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Tips for Your First Day on the Disney Cruise Line

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We’ve gone on several family cruises over the past few years, and they are always my favorite vacations of the year. I love the uninterrupted time with my family, and since everything is taken care of for you, I enjoy relaxing. But before you can completely relax on your cruise, you need to get through the first day. The first day can be stressful, and it’s always my least favorite part of the trip (except for leaving). Here are some tips for your first day on the Disney Cruise Line (although these tips can also be applied to other cruise lines as well).

Planning a Disney Cruise for the first time? Check out these tips and tricks for your first day sailing on the Disney Cruise Line including decorating your stateroom door.

Related: Disney Cruise Line Tips for First-Timers

Disney Cruise Line aquaduck

Be patient

This is the most important tip, regardless of the cruise line you are sailing on. The first day is filled with logistics and other “boring” activities that help you prepare for the perfect trip. Set appropriate expectations with yourself and your children – especially through the important evacuation drill that happens before you sail away.

I’ll be honest, I HATE the muster safety drill. It’s definitely a necessary step, but it isn’t fun. It’s important that you are patient during this short time. You are likely to be standing around for a while, possibly in the heat, waiting for the drill. Listen to the instructions, be patient, and once it’s over, you’ll be ready for your vacation to start.

hyatt orlando airport mco

Stay overnight the day before

Unless you live a short distance from the port, consider staying overnight near the port. That way, you won’t have to worry about traffic or delayed flights. It’s also great to get to the port early because you can start your vacation right away.  For flights leaving from Port Canaveral, we stay at the Hyatt Regency Orlando AirportCheck prices and reviews here. It’s right at the airport, but the rooms are still nice and quiet.

Kids with Stitch

Pack a day bag

You won’t have access to your checked bags until later in the evening, so be sure to pack essentials for the day in a day bag. Include things like prescription medication, valuables, sunscreen, dinner clothes, and swimsuits. My suitcases usually arrive in my stateroom before dinner, but I always like to have clothes for the evening on me, just in case.

You also won’t be able to access your room until later in the day, so make sure the bag isn’t too heavy. Once I carried around a day bag that just killed my shoulder. Now that the kids are a little older, I have them bring their own backpack with their electronics.

If you are planning on decorating your stateroom door, you may want to put your magnets in your day bag. We love decorating our room right when we arrive so we feel like we’ve moved into the stateroom.

Disney bus interior

Find transportation to the port

If you aren’t traveling, I’d recommend scheduling your transportation to the port in advance. Consider all of the factors, including price and convenience, before booking. For cruises departing Port Canaveral, I generally take Disney’s transportation. It costs extra but it is very convenient.

Sign up for kids’ activities

On the Disney Cruise Line, you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for your children to participate in kids’ activities right in the port. They will receive their bracelets, and you can add essential information, like allergies and other concerns, to their files.

Once you are on board, you’ll be able to attend open houses in the kids’ clubs so you can check them out. If you have kids that are a little apprehensive about going to the kids’ clubs, it’s a good idea to visit them together during one of these open house times.

Have lunch

Once we board our ship, we head right up to Cabanas to grab a table for lunch. It gets crowded, so we try to arrive early to scout out our spot.

Alternatively, there’s often at least one sit-down restaurant that is also open for lunch. Since fewer people know about that, it can be a little more low key and less crowded. There are fewer food options, but I prefer this alternative because it isn’t as crazy.

Woman mixing cocktail on the cruise

Schedule seminars

While waiting to board the ship, review the Navigator to see which seminars and activities can be booked once you are on board. On our latest cruise, I signed up for a wine tasting beverage seminar for later in the week. Do this early, because they do fill up. I use the time in the port waiting to board the ship to review the Navigator and see which seminars are offered.

Even if you are traveling with kids, it’s worth doing a seminar if you want to. The kids are likely to love the kids’ clubs, so you’ll probably have more free time than you expect.

An example of a Fish (for fish extenders) on a Disney Cruise Line ship.

Decorate your door

Once you have access to your stateroom, have fun making it your own by decorating your door with magnets. Door decorating isn’t at all required, but it’s a fun idea and a great way to identify your door. We love looking at everyone’s door decorations as we walk around the ship.

Check out this post for decorating ideas.

Download the Disney Cruise Line App

I love the Disney Cruise Line app. It includes schedule information about your entire cruise, port info, deck plans of the ship, restaurant menus, and so much more. You can also use the app to communicate with others on your cruise, even if you aren’t using cellular data or purchase WiFi on the ship. Download it before you set sail so you can still use your cellular data to do it. Then, connect with your friends and family members. We use the app to communicate all the time.

Unpack Right Away

As soon as your suitcases arrive, it’s a great idea to unpack your bags. It’s hard to live out of a suitcase while on a cruise because there isn’t a great place to store open suitcases. Instead, unpack everything, and store the bags under the bed. I like to make sure my clothes are hung up because there are no irons in the room. Hanging things up right away helps prevent wrinkles.

Collage with adult pool, cruise ship docked, and adult bar

If I do have wrinkled items, I like to walk over to the laundry room and iron them on the first night. That way, I get it over with and don’t have to iron again on my vacation.

Check Port Excursions

Even though you can book port excursions online as soon as you check-in online, you’ll find a port excursions desk onboard. If you want to add on any additional excursions, I’d recommend going to the desk on your first day to make changes.

Visit the Spa

The spa typically has an open house on the first day. If you may want to book a treatment, the open house is a good opportunity to check it out. You can also book treatments at this point. I love the rainforest room on the Disney Cruise Line, and you can buy a pass for the length of your trip if you’d like.

When booking a Disney Cruise, I recommend booking with Get Away Today. Plus, when you mention Family Travel Magazine, you get an extra $25 on board credit! Give their agents a call at 877-510-2929.

Disney Cruise Line

Have you been on the Disney Cruise Line? What tips would you recommend?

More Disney Cruise Ships Resources: Click to read more about the Disney Cruise Line ships including restaurants, tips, itineraries, activities, and more.

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Monday 7th of January 2019

The best is to use the iron the 1st day! I keep reading about the lines that happen waiting for an iron, might as well get it over with on the 1st day! Also, the sit down restaurant, I will be keeping an eye on which one is open for our cruise! I hated trying to find a spot for hubby and I at the buffet, now we have 2 kids too. that just sounds too stressful! Thanks for the great tips!

Jodi Grundig

Monday 7th of January 2019

Thanks! I usually ask at guest services to find out which restaurant is open, although it may also be printed in the navigator.


Tuesday 11th of December 2018

Hi I am bringing some disney money cards for my grandchildren will the cruise allow them to be used ?

Jodi Grundig

Tuesday 11th of December 2018

I assume you mean a Disney Gift Card? They can be used - you may want them to go to guest services to apply them to their stateroom....


Friday 5th of August 2016

Another thing to have in your day bag is your camera and autograph book. You never know when your favorite character is going to show up.

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