Going on a cruise with Disney Cruise Lines is a dream come true for many. My first Disney Cruise was such an adventure, and if you’ve got your sights on one I’m really excited for you! This Disney Cruise Guide is aimed at helping you make the most of your Cruise, and hopefully make the whole experience a little less overwhelming. Trust me, there is a lot to take in!
I went on a 4 day Disney Cruise to the Bahamas during my time as a Cast Member, spending 3 nights on the Disney Magic. The whole trip was such an adventure, and I can’t wait for my next cruise.
The practical details
Disney Cruise Lines has 4 ships that sail different routes around the world; the Disney Magic, the Disney Wonder, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. They are all luxuriously equipped for every need. I was lucky enough to travel to the Bahamas with the Disney Magic.
All four ships can boast beautiful interior, great food and Broadway-level shows each night. This means that ultimately, it should be the route of the ship that makes you decide on what cruise to book.
For updated sailing schedules, destinations and prices, go ahead and visit this page.
The restaurants on board are all incredible, and you have lots and lots of mouthwatering food to look forward to. As the cruise is pre-booked and paid for, you can happily stroll around the ship and eat whenever and wherever you like, with the exception of dinner.
There is one restaurant for each night depending on your sailing time, and all passengers get their restaurant allocations in advance. This is called ‘rotational dining’ and Disney Cruise Lines were the first to introduce this dining style on their ships!
Your dinner reservations are for a set time (the first seating is between 17:45 and 18:15 and the second seating is between 20:00 and 20:30) when you should aim to arrive, but you are of course allowed to sit for as long as you’d like. At Lumiere’s we loved one of the starters so much we ordered another one during the main course!
Top tip: After checking into your lovely cabin, make sure to head straight to the reception desk. The goal is to rearrange your restaurant schedule so that you eat at the Animator’s Palate on the last night. My friend Brent, who was on his fourth-ish cruise when I went on my first one, stated early on that this was a must. The Animator’s Palate is the most spectacular dining experience of the three, and so if you, like us, want to save the best for last, remember this.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking at the entertainment overviews on your cruise. Luckily there is an overview for each day of the cruise (the ‘Navigator’), letting you know which characters to meet where, what movies are on at what time, and what the show for the evening is. The shows will have 2 scheduled times for each evening, so you can plan around your dinner seating time.
Make sure you pick up the Navigator as soon as you wake up. If you grab it on the way to breakfast (you’ll find it loads of places around the ship), you’ll be able to browse through it over your morning coffee. As always with Disney, planning is key.
As mentioned above, all shows were on Broadway levels, so you can only imagine the quality. I was so impressed with seeing the Cast Members playing different roles each night, I almost wanted to meed them more than the characters! The shows I was lucky enough to see on my Disney Cruise were Twice Charmed (an original twist to the Cinderella story), Villains Tonight! (an absolutely hilarious show where all the villains got to take the lead), and the third night we saw what I think is the best Disney show I have ever seen; Disney Dreams!
Fun fact: Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line with rights to shoot fireworks from their ships. How cool is that?
As for the characters, they are scattered all across the ship at different times, and if you are on the Bahamas Cruise, you’ll also find them when going ashore in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas!
You’ll find the character meet and greet times in the Navigator as well, which was very neat as it allowed us to plan our day according to our priorities in the character department. Naturally, meeting Peter Pan was a must for us, but we also wanted to meed Sailor Mickey and Pirate Mickey. I think Minnie and Mickey had more outfit changes than I did that weekend, and it resulted in a great time every time we found them.
What’s so great about meeting characters on the ship as opposed to in the parks is that with such a small number of guests on board, all the characters will remember you, making every meet and greet more special!
Even though the main meals and accommodation has been paid in advance, and your ‘Key to the World’ Card has your payment info stored, tipping is still expected onboard the ships. However, not in the awkward ‘how much should we tip when we’ve already paid and don’t know how much this meal actually costs?’-way, as Disney is way too clever for this.
On your final night you will receive several envelopes in your cabin, each allocated to the specific Cast Member that have (hopefully) been providing you with great service throughout the cruise. There will be one for your main server, one for your drinks server (these two follow you throughout the restaurants of the ship each night, such a brilliant touch!), and of course, one to the custodian who was in charge of keeping your cabin neat and tidy at all times!
Disney Cruise Line doesn’t operate with shore excursions like every other cruise line. On a Disney Cruise you’ll have an option of ‘Port Adventures’, making everything seem a lot more fun and adventurous! Typical Disney, hey?
For an overview of their many adventures, check this out!
I was surprised at how unfaced I was about going ashore. I was having such a blast on the ship, and almost didn’t want to leave it (they were showing Peter Pan on the big screen by the pool at noon, okay?). This is a little embarassing to admit, as I’m usually all for new adventures!
Making the most of your time ashore is golden, as you will only have a certain amount of hours to spend, and I’m sure you’re going to want to get your ass back on that ship for some of the delicious food at the lunch buffet. I strongly advise you to do plenty of research on your destination, and make yourself a little list of must-see places and attractions. This way, you know you are crossing the most important things off your list.
Top tip: Book your own excursions in advance with a local tour company. Often, it is these companies that sell their services to the cruise line, and by booking directly through them you are likely to save a lot of money.
Some helpful tips
Get to the ship as early as you can on the first day. There will be characters to meet while in line to board, and it’s alwas fun to have the magic starting a bit early!
Make sure to bring some pirate accessories (or a whole costume) for Pirate Night! Some guests will go all out, and you won’t want to be underdressed.
Don’t bother packing shampoo, conditioner or body wash. All of these, and some more amenities, are already in your state room, courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.
The Disney Cruise Line Navigator App is incredibly helpful, expecially if you’ve left the paper version back in the room!
Look for Hidden Mickey’s.
Bring a bottle or two of wine in your bag. It’s a money saver, and a lovely treat to enjoy before bedtime.
If you wish to dine at the adults only restaurant, make sure you make your reservation way ahead of time. The same goes for spa appointments
Avid Disney Cruisers bring stickers and signs to decorate their state room doors, so if you have anything fun lying aroung – bring it!
I hope you have found this article helpful!
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