Top Disney Cruise Line Tips and Tricks You Need to Know

Disney Cruise Tips

Looking to plan your first Disney Cruise? Congratulations! Whether this is your first Disney Cruise or your first cruise ever, you can find all the Disney Cruise Line tips and tricks you need to know right here.

Cruising is a special vacation on its own, but cruising with Disney comes with a certain type of magic. Disney may have only a few ships, but with the small fleet comes big expectations. We’re giving you everything you need to know to make the most out of your magical vacation!

Disney Cruise Tips: Before You Go

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Disney gift cards can be used ahead of time to pay for the cruise, any onboard purchases during the cruise, and on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Disney Cruise Tips

If you have a Target Redcard you can get 5% off when you buy Disney gift cards. Wholesale stores like Sam’s Club and Costco also run specials on discounted gift cards. These savings add up, especially since Disney cruises come with a higher price tag than most other cruise lines!

Book Early, Don’t Wait

Some cruise lines may have last-minute deals or run sales every so often, but that’s not the Disney way. Typically, the best price is going to be as soon as bookings open. Disney Cruise Line runs on demand, so the fuller the ship gets, the higher the prices go.

Disney has a pretty simple cancellation policy if needed (hopefully not!), so go ahead and book that cruise early for the best price!

Join Your Sailing’s Facebook Group

Most sailings will have a specific Facebook group for your ship and dates. This is where you can get to know people on your sailing and sign up for fish extenders! Fish extenders are a popular gift exchange set up through cruisers (not an official DCL event).

Door Magnets

When you walk down the stateroom halls on your Disney Cruise, you will see many doors decorated with door magnets! Another unwritten rule of DCL, decorate your door! Most people use magnets because they won’t damage the metal doors, but you can still be creative.

Disney Cruise Tips

Get the App

One of our biggest Disney Cruise Line tips is to make sure you download the app before you get onboard the ship. The app holds all the information you need for your sailing. It starts at the beginning with being able to make payments, book onboard activities, and then complete your online check-in.

Once you are on board, it’s going to have your daily navigator (the schedule of all the activities each day), your dining rotation, and chat features to be able to stay connected with your party onboard.

Early Booking/Online Check In

You don’t have to book anything ahead of time to have a great vacation with DCL, but there are some perks of knowing what is available ahead of time! After you’re paid in full date, you will be able to book onboard activities, excursions, adult dining reservations, and nursery times for all the little ones under 3 years old.

The higher your status is with Disney Cruise Line, the earlier you are able to book activities. This means that there isn’t always open availability left for first-time cruisers, but there is hope!

PRO TIP: There will be guest relations areas set up on embarkation day for last-minute additions to bookings. More often than not, if you go there when you first get on board you will have a good shot of getting something you weren’t able to book online.

Online check-in is a similar process. Approximately 30 days before your cruise, you will be able to complete your online check-in. This is when you will upload all required documentation. You will upload your passport, input your payment information you want linked to your stateroom, and upload a picture of yourself to link to your account.

Once you complete these required steps, you will get a port arrival time! Just make sure on the day of your cruise you don’t show up at the terminal before your port arrival time, as they will turn you away.

Bookings and online check-in open at 12AM on the specified date. Stay up and be ready at midnight if you want something specific. Grab a coffee, put on your favorite show, set an alarm, and make a night out of it.

Disney Cruise Tips

Disney Cruise Tips: Embarkation Day

Getting to the Port

The biggest tip we can give for any cruise travel is to arrive in the area of your port the day before your cruise. Travel is very unpredictable, and the last thing anyone wants is to miss their cruise due to a canceled flight, bad traffic, or weather conditions.

If you are embarking out of Port Canaveral, consider staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel before your cruise. They offer their own bus transportation to Port Canaveral! When you use Disney transportation, you also get the perk of being some of the first people on the ship.

There are also several other hotels near Port Canaveral as well.

Have an “Arrival Day Bag”

When you arrive at the terminal, they will take your luggage up front. The next time you see it, it will be outside your stateroom! Typically, you get your luggage pretty quickly, but there is always the possibility it may take a little longer. Pack an arrival bag with all important medication, must-have items, a bathing suit, and a change of clothes for dinner for everyone in your party.

Unlike most cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line lets anyone 21 and over bring up to six cans of beer, or two bottles of wine per person. These MUST be carried on; they cannot be put in checked luggage! There is nothing better than sitting on your verandah after a day at Castaway Cay, sipping on your glass of wine as you prepare to get ready for dinner.

Getting Settled with Little Ones

If you are traveling with babies or toddlers, Disney Cruise Line is top-notch. Disney will provide pack-and-plays for your little ones to sleep in if you request it. They will even put a diaper genie in your room AND change the bag out for you! (This is the real winner right here, parents of young kids know!)

Further, they allot a certain amount of strollers to rent at guest services as well. If you need to rent a stroller, I suggest going there first once you get on the ship.

Do you need a stroller? That’s completely up to you. Smaller, umbrella-sized strollers are ideal. While the ship is huge, there are some tight quarters you may have to fit into. When we took my son on his first Disney Cruise, we used a folding umbrella stroller everywhere and had no issues getting around.

You know your child best, but if they nap in the stroller this is a great way to explore and take advantage of adult time where you aren’t stuck in the room for 2 hours while they nap. We were able to go to Adults Only Disney Movies Trivia one afternoon while our son napped in his stroller!

Youth Club Open House

On embarkation day, all the youth clubs will be running open houses where you can go register your children and also explore the spaces. I highly suggest, especially with younger children, taking advantage of that open house and letting your kids get comfortable with the environment before you drop them off for the first time.

The Oceaneer Clubs are free for kids 3 and over, as long as they are potty trained. The It’s a Small World Nursery is available for babies and toddlers aged six months to three years old, and they do not have to be potty trained. It’s a Small World Nursery does come at a nominal fee, but they are fantastic!

Disney Cruise Tips: The Disney Way

If you have cruised a different cruise line before, you will notice some distinct differences on how DCL operates. Having these tips ahead of time puts you one step ahead of any other newbie!

Split Bathrooms

Disney Cruise Line is famous for almost all of their staterooms having split bathrooms. This means that one bathroom has a toilet and a sink, while the other has a tub (or shower) and a sink. This is a luxury for getting ready in the morning or before dinner, especially when you have four or five people in some rooms!

FREE Room Service

That’s right. Disney’s room service is completely free. Of course, it is recommended that you tip the room service waiter, but the service is free! You can get coffee, fruit, and pastries delivered for breakfast on the verandah on the perfect sea day. Or, you can get late-night chicken wings after a night out at the silent disco party. The room service menu is large, and it’s 24 hours! 

PRO TIP: Order Mickey ice cream bars. Room service and the dining room are the only two ways you can get Mickey bars on the ship. Take advantage!

Beverage Stations

Another one of our Disney cruise tips is that there are beverage stations on the pool deck and in the buffet areas. While most other cruise lines require you to pay for soda or buy a soda package, here soda, coffee, and tea are included for free at the beverage stations!

You can also order them for free at the bar or in the main dining rooms. However, any bar drinks, beer, wine, and bottled water are an additional fee.

Rotational Dining

Another standout difference between DCL and other cruise lines is the way they approach dining. Instead of having just a main dining room and a time to show up, or anytime dining like some cruise lines are adopting, Disney Cruise Line offers a rotational dining system. What this means is you get assigned a dining rotation on your DCL app and you go to a different restaurant (almost) every night.

Dining is a form of entertainment on Disney ships. Restaurants are themed anywhere from Beauty and the Beast, to Frozen, to The Avengers. Many also even feature some type of stage show, character interactions, or table entertainment.

Disney Cruise Tips

Your service staff also follows you to each restaurant as well. No need to go over your preferences with different waitstaff every night. They will get to know you, what you like, don’t like, and how you like your dinner service. This is level-up customer service provided by Disney.

Disney also offers adults-only dining for an additional charge. There is Palo and Remy on the Disney Wonder, Magic, Dream, and Fantasy. On Disney Wish and the soon-to-debut Disney Treasure, there is Palo and Enchante. Guests can book these restaurants ahead of time through the app or online.

Gambling? Not on Disney

Don’t go on a Disney Cruise hoping to gamble all your money away in the casino. Disney ships do not have casinos on them! There are plenty of adults-only spaces on the ships, but a casino doesn’t really fit the family-friendly vibe Disney is trying to put off.

Don’t worry though, there is still bingo! They do a variation of bingo practically every day.

Pirate Night

Most cruises, with some exceptions, will have a pirate night! The characters bring out their best pirate attire, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee make an appearance, they do pirate deck parties, and — best of all –fireworks at sea! Disney is the ONLY cruise line to have fireworks at sea.

Many guests will dress up in pirate gear for dinner and the show. So, be sure to bring your best pirate gear if you’re up for the challenge!

Have Fun!

The biggest and most important Disney Cruise Line tip is to HAVE FUN!

There is no one-size-fits-all for sailing. You do not have to book onboard activities, decorate your door, dress up as pirates, or participate in fish extenders to have a great cruise. You can step onboard and spend zero money, or you can indulge in the spa, buy all the merchandise, and try every adult dining restaurant.

Everyone’s vacation will look different, and that’s what makes Disney great!


Did you find our Disney Cruise tips and tricks helpful? Do you have any other helpful hints to add to this list? Leave us a comment below to share your experiences sailing with Disney Cruise Line.

Pin this: