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Our Top 10 Tips for Your First Disney Cruise

by Mommy Frog on January 17, 2024
1 Orlando Video


Ahoy! You’ve decided to take your maiden voyage. Welcome aboard to the wonderful world of cruise vacations. This calls for a sailabration! But, before you cast off, we've got a list of the top 10 invaluable tips tailor-made for first-time cruisers like you. These tips will ensure that your inaugural cruise goes off without a hitch. And here's a pro tip — did you know that you can now book trips on all Disney Cruise Line ships through Undercover Tourist? Plus, the best part is there are no booking fees, and you'll enjoy exclusive Disney Cruise Line savings.

Let's dive into the adventure together!

Top 10 Tips for First-Time Disney Cruisers

1. Remember the Early Frog Gets the Worm

If your idea of a dream vacation is escaping the cold, snowy weather of wintertime on a balmy four-night journey through the Caribbean during Christmas break — you are not alone!

Book your sailing as far out as you possibly can to maximize your chances of getting in on popular ships, itineraries, the length of cruise you're looking for, certain ports of call and even room types. Spring break, summertime and Christmas are especially popular times to "seas the day." So if possible, don’t delay! Worried about a change in plans? Add-on travel insurance for additional peace of mind. And pssst ... your favorite frog family has you covered there too!

One last tip for pre-booking punctuality: If you're flying to your port destination, plan on arriving the day before your ship departs. Your cruise line won’t care about delays, rental car issues or missed connections. They will set sail without you, so it’s best to give yourself a big buffer for worst-case scenarios. Plus, there are usually lots of fun things to do near departure ports OR you could turn your cruise vacation into a Walt Disney World land-and-sea vacation with park time and resort stays before (or after) your sailing.

2. Seriously, Remember — The Earlier, the Better

This might sound like a repeat of no. 1, but hear us out. This tip is all about how to stay on top of your vacation planning post-booking.

While most froggies think of a cruise vacation as a relaxing adventure out on the great big blue, you will want to do some prep work early on to make sure you can make the very most out of your time (and money.) We literally can knot emphasize this enough!

Disney Cruise Tips - Docked Disney Wish at Castaway Cay

If you’re financially able to, make sure your cruise reservation is paid in full ASAP. Why? Because as soon as your booking window opens (determined by your Castaway Club membership level) you can start booking onboard magic!

In addition to the many activities and entertainment included in the price of your Disney Cruise Line vacation, there are plenty of magical extras you can sign up for in advance of your journey. A few favorites that fill up fast include both free and upcharge activities including:

Disney Cruise Line - Senses

  • Port Adventures for when it’s time to step off the ship and adventure into the exciting destinations on your itinerary
  • Adult dining upgrades to Palo, Remy or Enchanté
  • Onboard fun such as mixology classes, champagne tastings, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover appointment times and Goofy's Sport Deck experiences such as golf simulators
  • Spa and fitness special offerings
  • Nursery bookings for your littlest tadpoles
  • Special ticket-required character meet & greets

In addition to booking the fun stuff, be sure to fully fill out all of your pre-arrival documents, including any needs for ground transportation, airline information, your dining rotation requests and personal information. Not only will this ensure you're all set for any special requests your party might have, but it’ll also make your check-in much quicker when you arrive at the cruise port.

3. Look Out for Late Deals

Looking to take a last-minute sailing? Don’t worry! While booking and checking in early will give you the most options, booking close to your sailing date will often score you major savings.

Cruise lines don’t want to have any empty cabins, so they’ll often heavily discount any not-yet-reserved staterooms as the sailing date approaches. Popular times for these value periods are back-to-school and during hurricane season. (Don't let this scare you. Weather is hit or miss during hurricane season and you’ll have a strong chance for beautiful sunshine and vitamin sea even when booking between May and November. If it rains, there are still tons to do onboard and if there is a serious weather alert, Disney Cruise Line will change course mid-Frog Pond — or will even cancel and reschedule your journey free of charge in rare cases — to ensure your safety.)

Disney Cruise Tips - Disney Wish Incredi-Games

Even though some of the special activities may already be sold out by the time you book a last-minute cruise, you'll still get to enjoy all the complimentary food, entertainment and magic of a Disney Cruise Line.

4. Research Your Stateroom Selection

Whether you book early or late, selecting a stateroom might feel overwhelming. There are many tiers, types and options to choose from. If you've selected a heavily discounted sailing, you might not get the choice of your stateroom but more times than not, you’ll get to select your specific cabin number and location from an interactive map during your booking process.

A little information can go a long way in making sure your home-away-from-home is a big "Shell Yeah!" for you and your frog family. A few nautical pointers are below:

  • Aft = back of the ship.
  • Forward = the very front of the ship.
  • Midship = you guessed it. This is the middle of the ship.
  • While opinions and conditions vary widely, most sailors will tell you that the lower and more central you are in a ship, the less swaying you will likely feel.
  • Some pirates say you will "rock and roll" the most when you’re on higher-up decks or closer to the very front (since you’ll be closest to where the front of the ship is breaking through waves.)
  • Need an adjoining cabin? Be sure to look at the interactive maps which will show you which cabins can be connected to each other (and which cannot).
  • Super sensitive to noise? Choose a stateroom furthest away from central staircases, nightclubs or kids' activity centers.
  • Check out the sleeping accommodation descriptions for each cabin. While a stateroom may say it "sleeps five," that might include a pull-out couch bed or an in-wall bunk bed platform. If that doesn’t float your boat, you may want to choose another type or book two rooms to fit the whole family comfortably.
  • Looking to stay on budget? Book an interior room. They’re less pricey, and thanks to the magic of Disney, some of the rooms feature an "interactive porthole" which is a window-shaped screen within your stateroom that will make it "look" like you’ve got an ocean view. Plus, you may even get a visit from Nemo and friends.
  • Still can’t decide? Google your ship name and the stateroom numbers you are considering. There are many online message board sites where previous cruisers will share their review, photos and opinions on what it was like to stay in that exact room! If that exact room isn’t reviewed, there will be similar rooms listed in the same category.
  • But remember; you really can’t go wrong. If you’re hoppin’ to all the fun a Disney Cruise Line ship has to offer, you won’t be spending that much time in your stateroom anyhow. If you have a major issue, contact your stateroom attendant to see if they can solve your problem or even move you if there are empty cabins available. Just because you’ve left solid ground behind doesn’t mean that the Disney magic and legendary service won’t follow you along while you’re at sea.

5. Watch Your Watch During Port of Calls

We promise this is the last time-oriented tip, but it’s an important one!

Be sure to keep an eye on your watch and/or to make sure your phone has automatically reset to any local times when doing excursions off-ship and exploring your ports of call. The ship crew will give you a time that you must be back by, and frog friends, they mean it!

Disney Magic - Minnie Mouse posing in a red jeep on Castaway Cay

While there’s a little bit of a buffer of course, if you’re not back on time, they WILL leave without you. And (insert big ribbit and gulp here), you’ll be on your own to make travel accommodations home, both logistically and financially. Meanwhile, your belongings and fellow cruisers will be sailing off into the sunset. Don’t let this hoppen to you! There are plenty of other ribbeting ways to get your thrills during your vacation. Think more water-coaster and less castaway.

6. Pack a Carry-On for Embarkation and Disembarkation Days

Mommy Frog’s favorite thing to do when cruising is to snag an early onboarding time. This will get you on the ship well before your ship departure time. (You’ll choose this during your online registration.) For example, on a typical Caribbean Cruise, your ship will depart at 4:45 p.m. with a Sail Away Party at 4:15 p.m., but you can hop onboard as early as 10 to 11 a.m.! That means, you’ll get to take a ship tour, hit up the lunch buffet and even take a swim with your frog squad before your cruise even sets sail!

Because your luggage will be stowed away upon check-in and will be taken away again during your last night onboard, make sure to pack a carry-on bag so you’ll have all your favorite things at your froggy fingertips. We’d suggest having the following in your carry-on so you can spend a great morning and afternoon enjoying the ship to the fullest:

Disney Cruises - View of the Funnel Vision Screens on the Disney Wish

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing suits
  • An extra change of clothes
  • Any swim goggles, earplugs, books or other items you like handy when splashing around
  • Any prescription medication, glasses or other items you’ll need before reuniting with your luggage. (Note: Your stateroom will likely not be ready until the afternoon time even if you onboard early.)
  • Your phone, camera and chargers
  • And of course: your wallet, passport and all pre-arrival documents listed in your reservation confirmation. (Note: During online check-in, you’ll be able to link your credit card to your "Key to the World" card that you’ll receive. This will be your room key, photo identification and payment method for the rest of your voyage.)
  • One last packing tip: While you likely won’t need or want this in your carry-on, Disney Cruise Line is BYOB-friendly. Meaning, you can bring your own alcohol on board. Yeah, buoy! Check the limits per 21+ cruiser before you pack your bags, but this is a great way to enjoy some imbibes on a budget or have your favorite sip on hand while out to sea.

7. Avoid Sea (Frog) Legs and Stay Well

If you’ve never cruised before, you might be nervous about motion sickness. The good news is that most cruise ships are HUGE! Because of the sheer size and weight of these floating cities, they’re a lot more steady and stable than you might imagine. At times, like during movies or walking long hallways to dinner, you may even froget you’re out on the ocean! But, because you are indeed out on the high seas, you will likely feel the ship’s tilt from time to time.

To make sure you don’t feel greener than a frog on your vacation, be sure to pack Sea-Bands. You can get these bracelets for about $8 at most pharmacies and their acupressure points help relieve motion sickness. You may also want to pack over-the-counter medicine such as Bonine or Dramamine in case your sailing is especially rough. While these items are available onboard, you’ll pay a pricey premium for them if you don’t bring them from home.

Disney Cruises - Ocean Views from the Stateroom Verandah

Also, try and get some fresh air. Take walks to acclimate to the motion of the ocean and look straight out at the horizon to get your bearings. Avoid your stateroom if you’re feeling queasy! Sitting in your cabin will make you feel even worse if your sea legs get the best of you, as the close quarters will make movements feel even more noticeable.

Pssst: You may also want to consider packing pain relievers, antacids (you’ll be eating a lot!) and earplugs. (It can get noisy in your stateroom hallways, during rainstorms or if a door slams nearby.)

While sailing, you’ll see hand-sanitizing stations throughout your cruise ship. Use them and use them often! Germs can spread quickly in close quarters and you won’t want to spend even a moment of your cruise feeling under the weather. There will also be Disney crew members handing out sanitizing wipes at the entrance of all restaurants and food locations. Heads up, froglets: They are not optional ;) Lastly, make sure to use a clean, new cup any time you refill your beverages. Healthy frogs are hoppy frogs!

8. Prep To Stay In Touch

Mobile App: Make sure to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. This will be your link to Wi-Fi, your itinerary details and other handy booking tools and tips. Trust us — you really want to make sure you’ve got this on your phone before your sailing, even if you’re not a big fan of mobile apps. You can always delete it once you get back on land. Just search for "Disney Cruise Line" in your smartphone or tablet app store and link your reservation number to get started.

Phone Calls, Wi-Fi & Data Plans: Need to make phone calls while you’re voyaging? Or maybe you just want to make your friends at home green with envy by posting some photos throughout your vacation? Check your options for your smartphone before you leave home. Many carriers offer travel plans for international and cruise vacations that are way less pricey than "winging it" minute-to-minute and incurring steep roaming charges on your regular plan.

Disney Cruise Tips - Disney Wish Atrium

Also, Disney Cruise Line offers Wi-Fi services onboard as well. You can use the ship's Wi-Fi for free throughout the voyage to use the features in the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app such as the Onboard Chat feature (more on that below). If you plan to do more, such as sharing photos on social media or just staying connected, you'll want to purchase an internet package. Now, if you'd rather unplug and don't intend on purchasing any Wi-Fi services, then be sure to switch off your cellular data in your phone's settings. This will ensure that your phone doesn't rack up any unexpected roaming charges while out at sea.

Onboard Communication: You might be wondering how you’ll find each other and stay in touch if your party splits up while sailing? Well, Disney’s got you covered there once again. The Disney Cruise Line Navigator app is your trusty sidekick during your cruise adventure! It's a handy smartphone app that helps you make the most of your time at sea and stay connected with your travel party.

With this app, you can easily communicate with your fellow travelers while onboard. It offers a messaging feature that allows you to send messages to your family and friends who are also using the app. This is super convenient because it means you can coordinate your plans, share exciting moments or simply check in with each other, so don’t be afraid to set out on separate adventures. You’ll easily be able to meet back up and chat while you’re off doing your own things!

9. Try Everything!

There’s so much to do on a Disney Cruise Line vacation and the large majority of it is INCLUDED in the price of your sailing. So if you’ve never tried escargot or thought you weren’t the kind of person to enjoy a Broadway show, now’s the time to give it a try! You’ve got nothing to lose.

Pack your stretchy pants because the food options onboard are as endless as the ocean’s horizon. You can choose as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you’d like to try at each meal, so don’t be worried if you’d like to try something new for fear of not liking it. You can always order something else or two of something as a "backup." It’s your vacation after all! And if there’s one thing we can guarantee: You will not go hungry.

Disney Cruise Tips - food offerings at Marceline Market

Did you know that Disney Cruise Line has the first-ever Disney attraction at sea? The AquaMouse on the Disney Wish is an innovative water coaster that takes riders on a high-speed journey through immersive show scenes, featuring beloved Disney characters, all while zooming through twists, turns and exhilarating drops. Similarly, the AquaDuck on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships is a waterslide with turns, drops and g-forces similar to a rollercoaster, all within a clear tube that’ll give you a picture-perfect view of the ocean and ports of call during your ride. The Disney Magic is home to the AquaDunk. This waterslide features a floor that drops open, shooting you straight down to several decks below! Give one of these a whirl!  You might find it’s your favorite part of your cruise adventure.

Off the ship, while on Castaway Cay, swim out to take the plunge. The Pelican Plunge that is. It’s a floating platform with two water slides, a giant bucket of dumping water, shooting water cannons and spectacular views.

Frogtastic Tip: The water at the bottom is too deep for standing, so make sure your little ones are ready to swim and note that anyone under 38' must wear a life vest to try out this Lily Pad of a good time.

If you want to try even more, sign up for a mixology class for an extra fee to try all the different sips and tastes of champagne, mixed cocktails, bourbons, wine or beers. You might head home with a brand-new favorite!

10. Don't Froget to Reeeeeeeelaxxxxxxx

Ahhhhh. Sit back and relax. You’ve deserved it!

Disney Cruise Tips - view of seating and ocean views at Rose & Bar Lounge

While planning a cruise might seem like a vast endeavor, once you’re onboard you’ll be on island time. You might find it challenging to pace yourself with so much fun and magic around every corner. So, the last thing we’ll suggest in this tenth toadally terrific tip is some ways to chill out and enjoy some downtime during your inaugural sailing:

  • Eating poolside ice cream cones (Remember: it’s unlimited and it’s free! Your inner tadpole is rejoicing!)
  • Swaying on a hammock at Serenity Bay, Castaway Cay’s adult-only tropical beach oasis
  • Making sandcastles with your frog squad on the Family Beach of Castaway Cay
  • Watching a first-run flick in the onboard Buena Vista Theatre
  • Reading a good book in a porthole window nook, a pool lounger or from the privacy of your own stateroom balcony if you’ve chosen a room with an outdoor verandah area
  • Ordering room service right to your stateroom door
  • Joining a Family Game Night at D Lounge
  • Enjoying an upper deck stroll and the Drink of the Day at sunset
  • Booking a relaxing treatment at Senses Spa for an additional fee
  • Lastly, feel free to put your camera down to enjoy being present and in the moment. Disney’s got plenty of onboard photographers to take photos for you and your family. They also offer photo packages you can peruse and purchase during or at the end of your sailing. You’ll want to look back on all the magical memories you’ve made on your first cruise long after you arrive back home!

Disney Cruises - Palo Dessert Plate

So there you have it, our top 10 Disney Cruise tips! I hope you have a magical first-time cruise vacation! Have you sailed with Disney Cruise Line before? Did we miss any of your top first-timer tips? Please share your recommendations in the comments section below!

Related: Everything You Need to Know About a Disney Cruise to Alaska

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments


Dec 1, 2023 at 10 p.m.
Aubrey Says...

Only some of the Disney ships have the magic porthole on the inside rooms. So double check before you book.


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