First off, I want to start by making it known that Disney Cruises are some of my favorite vacations I have ever been on, childish, touristy, call it whatever you like, but they’re amazing.
I was in charge of planning my family’s January 2020 cruise. Yes, my Mom trusted her 20-year-old daughter with planning the whole thing. The process is fairly standard, but I also want to share some tips my Mom and I didn’t know on our first Disney cruise that’s helped us a lot since.
You can go online here to pick your cruise based on the dates of departure, what port you’d like to depart from, or where you want to go. Once you select the cruise you’d like to go on, you can pick your stateroom. If you opt for an interior room, Disney has a “virtual porthole” in most cabins that stream a video of the water, and sometimes you might be visited by your favorite aquatic characters!
One trick I found while booking our cruise on the Disney Fantasy was that if you opt for a room with a veranda, the largest decks are in the back of the boat because those corner rooms are handicapped, so the verandas on the entire back row are noticeably bigger. The only caution with this is to make sure you don’t book the flag room. The flag room is the room in the back of the boat that’s view gets covered by the ship’s flag when it’s at port.
Another good way to book is over the phone! Disney cruise line representatives are there to help you and are incredibly nice. I ended up talking to one who used to live in my area. If you book via phone it’s easy for the representative to add comments such as first-time cruisers, no flag room, would prefer the early dining option, etc.
Stay a Day Early
When you are leaving on a cruise you have two options, you could schedule to leave either the day before your boat leaves port or the day of. If you are willing to spend extra money to make sure you won’t miss the ship, I highly recommend getting to your port a day early. If you depart from Port Canaveral, you can stay in a Disney World hotel and take advantage of Downtown Disney the day of arrival, that way you get the experience without needing to buy a park ticket. Also, if you stay at a Disney hotel the night before you leave on one of their cruises they will take your luggage early for you and provide transportation to your port the day your ship departs.
Picking Your Ship
I am lucky enough to have sailed on the Disney Magic, Dream, and Fantasy, all of them were special, but there was a clear winner. The Disney Dream is the ship to beat. Granted, Disney does a great job creating a brand standard throughout all of their ships. Every ship in their fleet has a similar vibe, but the Disney Dream stood out the most. Keep in mind that there have recently been updates to the older ships in the fleet so those have been reimagined with new dining experiences and shows since I’ve been on them, and Disney is constantly coming out with new ships. The Disney Dream is simply a gorgeous ship and its capacity is just over half of the capacity of the Fantasy, which leaves slightly more room for a personalized experience.
Depending on the locations you want to go and the port you would like to leave from, you may only have one option for which ship you’ll be leaving on. All of their ships are top-notch so don’t let the ship you’re on determine your destination unless you truly don’t have a preference.
That’s right folks they have themed cruises! The cruise my Mom and I took in January 2020 was a Star Wars cruise. Other themed cruise options include: Marvel Cruise, Halloween on the High Seas, and Very Merrytime Cruise.
What does a themed cruise mean? For Star Wars and Marvel, one of the days at sea is dedicated to that series. This means that the daily activities and characters are catered toward those movies, and crew members and guests alike can choose to dress up. It was very cool to have Darth Vader “take over” the ship. I also had a run in with some Stormtroopers and Boba Fett on the Skydeck which was very fun. Everything from the intercom announcements to the dinner menu is adjusted for the day, if your party are fans of either Star Wars or Marvel this is an amazing experience. If someone you’re going with either hasn’t seen the movies or doesn’t like them, this definitely won’t be their favorite day.
Use the App
This is the most useful tip! Once you’ve made your reservation download the app right away, do not wait until the day before you set sail. Get it as soon as possible so you can start to plan your vacation. The Disney cruise app is where you can schedule practically anything. I used the app to schedule character meet and greets (these are no extra charge, you just need to have a scheduled time), adult dining experiences at their specialty restaurants, massages, and all of our shore excursions. It’s so useful, it would be silly not to use it. Also, when you’re on the boat, all it needs is the guest Wi-Fi to work and gives you all your daily activities once the cruise starts.
See Every Show
Each ship has its own featured show that’s just on that cruise, from Frozen and Beauty and the Beast to Tangled. Every night there is a show, either before or after dinner depending on your assigned dinner time.
If you have the early dinner, the showtime you’ll go to will be after dinner and if you are assigned the later dinner time there is a showtime before your dinner starts. Each show is different and is 100% worth taking the time to go see, definitely Broadway quality.
Ask on the Ship
Are all the reservations for the specialty restaurants taken on the app? The Bippity Boppity Boutique full during your day(s) at sea? You didn’t get the dining rotation you wanted? No worries, a lot of these problems can be taken care of once you get on the ship. The crew is more than happy to adjust for things such as your dining rotation/dining time if they’re able. As far as reservations go, they normally don’t book themselves full beforehand because they know a lot of people would be disappointed if they were really booked for the entire trip months in advance. I was having the hardest time booking a reservation for Palo on the Fantasy and the day of departure I went up to the hostess and got a reservation for dinner no problem, so don’t lose hope, it never hurts to ask.
Get to Know Your Crew
The crew doesn’t change from day to day, the people why tidy up your cabin (and make those awesome towel animals) and your waiter/waitress stay with you throughout your voyage, so take the time to get to know them. Ask them about how they’re doing, what brought them to work for Disney, or how their day went, it means a lot to them.
Do you have kids but are wondering if you can sneak away for a minute alone? No problem. On a Disney Cruise they have kids clubs for children ages 6 months to 17 years old. “It’s a small world nursery” is for ages 6 months to 3 years old and is the only club that is not included in the price of your cruise. For ages 3-12 years old there’s the Oceaneer Club, ages 11 to 14 have Club Edge, and finally the teens 14-17 have Vibe. Every club has a different feel and has special events tailored for each age group.
In every stateroom there are wave phones provided that don’t require a cell plan or WiFi. Parents can take this with them around the ship and if anything comes up the cast members with your kids will give the phone a call.
There are also adults only dining options, there is at least one specialty dining restaurant aboard every Disney ship. These restaurants are adults-only but be sure to make a reservation. Other than dining, after a certain time (I believe it’s 10 pm) there are lounges and bars strictly reserved for adult guests, which host activities just for the 18+ crowd.
Hopefully these tips help you and your family plan the best cruise possible. Happy Sailing!