Disney Cruise Secrets, Tips and Tricks

Rating:
By ,   April 27, 2018 ,   Tips & Tricks

CruiseMapper's Disney Cruise Line secrets, tips and tricks provide useful information for first-timers planning their future Walt Disney ship travel vacations. Cruise tips and tricks are handy both ashore (during planning and booking your Disney voyage) and on board the liner - to know what is where, to save money and optimize your time at sea and in ports.

This survey is integrated with CruiseMapper's main cruise tips and tricks article.

Disney Cruise Line Secrets, Tips and Tricks

For your convenience, our collection of Disney cruise tips, tricks and secrets are grouped in several themed sections - PLANNING, BOOKING, PACKING, EXCURSIONS-TOURS, CABINS, SHIPS, FOOD-DRINKS, FAMILIES, KIDS and TEENS, VIDEOS.

Disney Cruise Secrets, Tips and Tricks - CruiseMapper

PLANNING

  • Upon request, the company mails its "Disney Cruise planning" DVD )free of charge). You can also get 2 free audiobooks.
  • Sign up for the free 50 MB shipboard Wi-Fi on embarkation day. Read the Connect@Sea (Disney Cruise Line's internet service) explaining the program and how to minimize the amount of Internet data used on the ship. To save traffic, put your phones in airplane mode, turn off app updates.
  • Traditionally, Disney cruise passengers engage in random acts of giving (called "Pixie Dust"). Bring some small token gifts for fellow passengers.

BOOKING

  • To save mony - book as early as possible. Occasionally, runs last minute sales, but you can’t be sure any particular itinerary (and departure date) will be on sale. In case the fare drops after booking, just contact Disney and ask for the lower rate.
  • Cruise deposits are fully refundable up to Disney's payment-in-full date - 75 days prior departure (3-4 day itineraries) and 90 days (7-day and longer itineraries, holiday cruises, departures from non-US ports, concierge-class stateroom bookings).

PACKING

Note: For more information see CruiseMapper's packing lists.

  • Pack your own costumes (princesses and pirates) - kids need to dress up during the Pirates-themed night party. To buy costumes on the ship costs pretty much. Don't miss the Pirate Party as it ends with fabulous fireworks display.
  • Buy a ground transportation package (bus transfer ticket) for cruises from Port Canaveral. You will arrive at Orlando International Airport and then transported to Disney Cruise Terminal. The package also works the reverse way. Via "Onboard Airline Check-In" on cruise terminals in Miami and Port Canaveral, passengers receive boarding passes and check luggage prior ship disembarkation and receive their bags just after landing back home.
  • Each stateroom offers plenty of underbed storage for big suitcases (clearance over 13 inches / 33 cm). 
  • Pack extra swimsuits. Those are used on many shore tours, on Castaway Cay (private island), ship's jacuzzis and swimming pools, Spa, waterslides, etc.
  • Don’t pack beach towels as Disney provides them for free.

SHORE EXCURSIONS and TOURS

  • At Disney’s private island Castaway Cay is provided complimentary shuttle. The 2nd stop is Pelican Plunge (closer to snorkeling areas and waterslides).
  • Instead of booking one tour in port cities, the group travel company provides full-scale tours which “overlay” at each port, so on European cruises you won't need to plan a thing.
  • "Adventures by Disney" also offers shortened tours in major port cities prior departure.
  • Be aware of the port surroundings. Map ship's location before disembarkation to know where is the terminal. Write GPS coordinates also on paper - smartphones or other devices could be stolen.
  • When disembarking the ship, get a travelers pouch. Wear it around the waist (inside your pants or shirt). Put in the wallet small cash and one credit card, nothing else. In the pouch put more cash, another credit card, cabin key, ID, phone numbers.
  • When disembarking the ship don't take passports, unless the country requires them. Make a color photocopy of the passport's identity page.
  • When leaving the ship, put passports (and other important documents and credit cards) in the stateroom's electronic safe. If you fail to re-board the ship, Disney sends security crew to your stateroom to open the safe, retrieve the passports (documents, cards) and leave them with company's port agent.
  • Don’t wear expensive-looking accessories (watches, jewelry, handbags) and photo-video equipment when visiting poor regions (like Mexico, Caribbean) or areas known for pickpockets (Naples, Barcelona).
  • Write down the phone number of Disney's port agent and take it with you. Also have the number of local embassy and taxi company.
  • Don't take unlicensed cabs - only those at taxi stands of hotels, major tourist destinations, airports and ports.

CABINS

Note: For detailed stateroom information (including "secret cabins", amenities, serices and bonus perks) follow these Disney ship links - FantasyDreamMagicWonder.

  • Plenty of perks are offered for concierge-level staterooms - early access to bookings, in-cabin amenities, personalized service. However, all Disney ships offer a VIP section that regular passengers usually never use. This oasis (addition to a private lounge) is outfitted with complimentary chilled face towels, sunscreens, premium deckchairs and sundeck with swimming pool.
  • Cabin showers have retractable clotheslines (extending across the cubicle) for drying clothes.
  • All cabins have 3 standard (American) power outlets: - 2 at the writing desk and 1 bedside.
  • Cabins' flat TV offers a limited number of live programs, but an extensive selection of Disney-owned TV and movie channels - Disney Channel, ABC, ESPN, 24-hour news channel (CNN).
  • In every stateroom Disney provides “brick” style Wave Phones for using on the ship. They allow passengers to stay in touch with their families / friends. Two such phones are provided per stateroom, with 1 charger. Ashore, Wave Phones only work on Castaway Cay.

SHIPS

  • At 4:00 pm there is a mandatory muster drill held on embarkation day on each Disney ship. Every passenger must attend to learn the locations of lifeboats and liferafts and receive various ship safety-related  information. Lifeboat drills take ~30 min. Bringing life jackets (from the cabin's closet) is not required.
  • Disney tells the liner leaves at 4 pm, but check-in at Port Canaveral begins at 11 am, while embarkation starts around 12 noon.
  • Platinum Castaway Club members and passengers in concierge-level staterooms (including all suites) enjoy priority check-in and boarding being included in Embarkation Group 1.
  • Concierge level passengers on the ships Dream and Fantasy can visit the exclusive Concierge Lounge to relax and have free snacks. They are personally assisted with bookings and reservations.
  • Stay informed about daily scheduled activities via the "Cruise Director TV Show". Each day, ship's Cruise Director records a 10-15 min video which repeats all morning (starting at 5 am).
  • Pin trading is traditional on Disney ships, with pins available for purchasing in the onboard shops. Locations and times are listed in the Navigator newsletter. On this special night, ship's officers gather dressed in their white uniforms, each wearing a lanyard of Disney pins.
  • A good spot to watch the sailaway party is Deck 10 (Magic and Wonder) and Deck 12 (Dream and Fantasy).
  • On Dream and Fantasy, cabin light switches are activated via "Key to the World" cards, but alternate cards also work (like AAA or library cards).
  • Use the secret navigation tricks on Disney ships and you'll never be lost. If the walkway's carpeting is right-side up (ship funnels pointing forward) you’re walking forward (to the bow). The letters on the "Key To The World" card are a reminder of the restaurants order you’ll be visiting each night (LAC stands for Lumiere’s-Animator’s Palate-Cariocas). On Dream and Fantasy you can keep track of your location by looking at cabin doors: port (left) rooms feature fish clips, while starboard (right) rooms feature starfish clips.
  • Exchange your currency on the ship - exchanging bills is commission-free. Disney also honors transaction’s rate of exchange for leftover money. Present the receipts before final disembarkation - Disney will convert your foreign currency back to preferred denomination at the same rate, even in case the exchange rate has changed. This only applies to bills, not coins. Disney ships don't have ATM machines.
  • Ride the Aquaduck waterslide in the evening - wait lines are shorter as most passengers are at dinner or shows. Another best time with less lines is early on embarkation day.
  • Newest movies are released in land-based theatres and on Disney ships simultaneously. Movies on the ship are complimentary.
  • The dinner show at "Animator’s Palate" dining room is always a highlight, but the second visit (called "Animation Magic") is also a must. Passengers get to draw their own characters and mid-meal can see them comming to life. The show is offered on longer itineraries and on all ships.
  • On all Disney cruise itineraries are scheduled character greetings - at 5:15 pm embarkation day. If you skip character meet-and-greet, your last chance for taking photos is at the goodbye show "Til’ We Meet Again" (on the voyage's last night).
  • All disembarkation and shopping talks are recorded and replayed on cabin TVs repeatedly.
  • On Dream and Fantasy, the adults-only swimming pool area "Satellite Falls" are great for sunbathing and relatively uncrowded.
  • Arrive at the Nightclub 15 min early before the first show to get front row seats.
  • Ship's Gym ( Fitness Center) is complimentary and accessible via the Spa on all ships. Locker rooms, showers and the sauna are shared with the Spa. Robes, towels and water are provided free of charge. You can also borrow an iPod shuffle.

FOOD and DRINKS

  • Disney ships don't have water fountains. Disposable bottles are rather expensive. The best place to fill up is at the complimentary soda machines (Deck 9 or 11). Stateroom's tap water is drinkable, but sinks are too shallow for large bottles. If you bring bottled water packs on the ship,ycarry them through embarkation as they can't be with the luggage.
  • Soda is free on all Disney ships during dinner. On Castaway Cay, passengers get free soda on the island.
  • Ask your waiter for water when he / she asks if you’d like something to drink.
  • Bring alcoholic beverages because Disney allows passengers packing their own alcohol in the carry on luggage and bringing them on the ship during embarkation.
  • Buy "drink of the day" or 21-oz "Disney Cruise Line Beer Mug" (USD 17) and get a refill for the price of 16-oz.
  • If you buy a bottle of wine in onboard restaurants and can’t finish it, the wine is stored for you and served the next day.
  • If you miss your fixed dinner seating, Cabanas (Beach Blanket on Disney Wonder) is open for dinner (excepting first and last night of the voyage) with no assigned seating.
  • On Castaway Cay you can make your own ice cream sandwich. They serve large chocolate chip cookies, so take some, go to the ice cream station and make the "cool sandwich".
  • Parents can use "Dine and Play" if they have late dinner seating (second assignment). Kids receive their meals earlier, then are escorted by youth counselors to the their respective (age group) clubs while adults enjoy dinner.
  • Kids can eat lunch or dinner in the ship's youth area. This is convenient if parents want to have a quiet dinner at specialty restaurants.
  • The adults-only Cove Cafe offers complimentary snacks with the purchased coffee drinks.
  • If you buy coffee frequently, ask for rewards cards. Each time you purchase a specialty coffee drink, the coffee card is punched and every 6th beverage is free. Keep the card as it can be used on future Disney cruises.
  • Twinings tea bags are offered in main dining rooms and at lobby deck's beverage stations. In the dining rooms, upon request, waiters bring a pitcher of milk.
  • In most adults-only lounge areas is offered hot snack buffet (for 1 hour or so) around 11 pm each night. The buffet station is either in the hallway or the area between the venues.
  • On Alaskan cruises (during the "Tracy Arm Day") are offered complimentary snacks on pool deck (forward section), including hot soup, cocoa, cookies. Behind the buffet is available BBQ lunch (sausage, steak, fish).
  • At cruise ship dinner, passengers can order more than 1 entree, appetizer or dessert. Shirley Temple (Sprite with cherry) and Roy Rogers (Coke with cherry) are free with dinner.
  • Off-menu items you can order during dinner include grapes, crackers, seafood platter, cheese platter.
  • If you enjoyed a particular entree or dessert, ask your server to get it for you, but give a day’s notice. 
  • Seasick passengers - don't miss dinner, ask your waiter for a portable meal.
  • During one of the rotational dinners, passengers eat at "Animators Palate". Before serving your meal, waiters invite each passenger to draw a character that later is animated and comes to life. Come to dinner earlier to make a better drawing and colour the character.
  • The most exciting mouse-shaped treat is the cappuccino served at Cove Cafe.
  • The list of hidden (secret) cabin room-service menu items includes pie of the day, dessert of the day, cake of the day, Mickey Bar (ice cream bar), Smuckers Uncrustables (peanut butter sandwiches) 
  • Passengers in concierge-level staterooms (also suites) are allowed to order dinner from the rotational restaurants during dinner hours. They can also order hot breakfasts during the voyage.
  • Depending on cruise ports, some destinations allow passengers to take food when disembarking the ship.
  • At the ship's Theater there are concession stands selling expensive goodies (canned sodas, candy, bagged popcorn). Go to the self-serve drink station (on pool deck) and get free soda for the evening show. Free cookies are offered at counter-service locations, and also can be room-service ordered. Concierge passengers on Fantasy and Dream get free popcorn, snacks and soda cans from the Concierge Lounge. Theater's snack bar offers refillable popcorn buckets (can be refilled for the rest of the voyage at cheaper price).

FAMILIES

  • Sign Disney's parent authorization form because the company uses a security system prohibiting kids under 18 yo from getting on or off the ship unless accompanied by an adult booked in the same stateroom. Remember to turn it into Guest Services on embarkation day.
  • Bring lanyards for Disney's "Key to the World" cards (allowing embarkation / disembarkation, onboard purchases, cabin access). Silver members (Castaway Club loyalty program)) get free lanyards. Money can be also put on kids cards to use it in ship stores or in the arcade.
  • Use Disney's "Navigator App" for family communications on the ship via mobile phones. The app allows free texting and can be used without buying a WiFi package. It has a huge collection of Disney emojis, making it easier to chat. Refresh the app daily to have the latest / updated information.
  • While the ship is docked in port, at the Guest Services desk are offered strollers and cribs. They are free of charge (deposit is required). Being subject to availability and available on first-come basis, it's recommended to reserve them on embarkation day.
  • The least busy laundry days are port days and earlier in the morning.
  • On formal night, the best time for taking family photos is before the early dinner seating. Plan ahead and be ready 30 min earlier.

KIDS

Note: The following Disney cruise information is for children 3-12 years old. Kids-exclusive activities are supervised and free of charge.

  • On Dream-Fantasy ships are available the following kids facilities - "It’s A Small World Nursery" (Deck 5, for infants and toddlers 3 months to 3 yo, fees per hour apply, advance reservations required), Oceaneer Club (Deck 5, kids 3-12 yo, with 4 themed playrooms, computers, interactive games, dress-up party plays, storytelling, multiplayer PC games), Oceaneer Lab (Deck 5, kids 3-12 yo, with 5 themed areas for movies, video games, animation studio, recording studio, craft studio, large TV screens).
  • On Magic-Wonder ships are available the following kids facilities - "Flounder’s Reef Nursery" Deck 5, for infants and toddlers 3 months to 3 yo, fees per hour apply, advance reservations required),
  • Remember to register for "Kids Club" during online check-in. On embarkation day, visit the “Check-in Desk” for all scheduled kids activities.
  • Upon boarding, have the children wear swimsuits under their clothes to be among the first at AquaDuck and other waterslides.
  • Take your girl to the "Princess Gathering" event as all "princesses" will be there.
  • On all Disney ships there is the "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique" - kids beauty salon for "princesses and pirates" with free services ("Pixie Dust") provided by the Fairy Godmother in Training.
  • Schedule a Disney character call (recording) before departure. Each stateroom is entitled to 2 calls. Select Disney characters, set date and time, enter cabin's phone number.
  • Upon boarding, go to Guest Services desk to pre-book Disney "Meet and Greets". The company offers free tickets (but limited as number) for some character meetings on the ship.
  • Reserve online the free of charge "Disney Junior Character Breakfast" (available at Animator’s Palate restaurant). Each Disney character visits tableside while kids eat there.
  • Take younger kids to the Friendship show to be onstage with Mickey and Minnie, and also get free T-shirts.
  • On Dream-Fantasy ships there is a kids-only splash pool (Mickey’s Pool) on Deck 11 (midship). This is freshwater pool (2 ft / 0,6 m deep) with "Mickey Slide" (yellow waterslide).

TEENS

Note: The following Disney cruise information is for teenagers (children 14-17 years old). Teen-exclusive activities are supervised and free of charge.

  • On Dream-Fantasy ships are available the following teen-only facilities - arcade (Arr-cade, Deck 11), Vibe Teen Club (Deck 5, disco and lounge with indoor-outdoor areas - nonalcoholic bar, dance area, big video wall, Internet, computer games room, DJ spinning classes, karaoke and dance parties, cinema, table games, sundeck with 2 whirlpools and 1 swimming pool), Chill Spa (Deck 11, relaxation room, treatment rooms / massages, teeth whitening).
  • On Magic-Wonder ships are available the following teen-only facilities - Chill Spa (Deck 9, relaxation room, treatment rooms / massages, teeth whitening).
  • Edge is the “tween” club for 11-14-year-olds, but if your kid is in the overlapping range of Edge and Vibe, they can get access to both. Disney will sometimes be flexible about the age groups for the clubs, and will allow a kid that is a little younger into the older teen club when they have space in the club, and especially if they have a sibling or friend there.

VIDEOS (ship tours)

Next YouTube video reviews the Disney ships Dream and Fantasy (CruiseMapper deckplan links).

Next YouTube video reviews the Disney ships Magic and Wonder (CruiseMapper deckplan links).

Like CruiseMapper's other "tips and tricks" articles, our Disney-related survey is a "wiki" work in progress - constantly updated with new additions and changes. Expect to find here more useful information and more Disney cruise secrets revealed the next time you visit this page. Enjoy your Disney vacations, and good luck!