13 Tips to Make the Most of Your Disney Cruise

Disney just does things better.

That Mouse knows what he’s doing! And, a Disney Cruise is no different!

I’ll admit; cruises are not our typical go-to vacation. We like to spend time in one area, really digging into the local scene and finding the hidden gems most day travelers miss. However, there are definitely benefits to cruising with Disney, especially if you have kids — or are just a big Disney kid yourself!

Fresh from our latest cruise with Mickey and his pals, here are 13 tips to help you make the most of your Disney cruise!

  1. Join Your Cruise Forum – I just happened to stumble upon this awesome Disney cruise forum website – disboards.com. This forum community not only has lots of great discussions about Disney cruises, but also has threads for each specific Disney cruise. You’ll get to virtually pre-meet other folks on your boat.  Plus, the gal who started our cruise thread even organized a meet and greet on the first day and a super-fun scavenger hunt! It was so nice having people we knew onboard, when we were at dinner or going to an activity on the ship.
  1. disney cruise fish extender giftsTake Part in a Fish Extender Exchange – This was so much fun! Fish Extender Exchanges are kind of like big Secret Santas. Fish extenders are hanging organizers (usually with one pocket for each person on your cruise) that hang on the stateroom number fish by your door (hence the name “Fish extenders”). A group of participants is organized, usually through a forum group or Facebook group, and you get the names, ages, and other info for each person participating. Then you buy or make small gifts to give to each person or family. You deliver them to your new friends during the cruise. We got everything from small boxes of candy to a really gorgeous Mickey Mouse Origami Owl bracelet! We made our gifts, including Minnie Mouse ear barrettes for the little girls in our group and felt swords for the boys.
  1. 0106162006eBring Your Pirate Gear – There’s a pirate night on each cruise and people go all out. We saw some AMAZING pirate outfits! Although Disney does provide cute bandannas for everyone to wear, you’re going to want more pirate gear. We were limited on luggage space, so went with simple cut up white tees, eye patches, red sashes, and earrings. They worked out perfectly! I would have felt left out if we hadn’t had something fun to wear that night.
  1. 0105161205aGet Your Princess Tickets Early – Most character autograph and photo opportunities don’t require tickets. You simply go to the assigned area, at the right time, and wait in line. However, for the princesses, they are issuing a limited number of tickets, because they are so popular. Don’t wait to get your tickets. While we were waiting for our room to be ready, as soon as we boarded the boat, we walked over to the Port Adventures desk and they gave us tickets for both the traditional princesses, and the Frozen characters.
    NOTE: For non-ticketed character meets, be sure to get there early. Characters are usually only there for about 15 minutes.  I know we were in line to see Captain Mickey, but he left before we got to the front of the line, and we ended up with Stitch.
  1. Bring Something for the Characters to Sign – Disney used to let you bring an item to Guest Services at the beginning of the cruise, and they’d have the characters sign for you. However, they were getting too many items, so now you have to bring them to the character meets. So, be sure to bring something with you! Our kids have their autograph books they’ve had since they were little, plus we had pillowcases custom-embroidered with their names and cruise dates, for characters to sign. I saw folks with photo mats, which is a cute idea too. Just be sure to bring pens and/or Sharpies with you to the meets, as the characters won’t necessarily have them.
  1. 0109162224dDon’t Miss the “Until We Meet Again” – It’s not only a great opportunity to see all of the characters in one spot, and a very cute short closing act, (SPOILER: Check it out here — https://youtu.be/qazB5S74r7k) but it’s also a great spot to gather those autographs and photos you may have missed during the cruise. However, be sure to bring your own camera, because Shutters, the onboard photographer, will not be available, since it’s the last night of the cruise.
  1. Use the Disney Navigator App – This app was SO useful! First, it allows you to text anyone else with the app. Don’t bother carrying around that Wave phone. If your friends and family have a smartphone and the app, you can text them! Also, it has everything scheduled for the day. You can “Favorite” the activities you want to attend, and it’ll even send you a notification reminder 15 minutes beforehand. Super handy!
  1. Bring Extra Hangers – Even our super-tiny stateroom had ample closet space for the week. However, it only had 10 hangers — not enough for 4 people. Bring extra hangers, so you can completely unpack, then tuck your suitcases under the bed, to maximize the very small amount of floor space in your stateroom.
  1. Bring a Large Water Bottle or Refillable Plastic Mug – Sodas and other drinks are free, if you use the self-serve station. (Order them from a bar, snack bar, room service or a waiter and you’ll get charged.) However, the cups that are there are pretty small, especially when you add ice to them. Rather than run back and forth to the drink area, while you’re trying to relax poolside, fill your one big drink container.
  1. 0107161832Don’t Miss the Evening Shows – It might be tempting, especially if you’ve had an active day at port, to miss the evening shows… but don’t! Our ship not only had the award-winning, classic Disney Dreams, but also Toy Story the musical, which was phenomenal! These are truly amazing productions.
  1. Check Out the Movies and Bring Your Own Snacks – First run movies, on a boat? Oh yeah! We were treated to Star Wars… in 3D! How cool is that?! But, rather than spending money at the snack bar, fill up that refillable mug you brought and order Uncrustables or chocolate chip cookies from room service, before the movie, and bring them with you, for the kids (or you) to snack on.
  1. 0104161329aBring a Lanyard – Unlike the cool Magic wristbands at Disney resorts, Disney cruises use “Key to the World” keycards. These serve as your room key as well as how you pay for things onboard. Having a lanyard, where you can slip your keycard into it is so handy! If it’s our second or more Disney cruise, Disney will give you a lanyard. However, for new cruisers, bring one with you. It’s much easier than carrying a purse or wallet around, or hoping your keycard doesn’t fall out of your pockets.
  1. If You Don’t Want to Eat with Small Children Take the Late Dinner – Eating at 8:15 pm may sound late, but is so worth it if you don’t have small children. We had very few (actually only one that I noticed) kids under the age of 7ish at our dinner seating. This means you also don’t have a ton of small children at your evening show. Win-win!

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7 thoughts on “13 Tips to Make the Most of Your Disney Cruise

  1. Great comments Kim. I would agree with all of your 13 tips. After just completing my second disney cruise I think the only think I would add is rebook on board for the discount. I didn’t do that and wish I did!

    1. Thanks, Deanna! Yes! Booking your next cruise onboard is a great tip! I know that sometimes, as a cruise gets nearer it’s departure date, when they have a number of unsold cabins, they do some pretty deep discounts too.

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