Original post: December 2018. Edited April 2020.
Cruising is a wonderful way to travel, especially as a family! Add some Disney magic to it and you’re in for an incredible experience.
We all have high expectations of Disney and they always deliver, whether on land or the high seas! If you booked a Disney cruise, your experience will be slightly different than on a regular cruise ship.
Make sure you are aware of all the little extras below (in no particular order), that will make your cruise a memory of a lifetime!
1- Do Your Online Check-In and Schedule Special Events
During your online check-in, you will be able to schedule private meet&greets with characters, and more depending on the length of your cruise (i.e. character breakfast, etc.).
Take your time to familiarize yourself with the Disney Cruise Line website – go through the schedule of activities for each day and schedule away.
You will also be able to sign up your kids for the Kids’ Clubs, saving you precious time on board!
CAUTION: you might get VERY excited as you go through this process and want to share your upcoming cruise with the entire world! That’s totally OK! 🙂
2- Think Of A Good Family Name
This one is totally optional but our family loves to have fun with it!
When you first board the ship, you will be welcomed by name. An announcer will ask you for your name and blast a warm “Welcome XYZ Family” in the whole atrium.
If you are feeling funny, choose a fun family name and make your grand entrance!
3- Embarkation Day
On embark day, take a chance to visit the ship. All Kids’ Clubs and the spa are opened to curious eyes. This might be your only chance to see some parts of the ship you might never see otherwise!
4- Mickey Ice Cream, Anyone?
Nothing, and I mean nothing…. will bring a bigger smile to your kid’s face, than a Mickey Ice Cream!
At any time of day or night, order a Mickey ice cream (or 2, or 3…) through room service! On most nights, they will be on the kids menu in the dining rooms. If you don’t see them, your dining room assistant will be happy to bring you one! Did I mention you don’t need to be a child to order off of the kids’ menu..?
5- Get Your Luggage Delivered Onboard
Because Disney does service best! If you are boarding a cruise out of Cape Canaveral, AND booked ground transportation from the Orlando airport (typically $39 / person), make sure to attach your luggage tag before checking into your flight!
When you land at MCO, skip the baggage claim and head straight for the Disney Magical Express. Your luggage will be collected by Disney Cruise Line and delivered straight to your stateroom. Just make sure you’ve packed what you’ll need for that first day, in your hand luggage (i.e., flip flops, shorts, swimwear, sunscreen, etc.).
For those flying in from outside the United States, you will need to collect your bags to get through customs. Your luggage will however be sent to baggage claim after custom clearance, and you will be able to skip that baggage claim and head straight to the Magical Express!
When you get to the cruise terminal to check in for your cruise, make sure to opt in for the Onboard Airline Check-In. The day before disembarking the cruise, you will receive your airline boarding passes and luggage tags. Your luggage will be delivered to your airline, while you can head straight to security and onto your departing gate. Check HERE for more detail and to verify your airline is eligible!
6- Is A Kid-Free Dinner Too Good To Be True?
Disney is so incredibly family-friendly!! At night, if like us you enjoy dining as a family, bring your kids with you to dinner!
About 30 minutes later, you will notice the Kids’ Club counselors, dressed in yellow and blue, walking around the restaurant. Hand over your children to them, they will be brought up to the Kids’ Club to have fun, while you enjoy a kid-free dinner and evening.
Related: Best Food Onboard The Disney Magic
7- Bring Your Own Wine On Board
Did you know that you are allowed to bring your own wine on board Disney cruise ships?
If you are 21 or older, you can bring up to 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne, no larger than 750mL. If you drink beer, you can bring up to 6 beers, 12 ounces or less, onboard.
Just make sure that your alcoholic beverages are packed in your carry-on luggage!
If you decide to enjoy your own bottles in one of the dining rooms, note that you will be charged $25 per bottle.
8- Enjoy Some Fireworks At Sea
Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line shooting fireworks at sea. During your cruise, do not miss Pirate night for an amazing party on the pool deck and some good old Disney fireworks!
Because nothing cries Disney more than fireworks!
9- Bring A Pirate Costume – Adults Too!
There will be a Pirate night during your cruise. Join in the fun and dress the whole family up!
Disney Cruise Line will typically put some red Pirate Mickey bandanas in your stateroom for everyone. But expect most of your fellow passengers to dress up.
Have fun with it!
10- Download The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App
Once you are on the ship and far from coast, you will loose signal. You can decide to purchase a fairly expensive internet package from the ship, if needed.
If all you want is keeping in touch with your travel party, download the free Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
Once you get onboard, connect to the ship’s free wifi and send each other free text messages with the cutest Disney emojis!
Access the daily Navigator (schedule of activities), favorite events, get reminders to not miss your favorites, check for character appearances, and more!
11- Feel Like A Little Challenge?
If you have booked a cruise that stops at Castaway Cay – Disney’s very own private island – sign up to run the 5K. It is a wonderful way to see the island and spice up your cruise with a little competition (super friendly of course!).
Sign up for the 5K on board the ship and you will be running first thing in the morning once the ship docks at Castaway Cay!
12- Animator’s Palate
While I highly recommend following your dinner rotation and eating at the sit-down restaurants in the evening; if you decide to not dine in the restaurants, I would suggest you at least dine once at Animator’s Palate!
Try to dine there the first night that it falls on your rotation. Tip: look at your key card and notice the series of letters at the bottom of it? The “A” means that it is your night to dine at Animator’s Palate. Try to dine there on your first “A” night.
I won’t spoil the surprise, but you’re in for a treat you don’t want to miss. And it may, or may not, involve a mouse!
And if you are on the newly renovated Disney Magic, I would definitely recommend not missing the first night at Rapunzel’s Royal Table!
13- Go Ahead And Indulge In Sodas
If you have cruised on other cruise lines before, there is no need to shy away from the soda machine on the Disney cruise ships. You do not need a special cup with your cruise-long soda sticker… None of that on Disney Cruise line – sodas are included for all.
You will find soda machines near the pools, inside the Cabanas restaurant, and you can order soda in the dining rooms. You will also find free coffee, and of course, hot chocolate for the kids!
14- Get Cute Certificates
When I told you that Disney would make your cruise extra magical, I meant it!
They help you celebrate the little things. When our daughter lost a tooth (well, 2 really…) on board the Disney Magic last summer, I told the main desk and the cutest button, plush, and magical certificate were waiting for us in the stateroom that night!
15- Do Not Loose Those Magic Bands
If your kids attend any of the Kids’ Clubs, they will be given magic bands the first time you sign them in. If you are used to staying at the WDW resorts, you might expect to bring them home.
And you are welcome to, but will be charged for them. I wouldn’t blame you, they’re super cute! If you do not want to be charged for the Magic Bands, simply return them along with the form, on your last night on the ship!
16- Pack Magnets For Your Stateroom
This is pretty much a Disney Cruise Line exclusive, and if you have never seen it, you might be surprised…
Passengers love decorating their cabins doors. Unless you have booked a concierge-level stateroom, your cabin door will be metal and you can have fun decorating it any way you want.
Whether you bring magnets or tape some décor on your door, have fun with it! Added bonus: your kids will have an easier time finding the cabin!
17- Watch Movie Premieres
Did you know that Disney cruise ships have a 3-D movie theater?
If you happen to be on one of the ships during the premiere of any Disney movie (Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, etc.), you are in for a treat. Usually at midnight of the time zone you are in, head over to the movie theater for a true premiere!
18- Floatation Vest Provided
Packing for a cruise is always a challenge since you need to be ready for all sorts of weather, might want to dress up at night but stay casual during the day…
One thing you can leave at home is your child’s floatation device. Disney Cruise Line has those amazing vests on the deck by the pools. They come in several sizes and are great for pool safety!
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