Cruise Travel

Disney Cruise Advice: What We Learned and What We’ll Do Differently Next Time

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on
February 25, 2019

After learning so much as a first-time Disney cruiser, it only makes sense to share our absolute best-ever Disney Cruise advice! This essential article will take an in-depth look at what we’ll do the same versus do differently on our next Disney Cruise. By using our Disney Cruise advice, you’ll help ensure the most epic Disney Cruise experience ever.

Let the magic on the sea begin with our Ultimate Disney Cruise advice!

Disney Cruise Advice: What we will absolutely do the same

Very rarely do we go on a family vacation and I say out loud, “When can we go back? Let’s book again now!” In comes the exception after experiencing our first ever Disney Cruise on the Disney Fantasy that prompted us to book again.

Here is a reflection on our best Disney Cruise advice, as well as what we will absolutely do the same (and different!) on our next Disney Cruise.

Disney Cruise Advice: Travel

I highly recommend that you travel to the port city the day before your cruise embarks. Whether you need tips for flying with kids or are close enough to make it a family road trip, either way, you’ll be much less stressed with an early arrival.

We flew into Orlando and spent the night in Cocoa Beach, FL the day before leaving out of Port Canaveral. By doing so, we avoided the chance of not being able to board the ship related to flight delays, lost luggage, or other mishaps.

After all, the ship won’t wait for you if you’re late boarding.

Arriving early also allowed us to experience the sights at Cocoa Beach. Further, we were able to decompress from our flight and get a good night’s sleep before boarding the ship the next morning.

Additional planning tip: Use a tool like Booking.com to limit your search and find the best hotel deals near the port.

Booking.com

Disney Cruise Advice – Arrival

My advice is that you definitely plan to arrive at the cruise terminal early.

When you check-in online prior to your cruise, you choose a port arrival time. A designated port arrival time is an attempt for Disney Cruise Line to help with crowd control at the port.

Take note that when you pick your arrival time, you are picking what time you think you will arrive at the port; not what time you will board the ship.

Having said that, the port arrival time you choose will somewhat correlate with your boarding time. Having an earlier port arrival time generally means that you are given an earlier boarding time upon check-in.

If you and your children are bursting with excitement like we were, however, you may arrive at the terminal early (as this is allowed). There are many great photo-ops throughout the terminal and you can start immersing yourself in all of the Disney excitement.

Dinsey Cruise-Port Canaveral
Port Canaveral Disney Cruise Terminal

Print off a map of the ship to use to navigate yourselves around. Researching the cruise ship ahead of time is one of the best cruise tips overall.

After all, Disney Cruise ships are both massive, breathtaking, and somewhat overwhelming at first. Until you get comfortable with navigating your way around, I suggest printing off a map of the ship’s layout.

Various maps of the Disney ships can be found via a Google search. Choose the most readable format, print it off, and tuck it in your pocket while you are onboard.

Disney Cruise Advice – Room

Book a Deluxe Family Oceanview Suite.

Luckily, Disney Cruise Line has amazing staterooms designed to sleep families of 5. This is a huge bonus for those of us with larger families.

The Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom is our room of choice and is what we will book again for our second Disney Cruise.

The Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom includes a queen bed, a single convertible sofa bed, a wall pull-down bed, and an upper berth pull-down bed. (Don’t worry, the beds are all set up for by your room assistant during nightly turn-down service.)

We specifically chose to not have a verandah, though this may not be the most popular decision among other cruisers. Having 3 rowdy boys, I cringe at the thought of them horsing around on the verandah and something terrible accidentally happening.

It’s hard to explain…I just don’t like verandahs.

The humongous window in the Oceanview stateroom is actually a real treat, however, and is what the kids requested again!

Top U.S. Travel Blog features Disney Cruise Advice: Disney Cruise-stateroom window
Oceanview Stateroom window

Select a room that is a fair distance from both the elevators and staircases.

There is a lot of foot traffic throughout the stateroom hallways, and many people choose to use the staircases instead of the elevators.

Our room was tucked away from both the elevators and staircases and we had absolutely no issues with noise.

Door magnets

Purchase themed Disney door magnets.

One of the popular things to do on a Disney Cruise is to decorate your stateroom door. This is one of my favorite and most recommended Disney Cruise Line tips!

Custom magnets can be homemade or pre-ordered from various Etsy shops. Our custom Star Wars magnets mimicked the cruise theme and were such a fun addition to the overall experience.

We will surely order new door magnets for our next Disney cruise, and I recommend that you do the same!

Top US Travel Blog features Disney Cruise Advice: Disney Cruise-door magnets

Disney Cruise Advice – Dining

Request main (early) dining.

Main Seating Guests usually eat at 5:45 p.m., while Second Seating Guests dine around 8:15 p.m. Your show time will coordinate with your dining time so Main Seating guests see the show after dinner at 8:30 p.m while Second Seating guests visit the Walt Disney Theater before dinner at 6:15 p.m.

Knowing the ages of our kids and the fact that we eat early at home (5:00 p.m.), I knew that early dining would work best for our family.

We found this time frame to fit in perfectly with our daily schedule and will request early dining again for our next cruise.

Disney Cruise-pirate dining

Food

Order all courses off of the menu.

Dining on a Disney Cruise is a gigantic part of the overall experience.

Disney offers rotational dining which involves being pre-scheduled to attend a specific restaurant on each evening of your cruise. This also means getting to experience many different foods and dining experiences.

Take advantage of the fact that dining is included in your cruise fare, with the exception of the adult-only specialty restaurants.

We made it a point to order soup, salad, entree, and dessert with each dinner in order to maximize our experience and try as many different foods as possible.

Encourage your kids to do the same. Our kids ending up trying and liking soups and salads that they would have never tried anywhere else.

Dining extras

Order Room service.

Disney Cruise room service is pleasant, fast, and better yet, included in your cruise fare.

Be sure to order the infamous Mickey Premium Ice Cream bars that are delivered to your room on a silver platter.

There’s just something special about these perfectly crafted ice cream treats. We ordered them each and every evening as a fun bedtime snack…along with a fabulous charcuterie tray for me!

Bring my own wine.

We took advantage of the Disney Cruise regulation that each adult can bring on 2 bottles of wine or champagne, OR 6 12 oz. beers onboard at embarkation.

Ask your room attendant or any bartender around the ship for an empty glass for your personal use.

Further, know that you may walk around the ship carrying your own wine/beer, as well as bring your own glass into the restaurants.

Spend time as a couple

Reserve one night to have dinner as a couple.

My husband and I reserved one night of our cruise to have dinner together as a couple while the kids went to the Oceaneer’s Club.

We made it a point to get extra dressed-up that night and told the kids that we were going on a date.

Our experience at Palo was both amazing and romantic. We will surely reserve another ‘date night’ on our next Disney cruise!

Disney Cruise-Palo
Romantic dinner at Palo

Likewise, spend a couple of hours on the adult-only pool deck.

Each Disney cruise ship offers a number of areas reserved exclusively for adults. Whoo-hoo!

As the kids played in the Oceaneer Club one afternoon for a couple of hours, my husband and I enjoyed a drink on the large sun deck that is adjacent to the adult-only swimming pool.

We loved the opportunity to hang out as a couple among the tranquility of the adult-only lounge area.

Click here to get expert Disney Cruise advice from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan! They share what they will do the same, and do differently, upon their return Disney Cruise! Get these top Disney Cruise tips before your awesome family vacation! #DCL #DisneyCruiseadvice #DisneyCruiseLine #DisneyFantasy #DisneyDream #DisneyMagic #DisneyWonder #cruisingwithkids #DisneyCruisetips #tipsforcruisingwithkids #Disneycruisethingstodo #bestvacationswithkids #cruiseadvice

Disney Cruise Advice – Entertainment

Go to all of the evening shows.

Broadway-caliber stage shows are held each night of a Disney cruise. In fact, this is one of the best reasons to choose a Disney Cruise vs. Disney World vacation!

Though everyone in the group may be getting tired by this point, the shows are absolutely amazing and should not be missed!

See movies while on board.

The latest first-run features, as well as all-time Disney favorites, play daily in the Buena Vista Theater.

Family movies play throughout the day, while more current releases run in the evening.

Watching a movie in the theater provided for a great change of pace and an opportunity to get out of the afternoon sun.

Disney Cruise-Buena Vista Theater
Buena Vista Theater

Disney Cruise Advice – Events and activities

Attend the Captain’s Reception.

The Captain’s Reception is another event that will give you and your family a chance to get dressed up and to mingle with other families on the ship.

The best part about the Captain’s Reception is that hosts walk around with free, unlimited cocktails for adults (sweet!). There are also fun sparkling beverages for the kids.

Finally, live music adds a perfect touch!

Get tickets to the Disney VIP Character Breakfast.

The extra money that it costs to attend the Disney VIP Character Breakfast was well worth it!

Why stand in line for character meet-and-greets when they will come right to your breakfast table and actually interact with you?

Each character took their time at our table, posed for photo ops, and interacted with the kids.

We will most definitely be reserving seats at a Character Breakfast again on our next Disney cruise!

Disney Cruise-Goofy at breakfast
Character breakfast

Attend the Sail Away Party, Pirate Night festivities, and See Ya Real Soon Farewell Party.

Use the daily Personal Navigator that is delivered to your stateroom each night to keep track of what fun events are being held on each day of your cruise itinerary.

We attended each one of the on-deck parties and live entertainment offerings and will do exactly the same when we go on our next cruise.

Disney ‘does it right’ with all of these fun little extras and it was absolutely what added the “Disney magic” to this vacation.

See Ya Real Soon Farewell Party

Excursions

Stay on the ship during 1 port day during longer itineraries.

On sea days when absolutely everyone remains on-board, the popular entertainment areas and options can become quite crowded.

This can limit getting to fully enjoy these unique experiences.

We chose one port day during our 7-night Disney Fantasy cruise to stay on-board the ship while most others went on a shore excursion.

We were able to have minimal to no crowds while we enjoyed activities like mini-golf, ping-pong, the golf simulator, riding the AquaDuck water slide, and playing on the basketball court.

As you may know, all shore excursions are an extra cost and are not included in the base fare of your Disney Cruise.

If you are on any sort of budget, opting out of an excursion on any given port day will save you money along with giving you the added bonus of decreased crowds on-board.

Disney Cruise-Mini Golf
Mini golf – Deck 13

Purchase the package at Castaway Cay Getaway Package.

Another thing that we loved, and will do again on our next Disney Cruise, is to purchase the Castaway Cay Getaway Package for each member of our family.

There are a few different options for booking rental equipment while on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (pronounced “Key”).

The Getaway Package is a discounted 3 for 1 rental bundle that includes snorkeling equipment for the day, an inner tube for the day, and bike rental for 1 hour.

Being that you are on the island for the entire day, we got full use of this packaged and actually ended up enjoying the bike rental the most.

Book beach-related shore excursions.

The pools on any cruise ship are quite small, shallow, and crowded. Therefore, we take advantage of any shore excursion off of the ship that is advertised as a “Beach Day”.

The kids get the opportunity to get wet and burn energy by swimming in the ocean versus relying on the pools.

We have always been pleased with our beach-day excursions.

Disney Cruise Advice: Things we’ll change up and do differently

Enjoy the perks of being a returning cruiser

Disney Cruise Line Castaway Club is their way of recognizing guests who have sailed with Disney before. If you’ve ever been on a Disney cruise, then you’re already a Castaway Club member.

With this being our second Disney Cruise, we are now considered a Silver Member.

Castaway Club Member Benefits include:

  • Early booking opportunities for the latest cruises before the general public.
  • Advance online reservations for Port Adventures, select Character Greetings, fine dining at Palo and Remy, Senses Spa & Salon and more.
  • Exclusive members-only check-in line at the cruise terminal.
  • Dedicated Castaway Club toll-free number—call for details, to ask questions or to book your next cruise.
  • Welcome Back Aboard stateroom gift.

Dining

Enjoy a table-service breakfast.

There are many restaurants and dining options available on a Disney Cruise. Our kids are strangely obsessed with breakfast buffets, mainly because breakfast is their favorite meal of the day.

Hence the reason why we went to the breakfast buffet every morning of our 7-night cruise.

On our next cruise, we plan to enjoy ourselves at a table-service breakfast on a couple of occasions.

Don’t get me wrong, the breakfast buffet is great. Table-service is just that little something extra special that we plan to treat ourselves to upon our return.

Try more foods.

This is actually the response from our kids when asked what they want to do differently on our next cruise.

I think that they are finally starting to realize that there are tasty options other than chicken tenders and fries.

This is monumental for our family of 3 young boys.

Hit up the adult lounges.

There are several upscale and trendy adult nightclubs and lounges on Disney Cruise ships.

Unfortunately, we did not go to any of these fun places during our first cruise. Because our kids were fairly young, we tended to go to bed right after the evening show.

Looking back, my husband and I feel like we missed out a bit on this aspect of cruising. Next time, we plan to push back our bedtime to join in the fun!

Entertainment

Ride the AquaDuck more.

This is another answer from the kids when asked what they will do differently on our next Disney Cruise. Hands down, they all said, “Ride the AquaDuck more!”

The AquaDuck is Disney’s premier ‘water coaster’ in that it takes its riders, down, around, and off the side of the ship.

Lines for the water coaster tend to get quite long as the day goes on. We found that if you stand in line at opening or ride during port days, you will have a shorter wait.

Settle our on-board account the night before, or early on the morning of debarkation.

All shipboard transactions are charged to your stateroom and must be settled before you leave the ship. This can be done at the information desk located on the actual ship, or at the final check-out point upon debarkation.

On the day of debarkation, the line for the Information Desk naturally gets incredibly long. To alleviate the stress of having to wait in line, we will take care of our on-board account the day before debarking.

Cruise Extras

Pre-purchase a Disney Cruise Line photo package.

Disney’s professional photographers are poised around the ship and able to take photos of your entire travel party—at dinner, before the live shows, during Character meet-and-greets, and while on Castaway Cay.

Kids and Donald Duck
Kids with Donald Duck

For our next Disney cruise, we will pre-purchase a Disney Cruise Line photo package for this simple reason:

When we snap your photos, the whole family can get in the picture and be part of the memory forever, so you’re free to focus on having fun and enjoying your Disney cruise.

Disney Cruise Line

Not buy a beer package.

On the day of embarkation, Disney staff are eager to sell you an initial wine/beer/drink-of-the-day beverage package.

Caught in a weak moment, my husband purchased an Import Beer Package that was fairly expensive.

We found that having had brought our own wine and beer onboard, we really didn’t need the extra beverages, however.

Next time we will save that money and use it for more onboard souvenirs…or buy a wine package instead, wink, wink!

What will you do differently on your next Disney Cruise? I’d love to read your comments!          

Jen

If you liked reading our Disney Cruise Advice, click here to check out our awesome Related Posts:

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Click here to get expert Disney Cruise advice from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan! They share what they will do the same, and do differently, upon their return Disney Cruise! Get these top Disney Cruise tips before your awesome family vacation! #DisneyCruiseadvice #DisneyCruiseLine #DisneyFantasy #DisneyDream #DisneyMagic #DisneyWonder #DisneyCruisetipsandtricks #disneycruisetipsfirsttime #DisneyCruiseneedtoknow #firsttimedisneycruisetips
Click here to get expert Disney Cruise advice from top U.S. family travel blog, Travel With A Plan! They share what they will do the same, and do differently, upon their return Disney Cruise! Get these top Disney Cruise tips before your awesome family vacation! #DCL #DisneyCruiseadvice #DisneyCruiseLine #DisneyFantasy #DisneyDream #DisneyMagic #DisneyWonder #cruisingwithkids #DisneyCruisetips #tipsforcruisingwithkids #DisneyCruiseneedtoknow #bestvacationswithkids #cruiseadvice #Disneyvacation
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    travelkida

    November 13, 2019

    Hi just wanted to leave an appreciation comment, as I was looking for some cool Travel stuff to read. Really enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks will look forward for more. Family Tour packages International tour packages for family

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