A Different Way to Do Disney :: A Dad’s Take on Disney Cruise Line

Disclosure :: our family received a five-night cruise on the Disney Wonder in Spring 2019 because of my amazing social media skills. All joking aside, as one of the co-owners of Red Stick Mom, my wife was approached about our family having the opportunity to sail with Disney Cruise Line because of the exciting news that Disney set sail from Louisiana for the first time in 2020. That said, I have dropped more than my fair share of dough on Disney in the past few years and all opinions expressed below are indeed my own. Update for 2022 :: Disney Cruise Line is sailing again from New Orleans!

A Different Way to Do Disney :: A Dad’s Take on Disney Cruise Line

I love a good ole fashioned Disney vacation :: the plethora of theme parks, the variety of rides, the pure and innocent joy glimmering in your children’s eyes, and, of course, the nostalgia from your own childhood. I can go on and on about the magic that is Disney … but Disney on a boat? There are so many things that could go wrong (read: Titanic). I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. Besides the fact that I thought a complimentary cruise MUST be a hoax (no, really; I told my wife not to dare reply to the email but thankfully she ignored me and reassured me that the offer to cruise with Disney Cruise Line was very much valid), I was worried about being, well, bored on board. Thanks to the folks over at DCL, we can now cross this experience off the bucket list. Last week we cruised out of San Diego (you know in German that’s translated as a Whale’s, eh, that is for a different post) aboard the Disney Wonder. This is the very same ship that will be docked in New Orleans during Mardi Gras 2020 for limited-season sailings. If you have the inkling to take your family on a Disney Cruise, you may want to consider driving to New Orleans to take advantage of the opportunity {see various itineraries online} while we have it. It would have been really, really, really nice to avoid the airport and additional travel with small kids.

My lovely wife can tell you all about the experience in much greater and descriptive detail, but as a male I am going to give you the Dad “pro tips” for navigating a family vacation aboard that lovable mouse’s palace on the water. So let’s get after it!

Disney Cruise Line Tips From a Dad

1. Buy the Beer Package. Don’t hesitate when they ask; just do it. First, it will save you money in the long run as the per unit cost is indeed lower than buying singles all day. Second, it comes with a pretty nice cooler that can be brought anywhere on board. Why is that a perk you ask? Because coolers, aside from those used to hold medication, are not permitted on board. So, you can keep your beer ice cold 24 hours a day and bring it with you wherever you may roam. The cast members on board were very kind about bringing us buckets of ice at the pool as well, and we even used it for water and soft drinks. All of this to say; just do it. You’re welcome in advance.

2. Attend the Nightly Theatrical Performances. The shows on board are Broadway caliber performances that will entertain the entire family. They are a great way to wind down the evening after dinner, and yes, alcohol is served there as well. My girls bamboozled me into popcorn and candy one night (unlike most of the other food on board, the theatre concessions are not included), but their reaction to Frozen was worth it.

3. USE THE KIDS CLUB. This is in capital letters for a reason. Use it! Don’t feel bad about parking your offspring in the club; they will have a fantastic time and meet new friends. It is a massive space with anything and everything a kid could want (my wife received a full tour and gets more into the details in her review). Then, while they are in da club, you can take some time to enjoy the fantastic pubs and bars onboard, use the spa (see #4 below), or just take a time out and slow the pace down for a bit.

4. Take A Time Out for Self-Care. We are big fans of Queer Eye on Netflix, and if you have ever watched the show then you know that one of the big messages in each episode is learning to make time for yourself. The Rainforest pass (good for an entire day so you can use it multiple times, if desired) is a terrific way to relax, de-stress, rejuvenate and find your inner zen. The area includes warm stone lounge chairs, aroma therapy steam rooms and rain showers that melt away any and every problem on your mind. You will come out a refreshed person. Until you get your kids from the club, but then you can check them back in and repeat the cycle.

5. The Internet Machine Is Your Friend. Despite what the press may say about good ole Zukerberg, Facebook can be your friend; you can search to find the exact group that was created for your cruise/ship and get first hand advice from the seasoned DCL veterans on packing, space-saving ideas and how to best navigate the ship while at sea. Don’t worry, gents, you don’t have to actually participate in conversations or anything, but there is a lot of information out there you can use to your advantage before you sail. I had no idea each cruise had its own group, but let the people who have sailed before help you.

6. Shake It Up with a Mixology Class. This was probably my favorite part of the cruise activity offerings … aside from the family time of course. Get some knowledge about your favorite spirits along with a healthy sampling to brighten up your palate. The gentleman who led our session was entertaining and knowledgeable, and it was a fun way to spend an hour indoors while at sea.

7. Channel Your Inner Marie Kondo. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, overpack. You will not need a wide variety of outfits. “Keep it simple” is an excellent motto when packing for a trip on the open water. Does that pair of Khakis or that sports coat bring you joy? Well, maybe at home it does, but it won’t bring you happiness if that extra clothing leads to an additional suitcase being required, or if it happens to make that bag go over the airline weight limit. And more suit cases doesn’t mean the kids will help out carrying them; you and I both know where that task will land. In case you are lucky enough to dine at the adults only restaurant on board (we really enjoyed Palo), bring nicer clothes for that, but otherwise you need less than you think.

8. Find that Hidden Oasis Onboard. There is a lot to do on board, and there are a lot of people (Disney Wonder holds just over 2,700 of them I am told). When the pool starts to overwhelm you (and it will when half of Oklahoma is there), take a walk around the ship and you will find several nice spots to relax. At some point while on board you will want to hit the pause button and have some time to escape the masses. Deck 4 on the Wonder was one of those hidden gems for us.

9. Pony Up for a Verandah Room. Quite possibly the most striking element of our cruise was the size of the room. It fit FIVE of us, comfortably, and it had a balcony with seating overlooking the ocean. If you can splurge for this level room, I’d recommend it.

10. Do It Up for Theme Night. Not gonna lie; I don’t do themed parties that require costumes. It’s just not my jam. However, when you are on a DCL voyage, go for broke – your kids will love it. Park the introvert at the dock and deck yourself out for pirate night. Plus, you can talk like a pirate all night.

Sail From New Orleans on Disney Cruise Line in 2020

So, there you have it. My quick and dirty Dad “pro-tips” for navigating your first, or next, vacation on the open water. Deep down I know I am a Disney World kinda guy – there isn’t anything quite like it on the planet. However, for a more relaxed Disney experience, setting sail on one of Disney Cruise Line’s ships can also be a magical experience. So if you are inclined, take advantage of the Disney Wonder being in our proverbial backyard next year. Your kids will be next level tired when you return, but that’s the sign of a good time, right?

>> First Time Disney Cruise Tips From Mom <<

>> Our Kids’ Review of Their First Disney Cruise <<


  1. Solid list. I’d be remiss not to add that the nightly room service was incredible–wings, burgers, chicken tenders, and more delivered to the room on demand. All included in the package price, too, so the only “extra” charge for this feast is the delivery gratuity. These items pair nicely with the cooler full of beers siting atop your list of recs.

    You can also order a side steak with your regular dinner entree, which is lovely.


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