After my trip on the Disney Fantasy a few weeks ago, I’m definitely “on board” (pun intended) with the idea of family cruises. However, like most family vacations, a cruise vacation requires lots of advance planning, and if you don’t know what to expect, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared BEFORE you leave! Based upon what I learned, here’s my advice for those families planning to go on a Disney cruise.
Disclosure: While my first Disney Cruise was on board the Fantasy for a complimentary media cruise, I’ve since cruised many times at my own cost, and twice as part of Disney Social Media Moms. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click though one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
Arrive early. For most, this means flying in the day before and spending the night at a local hotel. For cruises leaving from Port Canaveral, we stay at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport. Check prices and reviews here. They offer luggage service to the cruise terminal if you are taking the Disney transportation from the airport the Port Canaveral.
Make sure you have an early onboard time, so you can spend that first day exploring the ship. If you are arriving via the Disney transportation, you won’t need to book your onboard time. You can just arrive on one of the motor coaches. Concierge guests and platinum Castaway Club members get access to the ship first.
Make meal plans early. There are premium adult-only restaurants (Palo on all ships, and Remy on the Fantasy and Dream) that require advance reservations. You can make them online when you check in to your cruise, although a limited amount of reservations may be available on board.
When you first reserve your cruise, you’ll need to choose a time for your dinners – either the early or late seating. This can be changed, based on availability, but it’s always a good idea to make your request early.
Complete Online Check-in Early. There are a lot of papers you need to fill out for your cruise, so it’s best to check in as soon as you can. But more importantly, you can choose your port arrival time at this point, if you aren’t arriving on Disney transportation.
If you are a first-time Disney cruiser, you’ll be able to check in 75 days in advance. As you move up to silver, gold and platinum statuses in the Castaway Club (DCL’s frequent cruiser program), you can check in earlier – 120 days prior to sailing for platinum guests, 105 days for gold guests, and 90 days for silver guests.
These windows also apply to booking cabanas at Castaway Cay, making premium dining reservations, and scheduling excursions. Keep in mind that your cruise will need to be paid off before you can fully check in.
Be smart with packing. Keep in mind that you can’t plug in your own hair dryer (one is provided), and there’s no iron in the rooms. Also, space in the bathroom is very limited – there’s no spreading out of all of your toiletries (like I tend to do). Think vertical space!
If you are traveling on a Caribbean itinerary, you may find that you are spending much of your days in your bathing suit. In that case, you may not need as many outfits as you’d expect. There are laundry rooms on board in case you need to wash clothes during your trip. Laundry detergent can be purchased in the laundry room, or bring along your own.
You’ll also want to make sure that you pack all essentials, like medication and sunscreen. There are shops on board, but they don’t have a huge selection of necessities.
Bring magnets! All of the doors are magnetic, so consider bringing magnetic hooks so you can hang things from the door. Also, many Disney Cruise Line guests decorate their stateroom doors with magnets as a way to differentiate their door from the sea of identical looking doors.
Fish extenders: Some guests also participate in fish extender exchanges, where you place a carrier outside your door and exchange little presents. Read more about fish extenders here.
Take a look at my stateroom tour video, so you know exactly what to expect. Note that power strips are no longer allowed so don’t bother to pack one.
Disclosure: I was aboard the Disney Fantasy as part of the Traveling Mom Retreat at no cost to me. All opinions are my own.