Our family is typically very price-conscious when it comes to vacations. When I decided to book a Disney Cruise nearly 18 months ago, I knew it would be the most expensive vacation we had ever taken. We got off the Disney Wonder just a few short days ago, and it turned out to be more than worth it! I mean, the servers even cut your kids’ food for them! We booked a Very Merrytime Bahamian Cruise on the Disney Wonder out of Galveston, TX. But starting in 2020, the Wonder will be sailing out of New Orleans. If you’ve been thinking about a Disney Cruise, now is the time to go for it! While preparing for our trip, I think I scoured every Disney cruise tips and packing list link on all of Google. Here are a few things that I did right and a few others that I’ll do differently next time.
I wouldn’t change these things:
- Book on release date using a Disney Travel Agent: The cheapest time to book a Disney cruise is on the first day they are open for booking. This means booking your cruise close to 18 months in advance. Prices start going up as you near your sail date and prime rooms may not be available. Also, I highly recommend using a certified Disney Travel Agent. There is no cost to do so, they have lots of valuable tips, and many of them will give you onboard credit that you can use to pay for things during your cruise!
- Pack WAY less than you think you need: I read this over and over on every tip site and am so glad we took it to heart. It helped that we aren’t afraid to re-wear clothes (though there is laundry available if you want to wash between wears) I packed shorts and tee shirts for days, one pair of jeans, a couple of swimsuits, and a few dresses for dinners. Just remember to check and see what themed days (like Pirate night) you will have at sea in case you want to dress up.
- Download the Disney Cruise Line app: The schedule for each day, called the Navigator, will be in the app. You can favorite the things you want to do each day and the app will send you notifications when the events are about to begin. You can also use it to send messages to other guests in your party and receive notifications when your kids are ready to get picked up from the kids’ club or lab (more on that below).
- Take advantage with of the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab: If your kids are ages 3-12, you will not want to miss out on the kids’ clubs! Register your kiddos before the cruise starts and you’ll get a MagicBand when you arrive. The band allows the kids to check in and out of the lab and is equipped with GPS tracking. The clubs also require that you have a secret password to check your kids out so you’ll feel secure. There are events scheduled throughout the day like glow parties, cupcake baking and character experiences. While the kids are having fun, you can be hanging out at the adults only pool and relaxing with a good book!
- See if you can snag a “Secret Porthole” room: If you sail on the Disney Wonder or Magic, you might be able to get a secret porthole room. Room pricing is the lowest for inside staterooms with no windows then goes up when you look at staterooms with windows or verandahs. There are 6 rooms on Deck 5 of the Wonder and the Magic that are priced as inside staterooms because the portholes are partially obstructed. The amount of obstruction varies from room to room (you can find pictures by searching online). We were able to select room 5520 and get a room with a porthole for the price of one with no window!
- Don’t skip the shows: Each night there is a show either before or after your dining rotation. We saw comedians, a magician, a new release movie, and 3 AMAZING Broadway style shows. This was one of my daughter’s favorite things to do each evening. Fun tip: Bring your own packaged candy from home to bring into the theater. They do have it at the show for an extra fee, but who wants to buy $6 gummy bears? You can also get a fun popcorn bucket (ours was Christmas Pluto) and have it refilled at a discounted rate during future shows.
- Choose the late dining option: Each night you will be assigned to one of the 3 restaurants on the ship. You servers will rotate with you so that you have the same ones the entire trip (and they are FABULOUS!). There is an early dining around 6:15 pm and a later dining around 8:00 pm. Your show for the night is opposite your dining time. Early dining tends to be more popular, but there is a big perk to late dining. After your kids have eaten, the counselors from the Kids Club will come by and pick them up to play while you finish your dinner! My daughter was so excited to meet up with her new cruise friends each evening while we enjoyed some adult time at dinner.
- Don’t forget about room service: Almost all items on the room service menu are included in the price of your cruise (except things like alcohol and soda)! You can get a Mickey Bar 24 hours a day, have your breakfast delivered to your door, or ask for the Cake of the Day. Y’all, there is a Cake of the DAY. The only thing to remember is to tip the person who brings your food $1-$2 per item.
- Bring a pop-up hamper: I almost didn’t do this but grabbed one at the last minute on our way to the ship. It ended up being one of the best things we brought! It was so much easier to be able to through everything in one place and not have to worry about finding a place to put dirty laundry.
I would do these things differently:
- Bring more layers: I know I said to avoid overpacking, but I wish I’d had more layers. I brought one lightweight zip up hoodie and wished I had included a couple of cardigans to wear with nicer outfits. Depending on the time of year that you travel, some evenings can be cool and breezy. And certain parts of the ship were downright chilly!
- Be more intentional about photos: Just like at Walt Disney World, there are official photographers on each Disney Cruise. There will be backdrops set up throughout the day, pictures with characters, and they come by at dinner. I saw many families who planned outfits for family photos in front of the Christmas Tree or on formal night. If you have a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, there are photographers there too! We ended up not getting any great family pictures because I didn’t plan this well enough. I will say, the pictures are pricey (though there is a discount for buying a package before you sail).
- Bring magnets for your stateroom door and inside your room: This is not at all a requirement, but is fun for the kids and helps you to find your room. The stateroom doors and walls are magnetic which is super handy. Some cruisers go all out decorating their doors, other do nothing at all. You can even print out clip art, laminate it and add a magnet for easy DIY door magnets. I’d also bring some magnetic hooks for inside the stateroom. I actually ordered some but the great Baton Rouge Amazon Delivery Debacle of 2018 prevented them from being delivered. They would have been super helpful for hanging our lanyards that hold our Key to the World cards (this is the name of your room key), jackets, towels, etc.
- Make plans for your ports of call: I was a little too laid back about our ports and felt like we ended up wasting time wandering around not sure what to do. I wish I would have thought more about excursions or at least looked up restaurants and shops we would want to visit. We did rent a golf cart in Key West, though, which was a great decision!
Our Disney Cruise Line vacation was one that we’ll be talking about for years to come. I would recommend it to anyone looking for an amazing mostly all-inclusive vacation. The service is phenomenal, the ships are so clean, and the activities are non-stop fun!