Top Tips for your First Disney Cruise

Planning is essential for having a good Disney Cruise Line vacation and you are well on your way to having a great Disney cruise if you are planning with a Disney focused travel advisor.

What is included in your cruise? Disney Cruise Line includes almost everything that you will need for your cruise. A couple exceptions that are NOT included are airfare, hotel stays, ground transfers to the cruise terminal, port adventures & gratuities. Everything else that you need to enjoy your vacation is already paid for. All of your food, non-alcoholic beverages, entertainment such as stage shows, movies, clubs & more are all included. If you are hungry or bored on a Disney Cruise, than you haven’t left your stateroom.

The adults only specialty restaurants, Palo & Remy, require an additional fee & reservation. Onboard gratuities are currently $13.50 per person, per night of your cruise & will automatically be charged to your stateroom.

Complimentary Concierge Planning Assistance: Book your cruise through a Disney focused travel advisor. A good travel adivsor will assist you in booking and planning your cruise at no additional cost to you and you will always get personalized service; each time you email, text or call, you will be able to talk directly to your agent. Disney Cruise Line has so much to offer that it is impossible to write about it all in a single blog article. This is where the personalized service of a travel agent will come in handy by learning what your interests are and helping you plan a cruise that is custom to you.

Cruise Documents: A few weeks prior to your cruise you will receive your Disney cruise documents from Disney or your travel advisor. These little folders are filled with helpful details and information. Your luggage tags will also be included in these documents. If you forget your documents, don’t worry! Disney will have them for you at check-in!

Travel Insurance: I highly recommend buying travel insurance whether you add it to your Disney Cruise package or you buy travel insurance on your own through an outside vendor like There are so many circumstances like weather & illness that might cause you to miss your cruise. Missing your cruise could be very sad, but losing the money you paid for the cruise would be worse. If you decide to forgo travel protection for your cruise, make sure that your health insurance will cover any medical treatment outside of the United States.

Bring a small carry-on bag: When you arrive at the port, you will leave your luggage with one of the baggage porters at the curb. They will make sure that your bags are labeled in order to be delivered to your stateroom later on. You may want to bring a carry-on bag with things like your swim cloths, medications, cash, ID and anything else you might need in the first few hours onboard. Stateroom luggage will be delivered to rooms throughout the day until 5:30pm. Although not required, you may want to tip the baggage handler. We usually tip $1 – $2 a bag depending on how much we have & if they have to make extra labels for the bags.

Eating on Boarding Day: Once you board you may choose to get started consuming the delicious Disney food right away. You can eat either in the buffet or in the restaurant that is open where you will be seated by a waiter. The buffet can get very crowded & tables can be difficult to find on boarding day. My family tends to prefer being seated by a waiter and avoid the boarding day buffet chaos. If you do not eat as soon as you board, take advantage of the low crowds in the pools and at the water slides.

Extra free activities: Disney offers all sorts of onboard activities during your cruise. The longer the cruise, the more they offer. be sure to stop by the port adventures desk on boarding day & ask if they have any activities or tours that require tickets. The tickets are free, but they do run out. A couple examples are the galley tour and the Castaway Cay 5K. Read on for more details on these activities. On boarding day you will also want to check your Personal Navigator for things like Spa Tours and Photo package giveaways. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win a photo or spa package? You can find the Navigator in your stateroom, at the guest services desk or on the Disney Cruise Line app.

Senses Spa onboard the Disney Dream

Pack a Mug; Soda is Included: Unlimited soda, Juice & tea is always included at no additional fee on your Disney Cruise. As well as during meals, you can get soda any time up on the deck by the pools and just outside of the buffet. We have found that sometimes the paper cups offered are a little small & flimsy so we like to bring our own drink mugs onboard with us. If you have one, the Disney World park mugs work perfectly. They do discourage refillabel mugs at the drink stations for sanitary reasons; however, you can use the paper cup to pour into your own mug.

Motion Sickness: If you suffer from motion sickness (like I do), try the 24 hour, non-drowsy Dramamine. I find that it works great & doesn’t make me too sleepy, especially if taken at night. You can also check with your doctor to get a patch to wear for the entire cruise.

Cell Phone Service: Don’t forget to switch your cell phone to a roaming international plan or put it in airplane mode to avoid hefty roaming fees. I know my provider offers wi-fi calling so I can switch my phone to wi-fi only mode. Just be careful not to pick up signal from the ship’s provider on accident, even texts on that service are expensive.

Safety Drill: On boarding day, once everyone has boarded the ship, they will do a safety drill before ship sail away. You will return to your stateroom for the start of this drill and then be directed to your muster station by cast members. Don’t be late & keep everyone waiting.

Always bring a Camera: Have a camera with you at all times. You never know who may pop up in a hallway. Disney Cruise Line does have onboard ship photographers available to take your pictures and you can purchase those photos before you leave. I will admit that I find the photos (prints or digital) to be a little expensive, especially when I am spoiled by the PhotoPass product that is offered in the Disney Parks. But I always purchase a few of the cruise photos just for memories.

Pre-Purchase Photo Packages: If you plan to purchase an onboard photo package, it’s a good idea to buy them in advance. Shutters is currently offering up to 15% off the unlimited digital package if you purchase it at least 3 days prior to your sailing. If you pre-order the unlimited package & you are not satisfied with your photos, or the number of photos that you have, you can tell them onboard that you would like to cancel your photo order for a full refund. Photo packages are great if you plan to buy a number of your onboard photos & if you are traveling with extended family & want photos with everyone as a keepsake. If you buy the unlimited photo package, you need to make an effort to get in line for the photographers on the ship & throughout Castaway Cay to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Note: photo packages cannot be shared between staterooms. The photo package will be attached to the stateroom it is purchased through & at least one person from that stateroom must appear in each photo that is included in the photo package. Contact your travel advisor for prices & questions.

Bring an Autograph Book or Item: If you are interested in character autographs, be sure not to forget your autograph book at home. You can buy autograph books or even make your own from a variety of online ideas. You can get autographs from numerous characters including Cinderella, Captain America, Peter Pan and even Jack Sparrow. You can also get other items signed such as, canvas totes, pillow cases, t-shirts and more. The character appearances will differ on each cruise. Be sure to watch your Personal Navigator for character meet times and note that some character meet ups require a special ticket.

Rotational Dining: Rotational dining is another experience that is unique to Disney Cruise Line. Each night you will be scheduled to eat in one of the 3 different restaurants There will be a different menu every night and the atmosphere is amazing. Even through you will dine in different restaurants, your servers will follow you. These servers will learn what you like and what you don’t like and they will be prepared when you arrive. If you are on a 5 night cruise or longer, I recommend that you do not miss your last night in Animator’s Palate where a special ‘animation magic’ show is waiting for you to join the cast of Disney Animators.

Pirate Night: Be sure not to miss the Pirate Night activities. Disney will have a pirate deck party that includes a stage show & even fireworks. During dinner you will have a special Pirate Night Menu to order from. Keep your eyes peeled for a meet & greet with Jack Sparrow & be sure to have your autograph book ready. You may also see other pirate characters wandering the ship that day such as, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Captain Hook & even Peter Pan. Many people dress up on pirate night, but that’s optional. You can dress up to look like a real pirate or just don a pirate t-shirt and the bandanna that Disney will usually provide that night.

Makeovers for children: Princess or Pirate? All of the Disney ships have special makeover sessions for you children. (each session is an added cost & the prices vary based on the package you choose.) The makeovers typically occur in the Bippity Boppity Boutique, which changes into the Pirate League on Pirate Night. If your kiddo is a huge pirate fan, check to see if if your cruise is offering pirate makeovers in the “Pirate’s League” on your ship. All of these makeovers will usually need to be booked before you board; in fact, these reservations can fill up long before your cruise. Be sure to make your reservations for these as soon as your reservation window opens up. Don’t worry if you choose not to reserve a spot at the Pirate’s League, you can always do your own pirate make up.
For special themed sailings such as Star Wars Day at Sea & Marvel Day at Sea sailings, you can reserve a spot for a Star Wars or Marvel makeover.

Disney’s Castaway Cay: Castaway Cay is Disney’s own private island paradise. This is my very favorite cruise ship port of call. There are plenty of chairs on the beach, but if you want a hammock or spot in the shade, you need to get off of the ship early. Lunch is included at two different lunch locations and you can have all the food drinks & ice cream you can eat. There are port adventures that you can pay to participate in, private cabanas for rent and you can rent float rings & snorkel equipment. Their snorkel lagoon has all sorts of neat hidden treasures.

Castaway Cay 5K: If your ship is scheduled to stop at Disney’s Castaway Cay island, chances are that the Castaway Cay 5K will be offered. You are invited to run/walk this event at no additional cost to you, just be sure to sign up at the port adventures desk or guest services onboard. You must have a ticket for this event & sometimes they run out. The 5K takes place first thing in the morning. It is a great time to see the beautiful island without a lot of people on it. You will need to be ready early to meet at a designated location, hand them your ticket, get your bib, listen to instructions & get off the ship with the 5K group. This 5K does require a bit of a walk to get to the starting point from the ship, but I figure the more walking I do, the more I can eat, right? Your finish time doesn’t matter. When you finish, you will be given a detailed rubber souvenir medal just for participating.
Note: The minimum age to participate is 10.

Ship Tour tickets: Sometimes free tours will be offered on your ship. The Art of the Theme Tour will be a guided ship tour that talks about the artwork & theme of the ship. There is also a galley tour which allows you to tour the galley & see how the massive amount of food is prepared. This may even include a fresh, hot cookie. Most of these yours are offered on 7 night cruises or longer. Be sure to check with the port adventures desk on boarding day for these tickets.

Port Adventures: Port Adventures are NOT included in the cost of your cruise. It is wise to book these well in advance, but you can also book them onboard at the port adventure desk, based on availability. Port Adventures are not necessary to have a good time in port. You can always get off the ship, walk around for a while, and then return to the ship when you are ready. In fact, our family has chosen to stay onboard when our ship has been in port. Being on the ship while it is in port gives you almost exclusive access to the pools, buffets, movies and more…

Personal Navigator: The Disney personal Navigator will be left in your stateroom on the bed each night or you can pick one up at the guest services desk. This is a little booklet that tells you about all of the daily activities going on. You may even want to bring a highlighter to highlight the activities that interest you for the day.

personal Navigator papers along with other information & a fun towel animal on the bed.

Wave Phones: If this is your first Disney Cruise, you may not have heard about this feature that is unique to Disney Cruise Line. Each stateroom has 2 wave phones. Using these phones you can call other people on the ship on their wave phones. The Kid’s Clubs will also use these phone to contact parents regarding their children. We LOVE this feature on Disney Cruise Line! be sure not to lose your wave phone; a lost phone comes with a hefty fine.

Kids Clubs and Ship Activities: All of the kids clubs & activities are included in your cruise cost. So be sure to take advantage of everything that is going on for the kids, families & adults too. They have all sorts of game shows in the clubs for evening entertainment. You can even win a little Mickey medal if you are chosen for a game show & you win. Don’t be bashful, you will probably never see these people again anyway.

Below are some photos from the Oceaneer Clubs. Captain America shield & Iron Man are on the Disney Magic, Millennium Falcon is on the Dream, Doctor Strange Academy is on the Fantasy and the bottom right Marvel display is on the Disney Wonder

Participate in Activities: Throughout the day there are seminars, scavenger hunts, vegetable car races, Match your Mate for couples, first run Disney movies, mini golf tournaments and much more. There is even a special “diaper dash” for little ones.
Although not common, one of my guests won a beautiful blue diamond necklace at the “Match your Mate” game show. This game show is only for people 18+, not for children.
Does this all sound like fun? Watch your personal Navigator for details on times & where to sign up.

Gratuities are NOT included: Gratuities are not included in the cost of your cruise. You can pre-pay them or they will be charged to your ship account at the end of the cruise. By this time you will love the entire crew so much that you won’t mind paying them for their wonderful service. If you don’t want to tip someone, or want to tip with cash, you will need to go to guest services & explain it to them & they will remove the gratuities from your account.
How gratuities work…. on the last night of your cruise you will get 4 envelopes & a sheet of paper with 4 tear off sections. Each of these slips of paper have the standard gratuities listed on it for each person (server, assistant server, head server and stateroom host) You can put each slip of paper in the envelope & hand them to the appropriate person when you see them on your last night. We have always had such amazing, wonderful service that we have given them a little extra cash in the envelope or handed them the cash directly.

(As of the day this was written, the gratuities are $13.50 per person per night in a non-concierge room. Check with your Travel Agent in case they have changed.)

Alcohol: Be sure to review Disney’s alcohol policy if you plan to bring alcohol onboard with you.

Lanyard: If this is your first Disney Cruise, you may want to pack your own lanyard to carry your room key card in. If you are a Castaway Club member, you will be given lanyards when you check-in to board or on your bed when you arrive in your stateroom.

High Tech Lights: If cruising on the Disney Dream or the Disney Fantasy, you may want to consider having an extra plastic card with you (like a Disney gift card), a credit card, an ID card etc… The lights in your stateroom only run when you insert a card (your room key) into the light slot. In order to keep the lights on at night or any other time, you will need a card to put in the slot. Sometimes it can be inconvenient to continually remove your key card from your lanyard pouch to insert it into the slot. For safety reasons guests are discouraged from leaving a card in the slot when they leave the room.

Dinner attire: Disney Cruise Line does have dress up nights and/or formal nights when most people will dress up to go to dinner. Gals will wear dresses or pant suites and men will wear anything from a tux to a shirt & tie to a polo shirt.On shorter cruises, there will usually only be one dress up night and on longer cruises there will usually be one dress up night & one formal night. Dress up night is usually less formal than formal night.
If you are uncomfortable going to the dining room on dress up or formal nights there is always plenty of food at the buffet and around the pool decks. Swim wear, tank tops & cut off shorts are never allowed in the dining rooms.
If you plan to reserve dining at any of the ‘adult only’ restaurants (Palo or Remy), be sure to bring the appropriate apparel. Formal attire is required. Dresses or pant suits for women and pants with collared shirts for men. People sometimes wear formal gowns for women and tuxes for men. Shorts or capris are not allowed in the formal dining rooms such as Palo & Remy.

For Alcohol Drinkers: On day one of your cruise you can purchase a souvenir Disney Cruise Line drink mug. You buy the fancy glass on day 1 at $12 and then you hand your dirty plastic glass in every day to be refilled with the drink of the day for $4 including tax. When you leave the cruise keep you last Disney Mug or ask for a new one, bring it home & pack it with you for your next cruise so you can use it again.

Debarkation: On the last night of your cruise you will be asked to pack your luggage & leave it in the hall for Disney to pick up. This will be the last time you see your luggage until you are of the ship. be sure to have an overnight bag with anything that you might need that night or the morning you debark the cruise. On the morning of debarkation, once you leave your room, you will not return, so be sure to bring your day bag with you. You may have breakfast at the buffet or you will be served at the same restaurant where you had dinner the night before.
It is not required to leave your luggage in the hall for Disney luggage services to take. If you keep your luggage, just remember that when you leave the room in the morning, you will have to take your luggage with you around the ship until you debark. Once the ship has been cleared by the local authorities, you can leave the ship at your leisure.

Get a baggage Porter: They not only help with your luggage, they know their way around the luggage area & customs when you debark. They can help guide you to your shuttle or car. Be sure to tip them for their assistance. Tipping is usually $1 – $2 per bag.

Rebook your next Cruise Onboard!!! If you enjoyed your cruise and think that there is even a slight possibility that you may want to go on another within 24 months, be sure to rebook while you are onboard. By rebooking your next cruise while you are onboard, you can save up to 10% off of regular rates & get up to a $200 onboard credit. This is one of the best ways to save money on a Disney Cruise! If you don’t have a specific cruise in mind, you can book a ‘placeholder cruise’ with a $250 deposit. There are little forms you can fill out for this at the onboard booking desk & you can place them in the box where the cast member will get your booking taken care of. You must sail within 24 month of the date that you deposited the onobard booking.
Be sure to rebook through your current agent (me). If you decide later that you don’t want your onboard booking, I am happy to help you cancel & get a full refund of your deposit.

Click HERE to visit My website photo gallery for more photos

Bon Voyage! Now you are ready for your Disney Cruise. If you have any additional tips or information, please feel free to share them with me via email or in the comments below.

Let me help plan the details of your Disney cruise vacation!

3 Reasons to book through Pixie Dust Adventures

  • Complimentary planning with no extra fees
  • Concierge service offers you a dedicated travel advisor from start to finish who knows you
  • Customized vacations that are all about you and what is best for you & not anyone else


  • We watch for discounts that can be applied to your Disney vacation and automatically apply them.
  • We sit on hold so you don’t have to.
  • We assist you in making sure you are in the know about your vacation, so you don’t miss any dining, Fastpass or other reservations to make your trip run smoothly when you arrive.

You get all of this and more when you book your Disney vacation through Melissa of Pixie Dust Adventures (me).  Click here to visit my website & get started with a no obligation quote.

Thank you for reading.  My name is Melissa and I am a princess living among three princes and a pooch, I’m also a theme park fanatic and the owner of Pixie Dust Adventures.  You will find me almost every weekend, in one of the Orlando theme parks with my family, lying on a beach or planning our next cruise.  I am insatiably curious about the world around me and I love being entertained; that is what sparks my desire to travel.

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