderful and shouldn’t be missed. They have a movie theater, sports deck with different tournaments and so much more.
Luckily our cruise was long enough that we got to enjoy almost everything! Of course the sea sickness had me out for a good day and a half, but even after that, it truly was a magical vacation that I can’t wait to experience again. We are so lucky to have parents that want to spend time with their families and took us on this wonderful trip.
If you have a Disney Cruise tip or experience, I’d love to hear it! And if you are wanting to book a Disney Cruise and get the best deal, contact Get Away Today
. I recommend contacting them at (877)510-2929 and mention Liz on Call for additional deals.