I know that I repeat this in every Disney-related post for the most part, but I’ll say it again – it truly pays to do your research before a trip to the Disney Parks or on a Disney Cruise. Can you go to Disney and just “wing it?” Of COURSE you can! And you will have a fabulous trip. But the thing about Disney, is that it’s this undulating sort of puzzle. And this puzzle is PACKED with secret treats, treasures, trips and other little pockets of magic. There is just some really super cool STUFF to do, see and experience that you might never even know exist, simply because they are off the beaten path.
I love planning our Disney trips. I truly love it. It’s fun for me to scour blogs and forums and books in search of fun things for my family to enjoy during our vacation. As you might imagine, both the planning stage and then our actual trips always leave us with lots of fun tips to share with others.
In this post, I want to share some more tips for those of you who are thinking about booking or have already booked a Disney Cruise. As we prepare to board the Disney Dream in a few weeks, my planning mode has kicked into high gear as I start to fine tune my packing lists and must-do-during-the-trip list!
***Most of these items can be pre-booked online BEFORE you even set sail!! But should you forget to book OR if online shows sold out events or open times that won’t work with your schedule, you might still be able to book when you board. Spaces DO tend to open up do to cancellations, etc. It’s worth a shot!
When you board a Disney Cruise ship, expect quite the fanfare. No, really! As you board the ship, your family’s name is announced over a loudspeaker. We got something to the effect of, “The Disney Cruise Line is happy to welcome THE WEAVER FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” A row of Disney crew members claps and welcomes you aboard. It’s all so Zippity-Doo-Da-Tastic!
But before you hit that first buffet lunch, before you scope out the Walt Disney Theater, BEFORE YOU indulge in that first Mickey-approved adult beverage – there are SIX THINGS you should consider doing before the rest of your fellow cruisers think of them!
1. Sign up for Port Adventures. Check for excursions that may have shown as “full” online. If you want to add, cancel or modify a Port Adventure (also known as a shore excursion), you’ll want to stop by the Port Adventures desk to do so. It is also worth asking if any spots have opened up on excursions or cabana rentals that may have been listed online as sold out.
2. Make spa reservations. Spa reservations fill QUICKLY – especially during “days at sea” when your ship does not dock but instead spends the day sailing. If you’re desiring a massage, mani/pedi or other service, this is the time to ensure your spot.
3. Make a dining reservation for Palo or Remy or change your dining rotation. Check your Navigator once you board to find your designated location to make these reservations. Even if you tried to book Palo or Remy online and they were full, many times a limited number of bookings are held to allow guests to book while on board. You can also try calling the day-of for reservations. If other guests have canceled you may luck out and be able to grab their spot!
4. Sign the kids of up for Youth Activities and book nursery time for the babies/toddlers. Swing by the Oceaneer Club and get your kids signed up. They will get a special wrist band which is very similar to the WDW Magic Bands if you are familiar with them. The bands keep track of the kids while they are in youth activities. Kids keep these bands on the entire cruise – they are waterproof. Make sure you return them before getting off the ship though – or else you will be charged to keep them as a “souvenir.” If you have a baby or toddler on board, swing by the nursery. You can check out the facility, meet the staff, and reserve time for your little one to go in the nursery if you’d like some adult-only time during your cruise. You get a set amount of nursery hours for the duration of your cruise and there is an additional fee for the nursery (which serves the under 3 crowd). The nursery books QUICKLY so make this one of your first stops if this is important to you!
Both the nursery AND the kids’ club run open houses on boarding day. This is your chance to check out both locations, meet the staff, take pictures, etc.
5. Find out if your cruise will have any special events that require tickets (and request tickets for them). Want to attend a chocolate pairing or wine tasting with your spouse? Want to check to see if any special characters will be on your cruise for meet and greets? Sometimes, while free, there are special events on a Disney Cruise that do require tickets or pre-booking to gain entrance. Make one of your first stops on board be to the Activities Desk to request tickets* for any such events that your family would like to attend! *Recently DCL has made the switch from physical paper tickets to online reservations to things like character meet and greets and character meals (offered on select sailings). If you forgot to book online or were not able to get the time slot you wanted, stop by the Activities Desk or Guest Services to try to book once you board.
6. SWIM! When you first board your Disney Ship, your cabin will most likely NOT be ready. Usually you are allowed into your cabins at some point after 1:30 pm. The lunch buffet is open in the meantime, as well as the Concierge Lounge if you are a concierge level cruiser. Another amenity that is open? THE POOLS! Wear bathing suits under your clothes or pack them in your day bag. Go for a swim while you wait for your cabin to be ready!