From the moment you arrive at the port, you’ll notice something about Disney Cruise Lines – it’s all about family. With the creation of Disney Cruise Lines, the company wanted to keep true to Walt Disney’s original vision for the parks. They wanted to create a place where families could come together to play, but also have wonderful options for adults to relax and enjoy some alone time.
One thing that Disney does differently from other cruise lines is the staggered port arrival times. When you complete your online check-in, you will select your port arrival time window. This will enable you to arrive at the port with a limited number of other passengers and helps to minimize lines and wait times to check-in and board the ship. While you check in, Disney takes a photo of your family as a group and uses the images from that photo in the security system used as you check-in after being in port. The process happens so quickly, you may not even realize it happening.
Another unique Disney Cruise line experience is the character meet and greets. You haven’t even boarded yet and you’re already experiencing the Disney Magic! And don’t worry, if you’re boarding the ship in Galveston, Barcelona, Port Canaveral or one of the other eight ports Disney’s ships call home, you will still have this great opportunity. Prior to boarding, you can also finish the Kid’s Club registration and receive the kid’s Magic Bands, which are used to check-in and check-out of Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab.
Once you’ve boarded, you’ll continue to find Disney’s commitment to families everywhere you turn. You won’t find a casino on a Disney ship, but you will find staterooms with bathtubs and a nursery for children ages 3 months to 3 years. The nursery is $9/hour for the first child and $8/hour for the second and time slots can be reserved online before you board. The nursery and kid’s clubs have great hours. They are open almost all day, even at mealtimes and while in port. (Hours do vary, though, so check your Personal Navigator for more information). You can check the kids into the nursery or club and go enjoy brunch at Palo, dinner at Remy or take in a treatment at Senses spa.
Another feature unique to Disney is Pirate Night. The evening concludes with a lively show on deck followed by fireworks (Disney is the only cruise line to have fireworks at sea!). Be sure to bring your pirate garb and dress up to join in on the fun. There is also a Princess Gathering on two different sea days, so be sure you’re little one brings her princess dress (if she’s so inclined). Be prepared for long lines at this meet and greet and plan accordingly. On the Fantasy, there is even a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for Princess makeovers for princesses ages 3-12 (with a couple of styles exclusive to the ship) and Pirate makeovers for the entire family on Pirate Night.
If you are traveling with children under 3, Disney makes it very easy for you. You can order baby items ahead of time (such as diapers, baby food, formula, etc.) which will be waiting in your stateroom once you board. There is no microwave, but the servers can take food back to be puréed so your little one can still enjoy the Disney Cruise Line food. The kids menus in the main dining room have plenty of fun, kid-friendly options. You can request a diaper genie, bed rails or a pack and play (all complementary) for your cabin prior to sailing. There are also a limited number of strollers available to rent while on board (they are free but require a deposit that you receive back when you turn in the stroller). If bringing your own, I recommend an umbrella stroller as they don’t take up as much space in your stateroom and are easier to get around on the ship and while in port. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and swim diapers for your little one. They are available on the ship, but are likely more expensive than at your local store and they may not have the brands you like. Swim diapers are not allowed in the main pools, but there are splash areas specifically geared for the little ones in swim diapers.
When you first board the ship, head to guest services to inquire about any special events that might be happening during your sailing. Some of these events are free, but many are limited seating and require a ticket to attend. During the holiday sailings, for example, there is a family event to make a gingerbread house while on board. The session is free but due to limited space, tickets must be obtained prior to the session from guest services. You can also register for some fun adult only sessions like wine tasting (for a fee) and galley tours. After you’ve secured your event tickets, drop off a pillowcase, t-shirt or photomat (two items per stateroom). At the end of your cruise, you’ll receive it back signed by the Disney characters you’ll see onboard. I recommend including different colored markers in the bag for the characters to use as well as candy and treats as a thank you. Already knowing that you’ll have character signatures waiting for you when you leave the ships makes character greetings a bit less stressful while onboard because you don’t have to worry about keeping your autograph book with you while you’re at the pool!
Be sure to book your next vacation while onboard to receive a discount, reduced deposit and onboard credit. Always get a printout confirmation of your rebooking.
The most important tip I can provide is to take it easy – don’t try to do it all. If your family wants to play in the pool all day – play in the pool. If your little one needs a nap, go back to your stateroom and relax on the balcony while they nap. You’ll receive a Personal Navigator each night detailing the ships’ activities for the next day. Have each family member pick one activity as their must-do and highlight it. Enjoy the ship and being on vacation!
Cruising is a family adventure on Disney Cruise Lines! I would love to help your family experience a one of a kind vacation. Email me at Amy@TravelWithTheMagic.com or you can find me on Facebook. You can also call me at 1-800-670-4312, ext 129. I can’t wait to plan your MAGICAL vacation!