If you are headed out on your first Disney Cruise Line cruise, you’ll definitely want to be prepared. Preparing for a cruise can often be stressful for families, especially if you aren’t sure what to expect. Since we absolutely want you to have the best experience, here are a collection of Disney Cruise Line tips for first timers.
Disclosure: Affiliate links within. Purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links in this post helps support Family Travel Magazine®. We’ve been on a media preview cruise and two cruises as part of Disney Social Media Moms (as well as 7 cruises that I paid for on my own).
Disney Cruise Line Tips for First Timers
Book Your Disney Cruise
First, you’ll want to book your cruise. If you really aren’t sure what to do, it’s a good idea to go with a Disney travel agent, who can help you remember key dates (for final payments, etc). Otherwise, you can book directly through Disney. You’ll need to research sailing dates, ships, itineraries, and stateroom categories before you book.
My family typically books a family stateroom with verandah. I like being able to stand out on the verandah throughout the day, and it also extends the room a bit. You can see a video tour of a stateroom on the Disney Fantasy on this post. When you book, you’ll also choose a seating time for dinner. I prefer the earlier time when traveling with my kids.
Research Your Disney Cruise
After you’ve paid your deposit, it’s a good idea to do some research – about the ship, and the ports of call. You’ll find that there are so many excursions offered, and you’ll want to book them ahead of time because they do fill up.
Keep in mind the ages of your kids – some of the excursions are definitely too challenging for younger kids, but the Disney Cruise Line website does a fantastic job showing that info. You should also research the different entertainment and dining options available on board, that way you know exactly what to expect.
Related: Grand Cayman Cruise Line Excursions
Book Hotel, Airfare, and Transportation
I always recommend arriving the night before sailing if you are flying into your port of call. That will help avoid the potential of flight delays. If flying into Port Canaveral, I like to stay at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport (see the reviews on TripAdvisor and book here). You should also plan transportation to the port. When we sail out of Port Canaveral, I prefer to take the Disney shuttles, which makes it nice and easy.
Check In For Your Disney Cruise
As a first-timer, you’ll be able to check in 75 days before sailing. Disney Castaway Club members are able to check in earlier, which means that you may find some excursions are already booked up by the time you check in. I definitely recommend that you already know which excursions you want, so you can book them right after checking in. Prepare a second and third choice option as well.
At this time, you’ll also fill out the guest information form, the payment authorization form for your on board purchases, and some other forms. If you need special services when on board, this is the time to request them. You can also book certain on board experiences, like a meal at Palo,
Prep Door Decorations and Fish Extenders
If you aren’t aware, many Disney Cruise Line guests participate in a fun little unofficial program called Fish Extenders. Essentially, you get together with other families and swap little gifts throughout your cruise. My fish extender post contains all of the information that you need to know. In addition, many families decorate their stateroom doors, so you’ll want to check out my post on decorating your Disney Cruise Line stateroom door if you are interested in doing that.
Shop Before Your Trip and Pack Appropriately
There are shops on the ship, but they aren’t open when the ship is in port, and they have a limited selection of merchandise. So, you’ll want to have everything you need in your suitcase. Be sure to pack any medications you definitely need, as well as any that you may potentially need on your trip.
If you are traveling to a warm weather destination, you may find yourself wearing a bathing suit much of the day. In that case, you may not need as much daily clothing items as you’d expect. Overpacking isn’t a big deal – but keep in mind that there isn’t tons of space in your stateroom.
If your ship will have a pirate night, you may want to bring pirate apparel. It’s totally optional, but many guests do dress up.
There are a few cruise specific things you may want to bring. The doors in the room are magnetic, and along with door decorations, I like to bring magnetic hooks. That gives us a few places to hang wet clothes beyond the shower. I bought ours at the Container Store, but these from Amazon.com are similar. You may also want to purchase autograph books in advance (they are also available on the ship).
If you are participating in a fish extender exchange, in addition to your gifts, you’ll want to buy or make a fish extender. There are lots of options on Etsy.
To know what to expect on your first day, be sure to read this post. Read all of our Disney Cruise Line tips here.