Disney Cruise Line – Guide to a Magical Experience
Sailing on a Disney Cruise can be a magical experience, but like most Disney vacations, a Disney Cruise can be very complicated. You will have many options when you are looking to book your Disney Cruise as well as many options for excursions once you’re able to book them. I have written some previous articles which give more details on certain Disney Cruise subjects, and you will find more info links to those pages.
I. What Sets a Disney Cruise Apart
The first thing I want to touch upon is the difference between a Disney Cruise and the other various cruise lines. Disney will always be considered the best cruise for younger families, but as an adult I love what I get with the Disney Cruise. On a Disney Cruise you won’t find a casino, like you will on most others. You will also find that a Disney Cruise isn’t really for those that are looking to drink and party. While there is alcohol and nightclubs, it just doesn’t seem like you have people really just going for that. The last thing I think is great is the food, and while I have sailed on another cruise line, I found the Disney Cruise to have superior food.
A Disney Cruise will really shine when you have kids. With all the entertainment and the kids’ labs, you will find that there is a ton of stuff for the whole family to do.
The Disney Cruise Line is also different from other cruise lines as you get first run movies on the boat. So, you can plan to see the movies that are at the theater on the Disney Cruise.
II. Booking Your Disney Cruise
You have two options when booking a Disney Cruise. You can go through Disney to do so, or you can go through a Travel Agent. Either one will give you the same price. The reason some will book with a Travel Agent is because they will give you an on-board credit when doing so. This will be on top of any other discount you may get, and a travel agent will help you book your excursions and transfers. Just make sure you go with someone that has a good familiarity with the Disney Cruise Line. There are some that specialize in booking a Disney Cruise, and I use one like that.
III. Getting the Best Disney Cruise Price
When looking to get the best Disney Cruise price, the earlier you book your cruise, the better the pricing will be. Like Disneyland and Disney World, you will also find that there are peak times and if you can avoid those, you will save money. Disney Cruise Line will also release deals for non-peak times.
When comparing a Disney Cruise to other cruise lines, you will find that the staterooms on a Disney Cruise are much bigger than other ships’ staterooms. You also have many options for the size of the Disney Cruise staterooms. From your standard inside stateroom to the Concierge Suites, a Disney Cruise has many options. This will vary by ship and you will find that the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy inside staterooms have Magic Portholes. These cool inside staterooms were great for me. It was nice having the option to turn it off the Disney Cruise magic porthole at night, but during the day the Disney Cruise Magic Porthole offered a great view.
Once you arrive at the port and wish to board the Disney Cruise Line ship you will be assigned a boarding group. The Disney Cruise staff will start calling the groups by number, and once you hear yours you can board. You will need to show your tickets and your passports. Once they have seen those, they will escort you to an area to get pictures taken. Once that is done, you can board the Disney Cruise Line ship and either go to your room or head to one of the Disney Cruise restaurants to get something to eat. Not all of the restaurants are open before departure so the open ones will get busy quickly.
The Disney Cruise dining experience is unique, where you are on a dining rotation which lets you experience all the family style restaurants on the Disney Cruise. You also will have the option to book the adult only restaurants Palo and Remy (depending on the ship you are on). You can book these adult only restaurants in advance or while on board. You also have the option of a buffet style restaurant on all Disney Cruise ships.
VII. Shopping on a Disney Cruise
You will find many Disney Cruise shopping experiences on each ship. The shops are only open when the boat is out to sea.
VII. Disney Cruise Line – Excursions
The Disney Cruise excursions are specially selected to be family friendly. They provide some amazing ways to see some of the areas that your cruise will be going to. It is worth it to do the Disney Cruise excursions that Disney plans as if your return to ship is late they will either modify schedules or fly you to the next port so you aren’t left behind. You are able to book online, or if you’re using a Travel Agent, you can book with them. Check out the Disney Cruise excursions page to see the various Disney Cruise Line ports of call and the excursions available for them.
IX. Tipping the Disney Cruise way
Tipping is customary on any cruise, and you will tip various Disney Cruise positions. Disney will now automatically charge you for the tips for the following positions; stateroom host/hostess, server, assistant server, and head server. You will be tipping based on how many of you there are. If you do want to change any of the tip amounts, you are given that opportunity.
You are also able to pre-pay your gratuities. You can call Disney to do so.
If you wish to pay the gratuities in cash, make sure you visit guest services to get the auto gratuity removed.
Room service isn’t included in the automatic gratuity, but you should tip them. Keep some cash to do so.
X. Customs after your Disney Cruise
The amount of goods you can declare will vary. You will need to declare items purchased either on the Disney Cruise or at the ports of call. Make sure you do save the receipts as you will need to write the amounts on the U.S. Customs Declaration Form. If you do go over the allowed amount, you will be subject to fines.
Each Disney Cruise passenger is limited to $800 worth of merchandise when they are traveling to the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean. For the Eastern Caribbean trips, you have an allowance of $1200 but only $800 can be from on the Disney Cruise, Castaway Cay, or from St. Maarten. You can use all $1200 at St. Thomas.
A Disney Cruise has a lot of measures to make it safe. This can be from making sure that the Veranda rooms have locks outside of a child’s reach to making sure people disinfect their hands when going into a dining area.
One of the first things you will do on the Disney Cruise is an Assembly Drill. This shows you where your life boat is and how to get there from your room as well as acquaint you with the safety procedures for getting on the life boat.
Entertainment on a Disney Cruise is second to none. So, what is there to do? You can experience Broadway caliber shows, they have Disney character greetings scheduled all over the Disney Cruise, you can see a first run movie at the theater, experience a deck party, lounge at the pool, and even go to one of the on board spas. There are also nightclubs for both teens and adults – as well as lots of other little things you can do to add to your Disney Cruise Line experience.
One thing you will find on a Disney Cruise is the best Child Care of any cruise line. Disney really knows how to take care of the kids. There are activities for all ages; here are some of the ones that stand out.
For children 3 months to 3 years old, you have Flounder’s Reef Nursery (or It’s A Small World Nursery). The nursery does cost $6 per hour.
For kids that are 3-12 and that are potty trained, you have the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab. These are children’s activity centers where your children can play while at sea. They also have many activities like a visit by Captain Hook and many more. Children are fed while doing these activates, so you are able to have dinner at one of the adult only restaurants.
For children over 12, you will find many other club-like areas that cater to various ages. For those 11-24 you have Edge, where kids can play video games. Kids 14-17 have Vibe, an area where kids can watch television, play video games, and listen to music. Some ships have D Lounge or Studio Sea, a family entertainment area where parents or children can sing, dance, or play games while spending time together.
The process to Disembark the Disney Cruise starts the night before you arrive at port. You are given customs forms that you will pre-fill so that when you get to the customs window, you breeze on by. You will then have your luggage outside of your door by 11pm. You will keep some luggage – but just what you can carry. The next morning you can either have breakfast at the last sit down meal restaurant of your dining rotation or you can go to Topsiders or Cabana’s (depending on what ship you’re on). You will bring your carry-on luggage and once done you will exit the ship. Once you clear customs you will then take your transportation method where you are set to go.
XVI. Internet on the Disney Cruise
Internet connectivity is via satellite, so it will be slow. You can connect wirelessly or at one of the internet cafes on the Disney Cruise Line ship. The bigger the package, the better your pricing.
- Internet/Wireless Internet Access for Disney Cruise sailings less than 7-nights:
- Pay as you go – $0.75 per minute
- 50 min for $27.50 ($.55 per minute)
- 100 min for $40 ($.40 per minute)
- 250 min for $75 ($.30 per minute)
- Internet/Wireless Internet Access for Disney Cruise sailings 7-nights or longer:
- Pay as you go – $0.75 per minute
- 100 min for $55.00 ($.55 per minute)
- 250 min for $100 ($.40 per minute)
- 500 min for $150 ($.30 per minute)
XVII. Disney Cruise Tips
- My biggest tip as a foodie is to ask. If more than one thing looks good on the menu, order both. Especially desserts.
- Take a (pillow case, matte frame, t-shirts, hats, etc) with different colors of sharpies or fabric markers. Once you get on the Disney Cruise Line ship go to guest services and you can ask them to get characters signatures. The day before you disembark they will deliver it to you signed. If you didn’t receive it, make sure you ask them where it is.
- You can order coffee the night before you disembark from room service so that you have a pot when you wake up in the morning.
- You can order cookies and milk from room service before bed. If you want the cookies to be warm, they will deliver them that way.
- Bring some extra dollar bills to tip room service.
- Do you like the Chocolate Mickey ears from the parks? If so you can order them from room service on your Disney Cruise.
- There is an area on Castaway Cay that has free baby joggers for those on the Disney Cruise.
- Make sure you rebook aboard. You get discounts and a nice on-board credit to do so for your next Disney Cruise.
- Make sure you take a power strip, so you have lots of space to keep your electronics charged.
- If you’re going to take soda from the Disney Cruise fill station to your room bring large insulated cups. You are required to fill the soda only in the Disney cups, but once there you can fill your cup then repeat.
- You can use the drink cups for the soft serve machines.
- Check your Disney Cruise schedule as soon as you can. There are some tours and classes that are first come first serve. You will find cooking and mixology classes as well as other kinds.
XVIII. Other Links
Here are some of my other Disney Cruise Line links for supplementary articles.
Disney Cruise Line – A expanded guide to all things Disney Cruise
Disney Cruise Dining – A guide to the Disney Restaurants
Disney Cruise Dining Rotation – A look at how the Dining rotation works.
Disney Cruise Staterooms – A look at the different types of staterooms.
Disney Cruise Safety – Another reason a Disney Cruise is worth it
Cabanas Restaurant – More Disney Restaurant Reviews Coming Soon