DISNEY CRUISE TIPS

This past Mardi Gras we decided to go on a Disney Cruise instead of just going to the parks. We have done the parks about 20 times in the last 10 years so we wanted to try something different. Before we left on our cruise…I did alot of research and watch 102,983,083 youtube videos to see what I needed to do to make this trip one of the BEST experiences for my 4 lil ones. By far I am not an expert on this..I am just posting what WORKS best for me and my family. We drove to Port Canaveral so I have no information on transportation from the airport to the port or hotel to the port. I know that some of my friends used Happy Limousine as their transportation services.

Since we were going during the Mardi Gras break we knew that we can go on a 5 days cruise and so we choose the DREAM. We are a family of 6 therefore; we needed 2 staterooms. Since we needed 2 rooms…we decided against a room with a veranda because it was just not in our budget and we knew that our kids wouldn’t be in the room as much. Next, with it being our first CRUISE and I didn’t know how we were with motion seasick …we wanted something on a higher deck level…so we got our rooms on DECK 8 midship. When I called my DVC member service…they were so helpful in booking our rooms and giving us all the suggestions and tips that I needed and what I need to look out for in the coming months. We didn’t go through a travel agency because I love to book my own trips and do all my research myself.

So …with that I will posted what I did for my cruise and what I found was helpful when I went. This is strictly what works for my family…what works for me might not work for your family. Also…my husband and I didn’t do any ADULT dining (Palo or Remy) or the Champagne bar. So I have no TIPS on that topic..SORRY!!

When you are in your PLANNING phase…look online for tons of HELPFUL tips, suggestions, and ideas for what you need to do. They have LOTS of information out there. I joined 3 Facebook groups about the DIsney Cruise.

 

These are some of the groups and things that you can do on the ship and Castaway Cay:

FISH EXTENDER:  Another fabulous way to get to know fellow cruisers beforehand and learn your way around the ship is to participate in a Fish extender group. A fish extender is a hanging set of pouches/pockets hung outside your stateroom. Decorated with names and often Disney characters, the fish extender holds the various surprises that other families leave for you.

I didn’t join the FISH extender group or the PIXIE DUST group but I did participated in the Valentine Day candy exchange. I had joined a Facebook group for the Disney Dream Cruise that was sailing on the dates that we were sailing and got with one of the group there and meet alot of people on the group. Facebook has all these groups that are created for all the cruise and dates for when you are sailing…so if it is your first time cruising make sure to check out Facebook and join one of those groups.

Decorate your stateroom with MAGNETS!! What better way to get in the spirit of a first-time cruise than to decorate the stateroom door with magnets! I just looked online for pictures of what Disney Characters or pictures of the Disney Dream ship and I printed it out and laminate it and stuck a piece of magnet to the back. I stuck one piece of magnet in each corner of the picture. They also SELL them on ETSY if you don’t have time to make any.  Each stateroom door is METAL so the magnets will stick to them. Its also an EASY way to find your ROOM since all the doors are the SAME.

MIXOLOGY this was offer on the ship but I didn’t participate. So if you want to learn how to mix drinks…you should sign up.

Castaway Cay offer a 5K run (just over 3 miles).  Participation is free and you don’t have to make advance reservations. Simply register at Guest Services sometime during the cruise sometime before the event.  Children must be 10 or older to run.

 

Items that you need and should do before the cruise:

PASSPORT –need to be up to date.

Schedule the earliest port time arrival.

When your ONLINE check-in date has arrived, complete your online check-in process as soon as it opens. Then snag the earliest port arrival time available. Check-in opens at midnight EST on your scheduled day. Get on right at midnight!! We got in right at midnight and we still didn’t get the earliest time. To be ready, make sure you know the login and password to get into your account BEFORE you try to login at midnight.

Register your kids for KIDS CLUB at ONLINE CHECK-IN. Even if you aren’t sure your kids will go or not.

Meet and Greet 
Many MEET and GREET where the kids can take pictures with a character of the day (check daily NAVIGATOR for what character and where they will be).

We didn’t schedule any meet and greet because my kids didn’t know what to expect. So if your kids are VERY into meeting and greeting the characters MAKE sure to schedule it during the ONLINE check in also. We were very lucky that during our cruise they had many time that we pass by some meet and greet areas and there was no line so we jumped in and got a few pictures with some of the Disney Characters…especially on our last night.

Get your photo PACKAGE!! It is the BEST thing that I got…I think we got over 200–5×7 and 8×10 pictures of us from the cruise!!

PACKING:  Some of the items that you pack
Since most of the vacation that I go on…I am in charge of packing for myself and my 2 lil girls…we usually pack by days so that I don’t have 3 suitcase open at once and the cruise ship the BED is high enough to push your luggage under…I only had to pack 2 suitcase for us 3. My husband and Ethan packs together and my oldest pack for herself…so for a family of 6 we only packed 4 suitcases.  What I did was packed for day 1-3 in 1 suitcase and day 4-6 in another. I will make a separate post on how I pack for my family of 6 in another post. Since this cruise was in February and we were going to the Bahamas and Castaway Cay and the ship had the Aquaduck and pools…we mainly packed swimsuit. We each packed 4 swimsuits, 3 cover-ups, 4 night outfit (girls mainly wore some type of sundress and guys wore a nice pair shorts and a nice top. Then I also packed 1 extra outfit for disembark day. I did packed 1 pair of nice white jeans and a nice top. I also packed 1 light sweater because at night when the ship was sailing and we walked out to the deck, it was kinda windy. DON’T OVERPACK!!!! They do have a laundry mat on the ship which is on ALMOST every deck. Each load is about $2.00 and its charged to your stateroom. The laundry rooms are big and VERY CLEAN!! DON’T PACK ANY BEACH TOWEL!!! Disney conveniently provides beach towels to take with you when you go ashore. You can easily grab them on your way off the ship at each port of call. They are also available up at the pool deck.

SEASICK MEDICINE don’t forget to pack some…even though you might not think you will be sick…PACK some anyways. They do sell them on the ship but they aren’t cheap. You might need to double up like my husband and have the patch and eat  ginger candies. 

SOME of the ITEMS to bring: BIG tumbler (because the fountain cups are small and you will have to make lots of trips back and forth from the soda machine ;), lanyard, water proof phone holder (those plastic cover that you can wear around your neck). This is what I got. For when you are at the pool or island and WANT to take pictures. Also bring those cell phone charging station (because there is only like 2 outlet in the stateroom). And you might have many devices. You CAN’T bring a power strip these are BAN from the cruise (please read up on BAN items). Wrinkle Releaser because I didn’t want to walk to the laundry room to have anything iron..even though I had iron all my clothes but it might have gotten wrinkle in the suitcase. This Wrinkle FREE is the product I got. Ship doesn’t allow an iron in your stateroom. They do provide a hairdryer in your stateroom.

Bring a GIFT CARD that doesn’t have any money left in it so you can put into the light switch SLOT. In each stateroom, there is a slot by your entry door that triggers all lights, electrical power, and air conditioning for your cabin. Power is activated by inserting your Key to the World card in this slot. No card in slot = no power. If you are like me and having to always dig your Key to the World CARD out your lanyard and stick into the slot. Also you have to take it in and out when you enter and leave the room can get very annoying. But you do want to save electricity so when leaving, simply pull the gift card halfway out of the slot. This will deactivate the power while keeping the card snug in its slot.

ITEMS to PACK:
suntan lotion
sunglasses
Hat/Cap
Snorkeling gear (if you don’t want to use the ones they rent out)
Lanyard
CAMERA
Portable Phone Charger
Beach Bag or Day Bag
Flipflop/Water shoes

personal toiletries (they do provide shampoo, conditioner, lotion)

jellyfish spray  (we didn’t see any jellyfish on our trip but I heard that others did on previous cruise..they do sell these on the ship)

big water bottle or tumbler

 

CELL PHONE/WIFI Services 
Cell phones will not work on the boat – no WIFI. Disney Cruise internet service is called Connect@Sea. They have a variety of packages, and if you’re addicted to your online world and will use it a lot, they can be SUPER expensive. But for many, it’s worth it to stay connected to work or home.

On the first day of your cruise, Disney Cruise Line offers 50MB of free Connect@Sea Wi-Fi. They offer this to get you hooked on the service. Once you board they will give you 50MB…but its not MUCH..only enough for 1 text LOL. Put your phone in airplane mode and turn off all app updates, etc, you can make that 50MB last so you can check your email a couple of times. You should download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App on your phone well in advance of cruise day, since it has a neat countdown function whenever you turn the APP on, which tells you how many days are left for your cruise. With the app, you will be able to use your smart phones to text each other on the CRUISE, if your family is using smart phones. The stateroom provides you with two phones that are like personal communicators that you can use to converse with each other on board the ship. You can also text each other, but only exclusively on these phones that they provide.

BOARDING:
Let your spouse dropped you and your LUGGAGES off at Port Canaveral, then they can go and park in the garage. They will have tenants waiting to check in your luggage. Once your luggage is checked in. You can wait in line to get into the port building that is the Disney Port’s building…we had to line up in the parking garage. Disney Cruise Line boards its passengers in phases. The reason for this is simple: to keep things organized and running smoothly. You will go through security check. Once you are through …if you are a DVC member they will give you a lanyard ;). Then you need to go to the checking counter where you need to show all passport, they take your picture and they get scanned and they will print you a PLASTIC card (like a credit card) that is your KEY TO THE WORLD…that will show what time you board,stateroom number, what seating you have for dining, what restaurant you dine each night and etc. THERE ARE NO WRISTBANDS ON THE CRUISE, EXCEPT…. If you have a child whom you want to enroll in a club (who is under 12 yrs old).

**When you arrive at the port and complete in-person check-in, you will be assigned a boarding group number. By arriving earlier than everyone else (via your Port Arrival Time), you’ll be placed in one of the earlier boarding groups. By getting into the earlier boarding groups, you’ll be the first ones on the ship.

Once you check in..you can sit in the waiting area and wait for your group number to be called for boarding. We used this time to take pictures with Mickey and Minnie. We also looked at the model of the Disney DREAM boat so we know where we were and what was on the ship. Once your group number is announced…you are entering the ship, the cast members announce each family by name on a microphone. “Hey everyone, let’s welcome the Nguyen Family!” Your LAST name is announced as you enter the doorway of the ship and you receive an ovation from CRUISE STAFF. IT’S AMAZING…I knew this was coming so I let my kids go first and I recored it.

If you are a DVC member like us…there is also a sales pitch party which is set at about 2:30pm … orientation of sorts for DVC members and they fill you in on the latest news. They also have complimentary ALCOHOLIC beverage.

When we board the ship…we hit the Cabana buffet..they also serve lunch by the pool area. REMEMBER to pack a DAY BAG!! Items to pack: bathing suit, medicines, suntan lotions, swim suit cover ups, hat, sunglasses, BIG TUMBLER etc.

Bahamas:
Atlantis …we only tour Nassau for about 1-1.5 hrs …honestly not my favorite place on this cruise..they have so many people that is pushy…they try to sell you all sorts of things and continually asking you if you need a taxi ride or bus ride. Sorry…I don’t have much information on Nassau Bahamas but I know that many people schedule excursions on the island…like going to Atlantis.

Castaway Cay

When we got to Castaway Cay…we walked straight to Pelican Plunge..which is a castle-looking water slide. TIPS:The family beach at Pelican Point gets increasingly crowded as the day progresses. Go there at 8:30 am when the gangway opens, if you want to find a good spot.

The cruise line rents out 20 cabanas, which — at 325 square feet each — might be bigger than your cabin. Complete with lounge chairs, a dining table, a sitting area, a fridge, a locker, towels, and sunscreen.

Castaway Cay offers: bike rental,parasailing, stingray feeding area, fish charter, rent water rafter, or you can bike paddle like we did 😉

Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too BBQ: These two buffet spots each have plenty of covered seating, with picnic tables and enough high chairs (in two different sizes) to go around. The have grilled burgers and hot dogs, but also veggie burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and pork ribs. Sides include corn on the cob, baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.  There’s also fruit bar, as well as soft serve ice cream and BIG cookies. At every restaurant on Castaway Cay, you’ll find a serve-yourself drink bar, with everything from soda and iced tea. You might see some familiar FACES because some of the ships crew will be serving you. They have some of the DISNEY crew member that actually lives on the island.

 

PIRATES NIGHT: 
Many people go all out on Pirates Nights…DCL supplies you with a bandana. If you don’t remember to get something…the gift shops has some Pirates Item.

RESTAURANT:
Go ahead. Try everything on the menu that looks good.

Your servers will bring you as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you wish. Some nights I was hungrier than others. And okay, I admit it… sometimes I would have 2 appetizer and 2 main entree creme. Don’t judge me LOL. Its sad that my server actually remember what I liked for my desserts…because I wanted to creme brulee on the first night and on the second night the restaurant that I went to …didn’t have creme brulee so we went to the one from the night before to grab me one haha

What I also LOVE is that I got to eat and ENJOY all of my meals!! My 2 server cut up all my kids food and took care of them…they peeled the shrimp for them. So I got to eat my meal when it was served HOT!!

Dessert at the VISTA deck 4. Adult coffee shop COVE deck 11. Cabanas and Flo’s Cafe (offer burgers, grilled chicken, chicken fingers and french fries) pool deck. Luigi’s Pizza (pizza) Fillmore Favorite is where they had a sandwich station…their panini was delicious!!

Eye Scream pool deck soft serve ice cream station!!  I think we all ate our WEIGHT in icecream on this cruise.

Animator’s Palate deck 3-Disney art transform into an underwater world. The restaurant serve contemporary American and Pacific Rim cuisine. We had the lobster ravioli, bolognese, steak with wasabi  mash potato, crusted porkchop, shrimp salad, tomato basil soup. Dessert: lemon raspberry tart, cookie and cream sundae, coconut flan.

Enchanted Garden deck 2- The SEA BASS with risotto my ABSOLUTE favorite dish from the CRUISE. Dinner we also had the sea scallops, prime rib, ahi tuna tar tar, lobster ravioli, and crab and asparagus soup.  This is where we ate breakfast buffet on the disembark day.

The Royal Palace deck 3- we ate here our 1st dinner and it was amazing!! The bread basket has a shape of a Cinderella’s coach. We came back 2 times for breakfast because their eggs benedict was out of this world!!!

 

Everytime you ask for ketchup…they make it into a MICKEY shape.

Room service!! Warm chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal and raisin cookies,milk,DESSERT of the DAY, pie of the day, dessert of the day, MICKEY MOUSE ICE CREAM BAR, all hands on deck (cheese platter), tomato basil soup. ham n brie panini (many different panini)  ..we ordered before we went to the show.

Ask for a carafe of coffee from room service just before bed at night and it will still be hot in the morning (and halfway throughout the day).

DON’T FORGET to TIP your ROOM SERVICE!!!

Buena Vista Theatre this is where all the shows take place. Enjoy free drinks by simply filling up your own cup at one of the free soda fountain stations in Cabanas or by the pool before hitting the movies. While you’re there, get a dessert or bag of potato chips to snack on during the theater. Our kids filled up a cup with soft serve ice cream and took that with them to the movie.

We got to enjoy 3 AWESOME shows and the movie Black Panther before it was even out in theaters.

ALCOHOL:
Passengers that are 21 and older can bring up to two bottles of unopened champagne or wine (no larger than 750 ml) or six beers (up to 12 ounces) on the ship at the start of the voyage as well at each port of call.

All alcohol must be packed in carry-on bags, not in your checked luggage. Any alcohol packed in your luggage will be removed and stored until the end of the cruise.

If you want to drink wine or champagne in one of the dining rooms, you’ll be charged a corking fee of $25 per bottle.

They do sell a mix drinks of the day for like $5.00 a glass. They also have a special on the icechest filled with 6 or 12 aluminum bottle of beer but I am not sure how much that cost because I am not a beer drinker.

 

 

SAIL AWAY PARTY:
About 4 pm when the boat leaves… have a party on Deck 11 and 12 of the ship. Its the SAIL AWAY party. There is a huge screen in the mid/forward part of the ship, in front of the pools, which also sits above a stage. They cover up the pool to make it a dance floor.

 

MANDATORY DRILL:
You will need to attend an evacuation drill, where you will be assigned a letter, where you would be expected to assemble in the event of having to leave the ship. It is mandatory to attend this meeting.They will do a demonstrate the actual donning of the LIFE vest.

NAVIGATOR handout:
Become familiar with your navigator handout which tells you what is happening that particular day and what time the shows are showing and what ACTIVITIES are happening on what deck or time. Every night when they turn down your room…they leave you with a navigator for the following day with your animal towel and some little treats.

**Settle your  bill with guest services every day…so you can keep track of what you spent through out the cruise.

Remember to call your DIsney credit card company to transfer your rewards to a credit card before you go on the cruise.

Here is where your Disney Rewards Pays off! If you have a Disney Chase Card which gives you points and you’ve been saving them, you can square off your bill with any Disney Rewards Dollars that you have racked up. Or ask for Disney Gift Cards for birthday or holidays…right after I booked my cruise..for every holiday or birthday for my kids…I would ask for Disney Gift Cards.

HOW are GRATUITIES charged:

For the 4 main tipped positions, DCL will automatically charge the suggested amount to your onboard account unless you tell them to do otherwise.
The suggested gratuities, per DCL, are $12 per person (for adults as well as children of all ages), per night of your cruise.  For example, a 4 night cruise would be $12 x 4 nights = $48 per person.  This breaks down as such:
Dining Room Server = $4 per night, per person
Dining Room Assistant Server = $3 per night, per person
Dining Room Head Server = $1 per night, per person
Stateroom host = $4 per night, per person

On the last day of your cruise, your stateroom host will leave 4 small envelopes in your room as well as 4 slips of paper: This is if you want to give more to each of those person mention above. You will also get a sheet of paper along with the envelope. Each paper will have the name of one of your 4 tipped workers on it as well as the amount that DCL has charged to your onboard account for that worker.  You should put the slips of paper in the appropriate envelopes and the amount of cash that you wish to give them and take them to dinner with you on your last night and present them to your servers after your meal.  For your stateroom host, you should give him/her the envelope next time you see them.  If you don’t think you will see them,  leaving the envelope in an obvious place in your room.

You can choose to pre-pay gratuities for your party up to 3 days before your cruise begins by calling Disney Cruise Line or let your travel agent know.

Some additional gratuities are also added to your BILL..like spa, alcohol beverages,soda, smoothies, and bottle water when ordered from room services. Alcohol from the bartender.

 

PLACEHOLDER
Before you disembark the ship you can book a placeholder for your next Disney cruise! Stop by the Future Cruise Desk and either arrange your next cruise or get a placeholder for one. I like the placeholder option because it’s only $ 250 and it saves you 10% off your future final cruise fare.

Pack smart for departure. You will be given all instructions and Disney character luggage tag (which has a disney character so you know where your luggage will be located)  and leaving your bags in the hallway by 10:30 pm the night before disembark, so that they can be gathered up and taken to the luggage area for quick offloading. Keep a day BAG or a suitcase for your outfit for the next morning and toiletries when you leave.

luggage tags

They leave these luggage tag in your room so you can tag your luggages and LEAVE THEM outside your stateroom from 8:30-10:30 pm on your last night and they will take it down for you to the terminals so you don’t have to drag it throughout the cruise ship in the morning to breakfast or when you disembark. What we did was took our shower and left our PJ and personal hygiene items and what you will wear the next morning ..then pack everything else and leave out by your door with these tag. The tags help you locate where they are in the morning when you disembark and walk to terminal before you go through custom.

These are just some of the tips that I found works for us and helped me to make our FIRST cruise so enjoyable. My only regret is that we didn’t book our PLACEHOLDER. What I love the most about going on the DISNEY DREAM CRUISE is your room gets clean 2 times a day. Every night when they turn down your bed..you get all sorts of cute little animal that they make with either a towels or even the blankets..and they would use your sunglasses or little items around the room….its AMAZING how they LOOK. Also when they turn down your room at night …they leave you with some type of chocolate or treats…we got Ghirardelli chocolate. On Valentines day…I got some bath soap in a shape of a heart and my kids all got some chocolate and candies. Whatever you ask for..they try to accommodate you as SOON AS POSSIBLE..if they can’t …they would tell you and have someone from upper management help to solve the problem. Nothing is ever left unattended.

 

The CRUISE ship is SO SO CLEAN!!! When I took a walk in the am…I see many workers wiping down, polishing, or washing something. Windows get cleaned on a daily base. And when we dock at the ports/islands….you see them spraying down the ship.

On the last night of the cruise they have a “See You Soon” party!!

To be honest there is so MUCH to do on the ship that I don’t think I even did 1/10th of what was to offer. There are MANY MANY TOPICS that I know I did not hit on…this was my 1st cruise and these are some of the things that I found was helpful to me. My best advice to you is …just HAVE FUN and DON’T OVERPACK!!!