So you’re going on a Disney cruise?? Congratulations!! Whether you’re sailing with kids, babies, teens, or just the grown ups, you’re going to have the most MAGICAL time! Below, I’ve included a few tips on what to think about now and what you can worry about later!
JUST BOOKED (Over a year or months out)
So it feels like forever until your cruise!! That’s fine! First things first, set a countdown. It will help you pass the days!! Set it anywhere- on your phone, on Alexa, or even make or buy a cute handmade one. We received a wooden block cruise countdown on one of our cruises as a Fish Extender gift (more on those below!) and now it sits in our kitchen and counts down the days until our next cruise!
Join the Facebook group. There’s probably already one started for your cruise, but if not, maybe be the initiator and create one! Either way, join together with your fellow cruisers and chat about what you’re looking forward to the most, what to pack, and where you’ll be spending all your time (ie. the soft serve machine or the adult pool!) Once a group gets going, it’ll be time to start thinking about…
Fish Extenders! Just outside your stateroom is a cute metallic hook that looks like a fish. It’s meant to hold correspondence from the ship to you (ie. your bill, or a reminder about your Palo reservation), but long ago people decided to hang other things from that fish. Enter the fish extender. A quick Pinterest or Etsy search will give you ideas on how to make or where to buy your fish extender. It’s generally a row of canvas pockets with the names of your cabin members that hang from a string on the fish. Within your sailing’s Facebook group, there will be a sign up for Fish Extender groups. Typically anywhere from 6-12 cabins will group together and provide some info about themselves (age, gender, stateroom number, favorite Disney character, etc.) and then cabins will exchange small gifts once on board via their Fish Extenders. There are all kinds of Fish Extender exchanges. Magnet exchanges, ornament exchanges, Kids Only, holidays, etc. Once you’re on board, deliver your Fish Extenders at some point during your cruise…and look forward to returning to your room every day to see what’s waiting in yours! You can sign up for as little or as many as you like, but remember….. all those gifts can take up valuable luggage space! On our last cruise, we signed up for regular Fish Extenders, Kids Only Fish Extenders, and a Valentine Exchange. Our Fish Extender was stuffed full almost every day! But we had to bring an extra suitcase for our Fish Extender gifts! Which was fine, because we had so much to bring home with us, so it all worked out.
Order your stuff! Buy all the things!! I am a procrastinator by nature, but I try SO HARD to order things in advance when it comes to the cruise. You have so much advance notice and when you’re buying things from small shops or handmade on Etsy, there is often a longer turnaround time that needs to be respected. Don’t back yourself into a corner sending out frantic Etsy conversations at 3A begging for a faster turnaround (hypothetically…. not that I’ve been in that oddly specific situation….) Here’s a few quick suggestions on things to order in advance:
- Magnets – your stateroom door is magnetic! Get creative! We always pick themed ones with our names on them from Coco Beans on Etsy (she has a super fast turnaround, btw!!)
- Fish Extender gifts – you have everyone’s name, age, and favorite character. Why not get something fun and personalized? Just order it early to make sure it arrives in time!
- Matching tees – I’m partial to Happiest Tees on Earth (ready to ship!) because her Oh Happy Day design is perfect for any Disney occasion, but especially a cruise! She even has a cruise specific version!
- Pirate gear – we go all out in costumes, so we always need a lot of things. But no matter what ship or how many nights, there WILL be a Pirate Night. Don’t be caught without something fun to wear!
- Lanyards – if you’re a first time cruiser, you WON’T get a lanyard (crazy, right??), so you won’t have anything to carry your Key to the World (aka room key) in. Lanyards are so convenient and easy to take with you everywhere. We love our Disney lanyards from Buckle Down and fun prints from Bare Soles Moccs!
120-75 DAYS BEFORE YOUR CRUISE
Check in. Depending on your level of Castaway Club member (which is based on how many cruises you’ve sailed with Disney), you will have varying times in which you can check in. Find out exactly when you can check in and be prepared to do so at midnight (EST). On check in day, you will be able to book excursions, meet and greets, and choose your port arrival time. Why do you need to do this all at midnight? Well, some things go fast. Here’s a list of what you should be looking to snag once you’ve gone through the check in process:
- Early port arrival time. This is part of the check in process, so it’ll be your first “fast fingers” get. The early times always book first as they are the most desireable. After all, don’t you want to spend every moment you possibly can aboard your ship? This is especially important if you’re traveling in a few days before the cruise begins. Once embarkation day rolls around, you will be READY to get your Disney on!
- Palo & Remy reservations. Palo (all ships) and Remy (Dream and Fantasy only) are both hot ticket reservations. These adult only restaurants are highly desirable and will book up for brunch and dinner fast. Be flexible, the day and time you want may not be available. If this is on your must do list, I’d advise grabbing whatever is open (you can always try to change it onboard).
- Meet & Greets. Princesses, Frozen, Marvel, Star Wars…depending on if there is a special day on your cruise (Marvel Day at Sea, Star Wars Day at Sea) that will determine which meet and greets are offered. My advice- grab them all. They’re free and you can always amend and cancel later. Character experiences on the cruise are always worth it and they will book up fast.
- Other reservations and appointments- Bippidi Boppidi Boutique, Princess teas, Character dining (7 day cruises only), hours in the Small World Nursery, etc. Anything you need scheduled, try to do it within the first 30 minutes of checking in. If you go back in a few days or weeks, it might not be available!
- On shore excursions. Popular ones will book up fast!
You’re almost there!! Just a few quick decisions that you should make before you board!
Photo package. Are you a photo person? Do you hate having to whip out your phone for some low light and maybe blurry shots? Do you stop at every Photopass person you see at the Disney parks? The photo package is for you!! If you book it before you get on board, you get a discount. PLUS, if you decide while you’re on the boat that you haven’t taken enough photos or you don’t like the ones you’ve taken, you can cancel the package and they will refund you. It’s a no brainer! We LOVE photos and the photographers on board can be a lot of fun. They will be at almost every character interaction, plus they will have backdrops set up in the lobby that you can stop at on your way to dinner for some family or themed photos. And they are often sprinkled throughout the ship during dining and other experiences. We take the time to stop almost every chance we get. You never know when you’re going to get your new favorite photo!
Download the app. You absolutely should do this before you board the ship. Our very first Disney cruise, I had no idea about the app. No one told me! I tried to download it before we embarked and the service was so spotty that it didn’t work. Disney Cruise Line offers free 50 MBs of internet data on embarkation day…. I didn’t even get halfway through downloading the app with that! So make sure it’s on your phone and you are set up and signed in before you even get to the port. Why do you need an app? Shouldn’t you be putting your cell phone away on vacation?? Well…. the app is great for so many things. You can message other passengers (great for Ritchie and I- “Oh… can you grab my lipstick as long as you’re in the room? Thanks!”) You can see the itinerary and activity schedule, plus your activities that you’ve signed up for (you know, the ones you grabbed with fast fingers while you were checking in!) You can favorite different activities (Bingo! Trivia!) and the app will send a notification to remind you when and where they are so you don’t forget. And you can get messages from the Oceaneer’s Club and Small World Nursery so you don’t have to carry your wave phone (We get a lot of- “Vada is upset and we are working to calm her down…”). It’s really nice to have on board and super helpful! I just make sure I have my data turned off and my phone is on airplane mode so that the DCL app notifications are the ONLY notifications I’m receiving while on vacation!
I hope this helps you get started on getting ready for your Disney cruise! Coming up- we’ll have tips on what to pack, Fish Extender gift ideas, and more about our Marvel Day at Sea!