Are you considering taking a Disney cruise any time soon? Here are some tips for when you take a Disney cruise. Some of them are relevant to those who depart from Port Canaveral and go to the Bahamas, however most of them are applicable to most (if not all) Disney cruises.
Try to board as early as possible There are usually quite a few early arrivers, which tends to crowd the terminal. Then things slow down a bit: reportedly if you arrive about 12:30, you may find the terminal nearly empty and be able to walk right on the ship. Then it gets crazy again around 1:30 pm when the Disney buses start arriving from Walt Disney
Bring a watch There are not a lot of clocks onboard. Since there are many scheduled activities offered throughout the day, you will frequently need to know the time.
Arrival When you arrive at Port Canaveral, you’ll hand off your bags to the dock workers. Tip them at least $1-$2 per bag. Keep your carry-on/day bag with you. Get in line to go through security and up the escalators to the terminal. Inside the terminal you’ll get in line on the left side to check in and get your stateroom keys.
Once onboard Most people will head straight to lunch, and if you’re hungry, that’s a great idea. If you’ve brought your swimsuits in your day bag, this is a perfect time to enjoy the pool, because the ship is still relatively empty and a lot of people will not have thought ahead. If you still need to make spa appointments, change your dinner rotation, or sign up for shore excursions, now is the time to do that. You can also get your kids’ wristbands for the kids’ club. If it’s your first time on the ship, this is a good time to get a map and wander around familiarizing yourself with everything. At about 1:30, your room should be ready. Your bags will be delivered at some point in the afternoon (up until about 6:00 pm).
Mandatory Drill A mandatory muster drill is held in the afternoon of embarkation day, usually at 4:00 pm. Everyone must attend in order to learn the location of your lifeboat station and other safety information. The drill takes only 30 minutes or less and you do not have to bring your life jacket with you. “Wave Phones” Disney now provides cell-phone-style “Wave Phones” in every stateroom that you can carry with you on the ship to stay in touch with the other members of your party. The Wave Phones have only one charging station per stateroom. If you aren’t careful to rotate them through the charging station, the batteries may become depleted and begin beeping insistently at an inopportune time.
Laundry Rooms Laundry rooms are available on every floor. You can charge the cost of self-service laundry to your room key by swiping it on the washers and dryers.
During the cruise Some special activities require advance sign-up at Guest Services. For instance, on cruises near Christmas, there is a build-your-own-gingerbread house activity, but they have a limited number of kits available. Watch for those activities and sign up as soon as you can.
Aqua Duck water slide The best time to ride it is in the evening (during dinner and/or nightly shows), when the lines are much smaller.
What to Bring Consider bringing your own bottled water if you think you’ll drink a lot of it on shore excursions, Castaway Cay, etc. Bottled water on the ship is expensive. Consider packing a small carry-on suitcase with just bottled water. Disney is extremely unusual among cruise lines in allowing you to bring your own alcoholic beverages onto the ship. Bottles must be sealed and they must be in your carry-on luggage. You can take a soft-sided cooler full of beverages onboard, but no hard-sided or wheeled coolers. Optional: Water shoes – Always a good idea if you’ll be snorkeling or wading where there is coral, which can cut your feet. Clothespins – These have a variety of uses, from weighing down a shower curtain that is blowing around, to anchoring your beach towel to a lounge chair. Oh, and you can use them to hang laundry up to dry, too (there’s a retractable clothesline in the bathtub).
Dine and Play Program The Dine and Play program is offered for families assigned to second dining, and is open to children ages 3-12. The Dine and Play program allows children to get their meals quicker and adults to check in a child for Youth Activities without leaving the dining room. Here’s how it works: You arrive in the dining room and inform the server that your child would like to participate in Dine and Play. The dining room team brings the child’s meal first while serving the adults at a more leisurely pace. About 45 minutes after seating begins, Youth Activities Counselors arrive in the dining room and sign in the child to Disney’s Oceaneer Club or Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, eliminating the need for you to escort the child to Deck 5. Adults are then able to enjoy the full dining experience with the knowledge that their children are having a great time in a safe, fun, and comfortable environment.
Castaway Cay Get to Castaway Cay early. Use room service to have breakfast in your cabin and then get off the ship as soon after 9:00 am as you can. You’ll have your pick of chairs, no lines for character greetings and photo opportunities, and the snorkeling will be undisturbed by others stirring up the bottom. You can keep your child signed in to the Oceaneer Club/Lab while at Castaway Cay. They will take the kids off the ship to special play areas for supervised games and activities throughout the day. If you do this, be sure to bring your Wave Phone with you. It will work on the beach. But if you want your kids to join you for some time on the island, make sure you know their schedule of activities. They eat lunch fairly early, and are taken back to the ship before the beach closes.
Other Tips DO NOT take your passport with you (if it is not necessary) when you leave the ship, unless you plan to rent a car (in which case you’ll need it). If it is stolen, you will have a real problem. Very few countries require you to carry your passport around. Instead, each adult should carry a driver’s license or other photo ID, as you may be required to show ID when coming back on to the ship. If not having your passport with you makes you nervous, make a color photocopy of the identity page of your passport before you leave on the cruise, and carry that with you when you get off the ship. If you are feeling a bit disoriented, look at the carpet. You can tell whether you’re walking towards the front or the aft by looking at the map that’s depicted. If the map is upside down, you are going towards the back (aft).
Room Service Take advantage of room service. It’s free. All you have to do is tip the server, so make sure to take dollar bills with you and keep them handy. You can even request Mickey ice cream bars. Before you sail away, it’s nice to order the cheese platter. You can even have a continental breakfast delivered each morning if you wish.
Disney Characters The lines for character greetings usually start forming about 15 minutes before the scheduled greeting time, so if you can get there 10 minutes beforehand, you won’t have a long wait once the characters arrive. If your kids would like to get Disney characters’ autographs, you don’t even have to stand in line. Just take a photo mat, white T-shirt, pillowcase or autograph book with permanent markers in a bag to Guest Services and make a request to get your item signed. Just remember to label your bag or include a note with your complete name and cabin number in the bag so they know who to return the signed item to.