*Update* The newest ship, Disney Wish, will set sail January 2022!!!
Disney vacation cruises are amazing – magical even! We sailed on the Disney Fantasy and learned tons of Disney cruise secrets that I hope will help you be prepared for your Disney Cruise.
Some of these Disney cruise secrets will save you money and some will save you time. All will help make your first cruise even more magical!
Disney Cruise Secrets:
1. FREE Soda – Okay, this really isn’t a secret but you may not realize that you can get free soda on a Disney Cruise. No more paying for soda cards!
Soda is free from one of the soda machines found on the pool deck and during dinner. If your itinerary includes Castaway Cay, you can also get free soda on the island. You can’t get free soda from the bars or from room service. Silly, I know.
2. Pack Your Own Princess and Pirate Costumes – Kids will want to dress up during the Pirates IN the Caribbean night. Bring your own pirate or Caribbean inspired costume for more pirate fun and to save money – you don’t want to be tempted to buy a costume on board for big bucks!
I even brought a Caribbean style dress and bandanna for pirate night. Hubs refused 🙂 Although, I probably could have gotten him to wear something like this Jolly Roger Skull & Crossbones T-shirt.
The cruise ship will provide bandannas for you to wear, so you will have something provided if you choose not bring dress-up clothes. After Halloween sales are great for picking up pirate costumes for less. Amazon is also a good bet year round.
If you have a little girl, she’ll likely want to dress up like a princess. Purchase dresses from home (we found ours on sale through the Disney Store). LuLu wore her Cinderella and Tangled dress pretty much the entire trip.
If you’ll be on a Marvel Day at Sea or Star Wars Day at Sea sailing, pack those costumes. Having photos with your child dressed up next to their favorite Princess or Super Hero will make the cruise experience even more memorable.
One more thing to pack – bring water shoes or flip-flops to wear around the pool deck. It can get hot especially on little feet.
3. Take Your Own Photos – There are countless photo opportunities on the ship – character greetings, formal night, boarding the ship…. A crew member will take a professional shot, but they will also snap a picture with your camera if you ask.
The only time they wouldn’t take our picture was during the formal nights. No problem! We just waited until after dinner and had another guest take a pic of our family then I returned the favor.
That being said, my favorite photo is one that we purchased from formal night. We all dress up on formal nights, so the entire family looked their best. Hubs wore a suit, Monkey was in a dress shirt with black slacks and LuLu and I were wearing our nicest dresses. It is definitely worth getting your photo taken. Plus if you arrive early to dinner, you’ll avoid the lines.
4. Character Greetings – You will have the opportunity to meet Disney Characters throughout the cruise. Find locations and times in your personal navigator, so you can stop by when it’s convenient for you. If you have a girl, you MUST got to the Princess Gathering. ALL the princess will be together in one place, so you can get a picture with each one.
Check the times in your navigator on the first day of your cruise to get a ticket in advance. This is obviously a very popular event! You will need tickets for visiting with Anna and Elsa. As well as special activities such as “Tea with Alice” or whomever the character event is with on your ship.
If you’re child has a princess costume, it makes the pictures even cuter! We did a few of the pictures with both kiddos, but have pictures of just LuLu with each Princess as well.
Aladdin was walking around the line while we were waiting, so I got a picture of K with him too!
If you miss out on getting character photos, show up for the “Til We Meet Again” show. After the show, characters will wander around for photos.
5. Pack Alcoholic Beverages – Disney cruise lines allow you to pack your own alcohol in your carry on luggage and bring it on with you during embarkation.
We not only carried on wine for me, but cans of beer for hubs. That can save you a TON of money! Just know that you need to consume these beverages in your room or in public areas. However, you can bring your own bottle to dinner and pay a $25 corking fee. Don’t forget to bring a travel corkscrew, so you don’t have to pay that fee with every bottle!
Updated Limits –
Disney Cruise Line Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage.
Guests wishing to consume wine or champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corking fee of $25.00 per bottle.
Bringing liquors and spirits on board is prohibited. Alcohol brought on board may not be consumed in any lounge or public area.
We also carried on a case of water to drink in the room and to pack in our bags when we visited our cruise destinations. Again, this must go in your carry-on.
We drove to the terminal, so airline restrictions were not an issue. If you’re flying in, there is a Publix on the way to the Port Canaveral terminal. Check maps near other terminals you are sailing from to find more grocery stores.
You can also save money by purchasing the drink of the day or by purchasing a 21 oz Disney Cruise Line Beer Mug for $14.95 and getting a refill for the price of a 16 oz. They also offer wine, champagne, beer bottle packages that could be a good value if you don’t want to pack your own.
6. Character Call – Schedule a character call with Mickey or Goofy before you depart. My kids thought it was cool to have Mickey call, even though my oldest knew it was a recording 🙂
7. Decorate your Door – Bring magnets to decorate your door. You can’t use tape or anything adhesive, but the metal doors are great for posting a wipe-off board if you need to leave messages for other travelers. It’s also nice to decorate for a birthday, holiday or anniversary.
Since we sailed over Christmas, I purchased plastic window clings from the Dollar Tree to further decorate the room. I put a Christmas tree cling on the mirror when I placed a few presents out on Christmas Eve. The other holiday decoration clings went on the veranda door.
Please note that over-the-door hanging organizers are now prohibited.
From the Official Policy: “You are welcome to place magnetic signs on your stateroom door. Though, please note that Concierge staterooms on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have wooden doors. You may not affix items to your stateroom doors using tape or any adhesive, including removable gel adhesives, as this can damage the doors’ finish.
Also, using over-the-door hanging organizers is prohibited, as they can scratch and/or disfigure stateroom doors and trim.”
8. Stay on the Ship During Port Days – The entire ship is your playground on port days. You’ll have your pick of lounge chairs, a nearly deserted pool, little or no wait for the AquaDuck and short lines waiting for lunch or a snack.
You can also save money by coming back to the ship for a late lunch at the buffet instead of eating at one of the touristy restaurants just off the ship.
Furthermore, you don’t have to get off the ship immediately when you pull into port. If you don’t have an early excursion scheduled, wait to get off the ship. Have a leisurely breakfast then disembark once the crowds die down.
9. Free Room Service – You can have food and beverages delivered to your stateroom for free. However, gratuity is not included. The kiddos can get a Mickey Bar before bed each night as an extra special dessert.
10. Eat Ice Cream Sandwiches on Castaway Cay – Castaway Cay is one of our favorite islands and we learned a couple of tricks when we visited. First, they serve large (and delicious) chocolate chip cookies. BUT that’s just not enough yummy goodness. Grab 2 and take them to the ice cream station to make your own ice cream sandwich. YUM!!
The kids will likely be sticky after their treat, so they can swim around with the fish to rinse off 🙂
11. Bring a Lanyard for Your Key to the World Cards – Every member of your party is provided with a Key to the World card that will get you on and off the ship, into your stateroom and allow you to make purchases on board the ship. We purchased the kids Disney lanyards before departing, so they could always have their cards with them. If you are a silver member, you can get lanyards for free.
You can also put a set amount of money on each child’s card. The money can be used in stores and in the arcade.
12. Pin Trading – Just like at the Disney Parks, you can pin trade while on the ship. Pins are available for purchase in the stores and there will be a select time and location listed in your Navigator for pin trading. Dont’t miss it! During the trading sessions, cast members must let you pick the pin to trade, so my kids always trade a smaller pin for a cool, larger pin 🙂
13. Use Dine and Play if You Have Late Seating Dinner – While we learned that late dinner just didn’t work for our family, parents can have their children take part in Dine and Play – only if you have the 2nd dinner assignment. Children receive their meals early then are escorted by counselors to youth clubs to play while adults enjoy their dinner. Kids would rather play than sit though a long dinner anyways!
Kids can also eat lunch or dinner in the youth area if parents want a quiet dinner alone. This could be great if you want to eat at a specialty restaurant such as Palo or Remy. Just not that while they offer them food, they won’t make your child eat. It’s a good idea to confirm with your child that they actually ate dinner before starting their bedtime routine.
14. Book Activities Before You Sail – You can book excursions, spa treatments, specialty dining, bippity boppity boutique and more in advance. Once you have your booking reservation number, just sign-in on the Disney Cruise site to make reservations. You can also register kids for the youth club and check-in online.
*The activities can be booked 75 days in advance for first time cruisers and as early as 120 days prior to sailing for Platinum Castaway Club members.
If you can’t get the reservation you want online, make sure to arrive early on embarkation day. Some spots are held for on board booking, so you’re chance of getting a reservation is pretty good if you’re able to board early.
15. Don’t miss the 2nd visit to Animators Palete – On longer sailings you’ll have another chance to visit the dining rooms, don’t miss your 2nd visit to Animators Palete. Kids will love drawing during their meal then seeing their creations come to life in a show.
16. Enjoy the Aquaduck at night – Riding the Aquaduck is always a favorite. But riding it at night is an even cooler experience. Try riding while other passengers are at dinner or the shows. You should find much shorter lines. Another time to ride with less lines is early on embarkation day.
17. Complete Online check-in early & select an early arrival time – Getting on the ship early is a great way to start off your vacation and enjoy the ship before it gets too crowded. We selected an 11am arrival time and were on board around noon. We had time to eat lunch, tour the ship (except the staterooms) and lounge around by the pool. Make sure to pack swimsuits and sunscreen in your carry-on!
It’s not really a Disney cruise secret, but I want to suggest visiting the Detective Agency and completing the mysteries. My kids had a blast solving the cases! It’s a great way to see the ship and keep kids entertained.
Another tip is to bring your cruise navigator off the ship on port days. The navigator has the ships “all aboard” time as well as the phone number in case of emergencies. Or just snap a photo of the information on your phone.
Need more ideas to save money? Try my Disney Cruise Money Saving Tips article. Don’t cruise until you’ve tried these tips!
I can’t possibly mention all the Disney Cruise Secrets and tips in one post, so I would highly recommend purchasing one of the books below for more information on all ships and the ports of call.
- PassPorter’s Disney Cruise Line and Its Ports of Call
- The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line
What are your Disney Cruise tips and tricks? I know other seasoned cruisers have more Disney Cruise Secrets to share.