Summer vacation is just around the corner for most kids in Canada and the US, which means cruise ports will see a ton of activity in the upcoming weeks and months.
If you have an upcoming Disney cruise, here are a few planning tips to make the most of your time on the ship. Don’t worry – it’s not that much work and way easier than planning a Disney World trip. I’d say a cruise vacation is much more relaxing than a theme park one too!
With multiple Disney cruises under our belts (Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Bahamian and Alaska – next up is Europe!), here’s what we’ve learned:
1. Choose the Dinner Time that Suits You
There are two seatings for dinner on Disney cruises – 5:45PM and 8:15PM. Dinner service takes about 2 hours from start to finish so depending on the age of your kids and their bedtime, choose accordingly.
2. Make Palo or Remy Reservations Sooner than Later
If you want to experience the adult only restaurants on the cruise ships, make a reservation as soon as you can. Tables fill up quickly and it’s hard to get a reservation once you’re on the cruise.
We loved the Champagne Brunch at Palo and would highly recommend it.
Unfortunately we were too late to make reservations on our most recent cruise and there were no cancellations during our trip. Boo!
3. Always Check the Personal Navigator
This daily schedule (left in the cabin by your stateroom host) provides all you need to know about activities, events, parties, and character meets each day.
I loved the table format schedules and it made it easier for my husband and I to know where we would be and when – we’d often split up taking one of the kids for some one-on-one time.
4. Don’t Miss The Shows & Movies
There are two movie theaters on board each Disney cruise ship playing recent Disney features as well as an outdoor screen by the main pool.
Movies are played throughout the day, multiple times a day so if you miss one you most likely will be able to catch it again on another day.
We watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on opening day this past December during our Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy. Oh yes, my husband decided to stay up until midnight so he could say he was one of the first ones to see it! That gives you an idea of how current their movie list is.
Every night after each dinner seating, there’s musicals and other evening entertainment – karaoke, dance parties, trivia, comedy shows etc. The musicals are Broadway-worthy and the theater was at capacity every single night of our cruise.
If you happen to miss the shows or want to avoid the crowds, you can catch them on the TV in your cabin.
5. Get Tickets for Special Character Meets
This is very important information if you have little Frozen or Princess fans in your travel group!
Several character meets require tickets and they are given out on a first-come, first serve basis.
Anna and Elsa and the Princess Gathering were two character meets that required tickets on our previous cruises.
Tickets for the Anna and Elsa meet were completely gone by dinner time on the first day of our cruise. Luckily, I happened to check the Personal Navigator and snagged one for Miss L at Guest Services.
Make sure to check the Personal Navigator as this is where we found out about these ticketed events. They might have had a sign at the Port Adventures desk or Guest Services but if there was, it wasn’t very noticeable.
While some of the princesses did show up for parties and other photo opps during our cruise, Anna and Elsa were nowhere to be found outside of their special meet and greet time.
6. Don’t Overpack
Since Disney Cruise Line doesn’t have a strict dress code, you can leave your ballgowns and tuxes at home – formal wear is optional. Trust me, you’ll need the space for souvenirs.
Laundry machines and dryers are available ($2 per load) along with detergent and dryer sheets – we brought our own from home because of skin sensitivities.
It’s fairly easy to get a machine during meal time. We did laundry once during our 5 night cruise and threw in a load before dinner. My husband stepped out between courses to move the clothes to the dryer and by the end of dinner, our clothes were ready.
There are irons and ironing boards in the laundry rooms as well. Alternatively, if you don’t want to do laundry, you can pay for dry cleaning – paid per piece.
Speaking of packing, here’s a list of what you should bring on a Disney Cruise.
7. Budget for Tips
Tips on Disney Cruise Line are automatically charged to your onboard stateroom account. Disney charges a set amount for your stateroom host, server, assistant server and dining room manager. Envelopes and paper slips with these automatic amounts printed on them are left in your cabin near the end of cruise. On the last night or morning, you hand each cruise line member the envelope.
Should you want to change the tip amount, you can leave additional cash in the envelopes or have them reprint the paper slips with the new amount at Guest services.
8. Don’t Miss the Fireworks
Pirate Night on select Disney Cruises starts with a pirate themed dinner, continues with a buccaneer bash and ends with a fireworks show and then a buffet.
The fireworks are not to be missed (who gets to see fireworks on a cruise? Not many!) so go early grab a good seat. Or, if you’re like us and have noise sensitive children, hang out at the back of the ship, near the basketball courts.
You’ll still be able to see the fireworks but are far enough that the scary music and loud pirate banter won’t bother you.