We recently went on our first-ever cruise and came away with some great first time cruise tips to share with you. We were fortunate enough to sail with Disney Cruise Line (many thanks to DCL for hosting us) and it was a fantastic experience. After all, it’s no secret that Disney has a way of making vacations magical! There are a few things you’ll want to be aware of in advance, however, to make your vacation even better. So below is some essential Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers.
1. Book shore excursions ASAP
If you want to experience a few port adventures at each destination, you’ll need to book them as soon as your cruise reservations are paid in full and you’ve entered into your advance booking window. This is a key piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers! This window is determined by your Castaway Club membership level (i.e. how many Disney cruises you’ve been on before). First-time guests can book excursions 75 days prior to the sail date.
2. Book special character experiences as early as possible
All character experiences on the cruise are free, but some require special reservations. This is one of those first time cruise tips you’d regret not knowing if your little ones had their hearts set on seeing a specific character! You can book these experiences up to 75 days before your sail date, and after your cruise is paid-in-full. You’ll need reservations for the Princess Gathering with Cinderella, Belle, Tiana and Rapunzel, as well as Frozen Meet and Greet with Elsa and Anna. You’ll also need reservations for the Disney Junior Character Breakfast, the Disney VIP Character Breakfast and the Royal Court Royal Tea, but these are available on select cruises only. Here’s one more piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers: If you didn’t get a chance to make advance reservations, you should visit the Guest Services desk once you’re on board the ship and they may still be able to book you in. I’d advise doing that on the very first day of the cruise though. Don’t procrastinate!
3. Book a stateroom on as high of a floor as you can
This is one of those first time cruise tips that stands no matter which cruise line you go with. The views are nicer as you go up. Plus, you’ll feel less of the ocean’s motion the higher your floor, which is important if you’re prone to motion sickness.
4. Carefully review the list of prohibited items
Disney Cruise Line is very strict about what you can and can’t bring on board. So my Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers is to review the list carefully because there are items on the list that might surprise you! For example, a friend of mine had bought some small toy drums as souvenirs before boarding the ship, and they were confiscated because musical instruments of all types are banned. So one of the most important first time cruise tips I’d share is to review the list for yourself here.
5. Pack light and use the laundry facilities on the ship if you need to
As you know, I’m a big proponent of families traveling carry-on-only, and Disney Cruise Line makes that easy by providing a self-service, 24-hour, laundry facility on its ships. One important piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers is to pack light, because you can always wash clothes on board if you need to. The laundry facility even has detergent (for $1 a box) and complimentary ironing equipment available for use. You don’t need coins either; just use your Key to the World card. It costs $2 per wash and $2 per dryer cycle. And of course, you can always pay for full-service laundry and dry cleaning, if you’d rather not do laundry while you’re on vacation. This is one of the top first-time cruise trips if this is your first Disney cruise!
6. Pack water bottles for each family member
The serving cups by the soda and water fountains are quite small, so it’s much more convenient if you fill up a large bottle of water and keep it with you for the day. If you’re sailing in Mexico and Caribbean, it can get very hot on the deck. So another one of the first time cruise tips I’d impress upon you is to remember to stay hydrated!
7. Each adult can bring two bottles of wine
Here’s a key piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers: guests 21 and up can bring two unopened bottles of wine or champagne, or six beers at the beginning of the voyage and also at each port of call. Note that they have to be packed in your carry-on luggage. If this was one of the first time cruise tips you forgot about, and you neglected to pack your own wine, not to worry! Disney Cruise Line offers several wine packages, and they are priced quite reasonably. So you can always opt for one of those instead.
8. Bring a manual watch or clock
On our itinerary, there was one day the clock went forward, and another day it went back. While housekeeping always leaves a note to inform you of the time change and updates the clocks in the stateroom, I found myself still always second-guessing what the real time was because my iPhone and laptop were not updating automatically. That’s why one piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers I always share is to bring a watch or clock you can manually push forward or back and use that as the master time teller. This is one of those first time cruise tips you may not have heard before, but it’ll save you from missing shows or character meet-and-greets that your kids were excited about because you got the time zone wrong!
9. Keep Wi-Fi turned off on your devices
You probably already know to make sure your cellular and roaming are off when at sea, but if you purchase a Wi-Fi package from Disney, know that it gets used up extremely quickly. This falls under “first time cruise tips I really wish I would have known!” Buy the largest possible package of Wi-Fi (when we sailed it was 1,000 MB for about $90), and always keep Wi-Fi on all devices turned off until you’re ready to post a photo or check a quick email. Another key piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers is to visit the Connect@Sea desk, located inside the Promenade Lounge. The representative there will adjust the settings on your devices so they use as little Wi-Fi as possible. I should mention that the Wi-Fi signal was very strong. I never had any trouble connecting, whether I was in our stateroom or out and about on the ship.
10. Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App
What’s my most important piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers? Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App and use it often! This app was my go-to resource on the cruise. It gives you a list of everything that’s going on any given day, and allows you to favorite the things you plan on doing so you can build a customized itinerary. Another one of those first time cruise tips? You can use the app to message other cruise guests, which is awesome for communicating with your party if you split up.
These first time cruise tips will ensure a great first Disney Cruise
You’re bound to have a blast on any Disney Cruise, even if you forget all of these first time cruise tips, but nobody wants to experience motion sickness or get a bill for unexpected charges. And your vacation will be that much more magical if you don’t miss seeing your favorite characters due to a missed reservation, or not knowing you had to make a reservation in the first place! My last piece of Disney Cruise advice for first time cruisers: relax, go with the flow, and simply allow yourself to enjoy the experience. So pack light and go kick back on Castaway Cay! Bon voyage!
Have you been on a Disney Cruise before? What would you add to this list?
We received complimentary travel and accommodations from Disney Cruise Line for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.
About Carmen Sognonvi
Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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