Our family made a decision to book a last minute Disney cruise a month before setting sail because the pricing was discounted and the itinerary to the Bahamas fit our schedule.
Taking a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream was an amazing experience and didn’t cost nearly as much as we thought it would. The investment in a Disney cruise is worth it and was truly a dream come true!
As first time Disney cruisers we had a lot to learn, so we wanted to make a list of Dos and Don’ts in hopes that we could help others be more prepared for their vacation!
What to Know Before Boarding a Disney Cruise
Do plan to arrive at the ship early – explore the ship and experience the ambiance of a Disney cruise ship. Allow time to just take in the decor, the detail, the beauty and majesty of the ship. Since your lunch is served on the ship why would you want to eat anywhere else?
Don’t feel pressured to book Disney transportation at the same time as the cruise. Here is an extensive article about our experiences in this Disney Cruise Transportation to Port Canaveral Review.
Do keep all of your passports, identification, boarding paperwork and other important documents with you at all times. We chose a small colorful cosmetic bag to keep all of our important papers in at all times. They won’t let you on the ship without it!
Don’t be surprised that you have to get pictures taken for security purposes and fill out a health survey during the embarkation process. Knowing that you must be healthy to board the ship might affect your decision to consider purchasing travel insurance when booking a cruise.
Do pack a swimsuit in warm weather. There are so many options like swimming and eating that are easy to do before the ship gets full. But don’t bring extras with you because you’ll have to lug them around. The staterooms are not likely to be ready when you board.
Don’t worry if you didn’t get reservations to the ticketed princess and Frozen meet and greets. We went straight to the port adventures area after boarding the ship and requested tickets. There were still some left!
Do go to the Cabanas for lunch, but don’t fill up your plate right away. The buffet keeps going and going and going. The cheaper food seems to be closer to the entrance, so take in all of your options before loading up with pizza and chicken fingers.
Don’t be the people that skip the safety drill. The Baack family tried to skip our drill and we all heard their name called multiple times…and we all had to wait on them. I have a feeling they didn’t really get out of anything – the people running the cruise know where you sleep.
Do go to the sail away party. Grab a spot on the top deck on the side towards the dock. We love bouncing back and forth between the show and the shore drifting slowly away.
Another article you may enjoy is our 3 Day Disney Cruise to Bahamas Review.
How to Eat on a Disney Cruise Ship
Do try new foods at dinner. If you order something you don’t like, no problem, order something else. Ordering multiple dishes of each course is included in the base price of your cruise.
Don’t waste food intentionally. Just because you can order all of the food doesn’t mean that you should. We enjoyed ordering new dishes and sharing them with each other and the kids.
Do ask your waiter for their recommendation – they know what dishes are best. My husband ordered rack of lamb and escargot. I enjoyed a selection of seafood unlike our normal meal routine and I loved it!
Don’t miss ordering a Mickey ice cream bar. They are on the kid’s dessert menu at the restaurants and they are available through room service.
Do tip when ordering room service, but know that the cost of the food is included in the base price of your cruise.
Don’t go to a sit-down breakfast at the Royal Table and expect to be done in a hurry. We have a two-year-old, we should’ve skipped ordering off of the menu and waiting for what we felt was essentially the same food we could’ve gotten at a buffet without the wait.
Do get the Mickey waffles at breakfast! We tried all of the breakfast options – a buffet at Enchanted Garden is our favorite! Breakfast at the cabanas is also great! Mickey waffles are ready-made at each place.
What to Do on a Disney Cruise Ship
Do try shuffleboard, or miniature golf, or watch a new movie in the theater or watch a movie on the pool deck, or go on the Aqua Duck (water slide), or take a class or meet characters or go to the Goofy Sports Simulator. The list of options is truly endless!
Don’t expect to have the pool to yourself. The pools are small and practically always packed! If swimming is a high priority consider going during shows or meal times.
Do dress up for Pirate Night. Even if you just get an eye patch and earring like we did. A little bit of costume planning goes a long way to get in the pirate spirit while on a ship!
Don’t understimate how fun Pirate Night and dressing up is!
Do eat a turkey leg on Pirate Night because it makes you feel like a pirate!
Don’t buy snacks outside the theater – if you are actually hungry (we rarely were because the meals are amazing) grab a snack at the cabanas and take with you into the show.
Do come early to get a good seat at the theater. Especially for the premier shows send half of your party to get good seats if you really enjoy evening entertainment.
Don’t sit under the balcony or in the balcony at shows – you may miss fun confetti or character interactions.
Do go to the evening shows and sit in the bottom section along the aisles or in the back row of that section. You may have an increased opportunity for interaction with actor and characters. Do sit as close to the stage and as close to the aisles as possible. We grabbed some special Disney confetti that the kids put on our stateroom door and brought home to play with.
How Much Money to Budget For a Disney Cruise
Don’t feel like you have to spend much extra money on the ship or on excursions! You can have a LUXURY vacation with the base cruise price + tips + transportation to and from the ship!
Do pay the suggested amount of tips that are automatically billed to your room.
Don’t “buy” into the idea that everyone is going on fancy excursions, the spa, reservations only restaurants, buying expensive souvenirs, etc. We literally only bought one drink at the sailing away party, a Christmas ornament as a souvenir and a birthday gift that we needed the next weekend and had to buy anyway. Our son had $20 to spend, he bought a lanyard and a couple of special offer $5 pins for trading. He agrees that his life would’ve been complete without that expenditure.
Do evaluate every single purchase before spending the money. Would you benefit more from having the trinket or saving that money to put towards the next cruise? Hands down our family is about less stuff and more cruise experiences!
Don’t feel obligated to spend any extra money on the ship – the all-inclusive base price makes a phenomenal vacation!!! I’m sure the adults only restaurants that require reservations are wonderful, but so were the dinners included in the price. We don’t feel like we missed a thing sticking with the regular dining rotation.
Do recognize that the base cruise price includes a lot! More food than you can eat, great entertainment, character meets, minature golf, a water slide, movies, Broadway quality shows, classes and more!
Don’t feel obligated to purchase the photo package. We had no trouble getting help to take great pictures on our phones.
Do visit the Shutters Photo Gallery to look at the photos that have been taken of your stateroom during the cruise. The photos will be printed out and placed in a folder for purchase. We purchased a 5×7 picture for about $20 and gladly left the rest behind because we have so many on our phones. There are great photos, but money is limited and we would rather save it for another cruise!
Don’t expect transportation to and from the ship to be included in the base price. The Magical Express only works for the Walt Disney World resorts, NOT the cruise ship. Another form of Disney transportation must be purchased and booked ahead of time to get to and from the ship.
Do put your phone in airplane mode so you don’t blow the budget unexpectedly with international calling, texting, data or roaming charges.
Do consider purchasing a place holder for $250 which has some restrictions, but in general will get you 10% off your next Disney cruise within the next 2 years. We learned that the place holder if fully refundable at any time, so that made the decision much easier for us!
Do go straight to the DCL website to get an idea on how much a Disney Cruise costs.
Plan to Relax – Excursions Are Not Required on a Disney Cruise
Do understand that you can have the best vacation ever without booking a single excursion – we did!
Don’t feel like you have to get off the ship at Nassau. As first-time cruisers, we’re glad that we took a walk and spent an hour at Junkanoo Beach. We quickly realized the ship had more to offer in our all-inclusive price and budget level, so we returned to the ship before lunch.
Do enjoy every minute on Castaway Cay! The Disney private island experience really pushed the entire cruise over the top for us. No one in our family wanted to leave the island! Our first visit was in late January and the water was cool, but the entire experience was still amazing!
Don’t plan too much time off the ship at excursions, especially on short cruises, because the ship has so much to offer. We did a four-night Bahamian cruise and there are several things on board the ship that we would’ve enjoyed doing but didn’t get around to. So…we’ll just have to go back! Wink, wink.
GTY Rooms on a Disney Cruise
Do book a GTY or guaranteed room where Disney chooses your stateroom. We saved money knowing that Disney wants every guest to have a fantastic experience. GTY is short for guarantee and means Disney will choose your room in the category you paid for or better.
Don’t feel obligated to have a verandah. Sure it would’ve been great, but we literally saved hundreds of dollars getting assigned a room on the second floor. Hundreds of dollars can be put towards another Disney cruise!
Do check out the list of on-demand Disney movies in your stateroom. While we didn’t hang out in our room much, the offerings are pretty neat!
Don’t be surprised that your stateroom host will come in your room multiple times per day to tidy things up, clean, make the bed, remove towels, etc. They will come back again in the evening to unfold a bed or two from the ceiling and couch and leave chocolate!
Do slide your suitcases under your bed to save space.
Do use the retractable clotheslines in the shower to hang swimsuits up to dry! Bring two swimsuits so you can wear one and hang one up to dry.
Other Tips for Taking a Disney Cruise
Do take advantage of the kids club. Our son was tentative about going, but he didn’t want to leave. Register kids early and swing by an open house to build comfort and help keep your options are open!
Don’t hesitate to ask guest services for help. If you have a concern ask if they can help accommodate your needs. We had several questions about how to get to Junkanoo Beach in Nassau and the Castaway Key 5k so we went to guest services to ask.
Do attend the Frozen and/or princess ticketed meet and greet if someone in your party loves the Frozen movie or princesses! Since these events are popular tickets help manage crowd flow, but they are free!
Don’t count on pin trading on the ship. On the Disney Dream, the only pins available to trade were in the shops which have limited hours. The shops are always closed when in port. The pin selection was poor. The only time for trading was during the Officers pin trading session for 30 minutes the last night. The gift shop worker handed officers lanyards of pins as they showed up. It was awkward, crowded, somewhat unorganized and we didn’t see any pins that made us excited.
Do go to the D-Lounge or the family lounge. The entertainment is good, guests are often invited to participate in the shows, the furniture is family friendly and the atmosphere is fun and intimate!
Don’t be late to get on the ship – it will leave without you. Plan flights and travel arrangement accordingly.
The Most Important Things to Know When Planning a Disney Cruise
Don’t over plan your schedule. There are many wonderful options, but overfilling a schedule can take the fun and spontaneity out of a vacation.
Do plan to live in the moment and see what your party enjoys most. Then do more of that!
Don’t overspend – there are lots of extras, but save that money to book the next cruise. You won’t be the first ones to say no to spending extra money – we did.
Do book a last minute Disney cruise. This is one of the best decisions we’ve made and probably the best family vacation we’ve ever had! We talked to several people on the ship that had booked a couple of weeks or a few days before setting sail. If you have passports and can make travel arrangements then go for it!
Don’t hesitate to book a 3 night cruise if that’s all that your budget and schedule will allow, but if possible know that even a 4 night cruise felt much longer with more sufficient time to explore the ship and relax!
Do plan a cruise with friends. In 2020 we did our first vacation with friends and the time together made the trip even more special! We wrote about it here on our 3 Day Disney Cruise to Bahamas Review.
OTHER TIPS & TRICKS FOR GOING ON A DISNEY CRUISE
Here’s a general review of Castaway Cay. Our family also enjoys doing the Castaway Cay 5K, here are notes from a non-runner’s perspective.
We love participating in Pirate Night on a Disney Cruise.
Here is an extensive article about our experiences in this Disney Cruise Transportation to Port Canaveral Review.
We typically stay at Pop Century Resort the night before our cruise. If our budget allows we try to visit the Magic Kingdom and go to Be Our Guest, here are some notes Do’s & Don’ts for Be Our Guest Restaurant.