First Time Disney Cruise Tips: The Complete Guide
If you’re already a fan of the Disney theme parks, you might have wondered what cruising with Disney is like. Maybe you’ve never even cruised before — a whopping 40% of Disney Cruise passengers say they wouldn’t have even considered cruising if Disney Cruise Line didn’t exist.
So what’s it like cruising with Disney? And what do first-time cruisers need to know? Here, we’ll cover the basics so you can decide if a Disney Cruise is right for you!
In a rush? Check out the 💡 Key Takeaways at the end of each section
Magic Onboard | Costs | Ports | Itineraries | Ships
Staterooms | Dining | Requirements | How to Book
Perhaps you’re wondering what’s the big deal about cruising with Disney. Or maybe you have taken another cruise before and aren’t sure if Disney will be that different. Here are a few quick highlights of the things that make a Disney Cruise special, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned cruiser.
It’s no surprise that Disney ships host Disney characters throughout the journey. It starts with a sail-away party and continues with traditional character meet-and-greets each day. You’ll have many opportunities to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, plenty of princesses, and a smattering of other beloved characters.
Castaway Cay and Lighthouse Point
Disney’s private island in the Bahamas offers a special getaway for passengers on select cruises. Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) offers dedicated beaches for families and adults, plenty of fun recreation such as snorkeling and water slides, and free meals on-site. You’re sure to have a great day in the sun!
Meanwhile, Disney’s newest private port, Lighthouse Point, is currently under construction in Eleuthera, Bahamas. It is expected to welcome its first guests in Summer 2024.
Disney introduced the cruise industry’s first-ever fireworks at sea. It won’t quite be the same as what you’d see inside Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, but it’s still quite impressive. Note that not every voyage offers fireworks.
Kids, Tween, and Teen Clubs
Many cruise lines offer a kids club, but Disney’s are (not surprisingly) among the most impressive. Disney doesn’t have casinos on its ships, so they have room to devote nearly an entire deck just to younger cruisers. Children will get a special wristband on the first day and can use it to check themselves into the clubs whenever they like.
The Oceaneer Club (ages 3-12) features extensively themed play areas and character interactions. This is where most kids spend the majority of their cruise — even eating lunch there! The Kid’s Club on each ship is a little different, but they’re all great fun. There’s even a kid’s club on Castaway Cay! It’s no wonder we consider Disney to be the best cruise line for kids!
For older kids, Edge (ages 11-14) gives tweens a high-tech hangout of their own. Teens can visit Vibe (ages 14-17), a venue that runs the gamut from chill relaxation to energetic dance parties.
Best of all, these spaces (and many more) are already included in the cost of your cruise!
For the tiniest cruisers (up to age 3), the “it’s a small world” nursery! offers babysitter-style daycare for an additional fee.
Not Just for Kids
Worried that you won’t be able to escape the kids on your Disney Cruise? You’ll be happy to learn that each ship contains spaces limited to those ages 18 and up. Relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove pool, or dance the night away at each ship’s entertainment district, featuring several nightclubs and lounges. There are even adult-exclusive dining options. You don’t need to have kids to take a Disney Cruise — there’s plenty for adults to enjoy onboard!
Most meals are included in the cost of your cruise and you’re never far from a snack throughout the day. There’s even free room service 24/7!
Disney is unique in that most non-alcoholic drinks are included in your fare — most other cruise lines require you to buy a separate drink package even for sodas. Alcohol and specialty drinks still cost extra on a Disney cruise.
Disney cruise ships feature a unique “Rotational Dining” concept in which you dine at a different restaurant each night but your servers travel along with you. You’ll have the same dining staff each night, so they’ll get to know you and your preferences. Some restaurants even feature live entertainment during your meal!
Themed Nights and Themed Cruises
Disney holds special themed nights on many of its cruises, going far beyond usual cruise line mainstays such as Formal Night.
For example, some Disney cruises have a Pirate Night where everyone dresses up as pirates, enjoys a special meal, and then heads up to the pool deck for a pirate-themed party.
Sometimes an entire cruise can be themed. One popular offering is the Halloween on the High Seas cruise, which includes a giant pumpkin tree in the ship atrium, costume parties, and trick-or-treating. Very Merrytime cruises bring the holidays onboard, with Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and visits from Santa.
Extra care was put into the design of your stateroom (your “hotel room” on the ship). You’ll find space-maximizing designs like hideaway bedding, under-bed storage space, and room dividers. Most stateroom bathrooms are in a split configuration that allows two people to get ready at the same time.
Water Rides and Pools
Most Disney ships have unique water coaster style attractions which propel you along on a raft or let you plunge down a steep drop. There are also plenty of pools and splash zones.
Broadway-Style Shows and Live Entertainment
Each night offers live entertainment, including Broadway-style shows featuring Disney characters. Some are stage adaptations of Disney films such as Frozen or Tangled, while others are entirely original. Admission is free — there are no assigned seats, so all you have to do is show up, sit wherever you like, and enjoy the show! Each show is presented twice nightly, so you won’t have to miss dinner.
Cinema buffs will enjoy the unlimited free movies onboard. No ticket needed — just drop in and catch the latest from Disney, Marvel, PIXAR, and LucasFilm! Should you be cruising during the release of a highly-anticipated Disney film, you’ll be treated to a Prem-EAR at Sea!
Navigate with the App
The convenient and free Disney Cruise Line Navigator app lets you count down to your trip and then chart your course onboard with planning tools, deck plans, daily schedules, and even a chat function to reach fellow cruisers.
Download the app before you get onboard and you can use it for free — just follow the on-screen instructions to avoid data charges. Separate Wi-Fi connectivity is sold onboard the ships should you desire to keep up with emails and social media.
A Cashless Experience Onboard
No need to carry your wallet everywhere — all your purchases onboard and at Castaway Cay (except for postage stamps) are conveniently charged right back to your room account. Just settle up at the end of your cruise.
Cruisers are automatically enrolled in DCL’s loyalty program, the Disney Cruise Line Castaway Club. Starting with your second Disney Cruise, you’ll receive gifts in your stateroom, earlier booking windows for onboard activities, and other perks for being a repeat passenger.
Cost is obviously a major consideration for people considering a Disney Cruise. Let’s look into what’s included and how much you’ll pay.
What’s Included in the Cost
Cruises aren’t truly all-inclusive, but they’re close! Your cruise fare includes your stateroom, most meals (including room service), most non-alcoholic drinks, live entertainment, pools & water slides, most onboard activities, and taxes & fees.
You’ll need to pay extra for specialty dining, specialty drinks, off-ship activities, tips, and souvenirs, among other things. Getting to the ship (airfare, ground transport) and optional travel insurance is also extra.
Read More: What is Included on a Disney Cruise – and What Isn’t?
Cost of Disney Versus Other Cruise Lines
There’s no denying that Disney is one of the more expensive cruise lines. A similar cruise on another cruise line will almost always be cheaper than cruising with Disney
- Example: 3-Night Bahamas Cruise from Miami in July 2023 with stops at Nassau and a Private Island
- On the Disney Wish: $2,880
- On Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas: $2,370
You’ll have to decide if what you get when cruising with Disney is worth the additional expense. Disney Cruises may cost more when compared to Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, or Carnival, but many families still wouldn’t cruise with anyone else.
Cost of Disney Cruise Versus Disney World
Comparing the cost of a Disney Cruise to a Disney World vacation is a bit difficult, because there are so many variables and differences between the two. For example, Disney World requires theme park tickets while a Disney Cruise includes all meals.
- Example: Family of Four (two adults, two kids ages 10 & 5) traveling August 28, 2023
- 4-Night Cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay in Oceanview Stateroom: $4,902, meals included
- 4 Nights in Disney Moderate Resort Preferred Room, with Tickets: $4,241, meals extra
There are plenty of ways to make both options cheaper, and there are ways to make them both costlier. If you’re trying to decide between the two, reach out to a Disney travel agent who can run some comparisons for your situation.
Read More: Disney Cruise Versus Disney World
Several factors contribute to the cost of a Disney Cruise:
Departure Port and Itinerary
It’s no surprise that a 4-night cruise will cost more than a 3-night cruise. More nights cost more money.
- Example: Bahamas Cruise from Port Canaveral in May 2024
- 3-Night Cruise: $1,988+
- 4-Night Cruise: $2,554+
Destinations matter, too. Some ports are more expensive to visit than others and some itineraries are simply more popular and command higher prices.
- Example: 7-night cruise in August 2023
- Western Caribbean Cruise: $3,372+
- Norwegian Fjords cruise: $5,423+
Stateroom Type and Location
The type of stateroom — and its location on the ship — affects the price paid. A “better” stateroom generally costs more.
- Example: 3-Night Bahamas Cruise in May 2024, with two adults
- Inside (no view) stateroom: $2,564+
- Oceanview (window) stateroom: $2,780+
Who is Traveling
Cruise fares are per-person. The first two people in a stateroom always pay full price for the type of stateroom they’re staying in.
The remaining people pay a reduced rate based on their ages: adult (13+), child (3-12), and infant (2 or younger). These rates usually don’t change much (if at all), no matter the type of stateroom.
- Example: 3-Night Bahamas Cruise in May 2024, in an oceanview stateroom
- First two adults: $1,329 each
- 15-year-old: $759
- 7-year-old: $728
- 2-year-old: $401
Prices are based on double occupancy. Solo travelers should expect to pay almost as much as two adults would have paid.
- Example: 4-Niight Baja Cruise in April 2023
- Total for Two Adults: $1,404+
- Total for One Adult: $1,178+
Time of Year
Cruises are typically more expensive during popular months — such as summer and spring break.
- Example: 4-night Bahamas Cruise
- In January 2024: $2,128+
- In April 2024: $4,810+
Like airfare, cruise prices can change as the travel date approaches. You might find last-minute deals, but prices are often cheapest when they are first released. 2023 cruises are already bookable, as are some 2024 cruises.
Waiting to book may also mean that cheaper types of staterooms are booked, so only more-expensive categories are left. The best sail dates can even sell out, meaning you have to pick another.
And special events onboard the ship, such as Very Merrytime cruises and Halloween on the High Seas cruises may command higher prices.
Read More: How Much Is a Disney Cruise?
When calculating the cost of a Disney Cruise, don’t forget gratuities (tips). It is customary on a cruise to pay gratuities to dining room staff and stateroom hosts (housekeeping). These amounts are not included in your cruise fare.
On Disney Cruise Line, the standard gratuity rate is $14.50 per passenger, per night (plus a little more if you’re staying in a Concierge room). This will be automatically charged to your stateroom account at the end of the cruise unless you visit Guest Services to adjust the amount (or pre-pay it).
Tips for other crew, such as bartenders and porters, is at your discretion and separate from the standard gratuities described above.
Read More: How Does Tipping Work on a Disney Cruise
One way to make your cruise money go further is using an Onboard Credit, which is somewhat like a rebate.
Onboard Credits don’t directly reduce your cruise fare, but they act as money that can be used while onboard the ship to purchase things that cost extra — souvenirs, specialty dining, alcoholic beverages, and even gratuities for the crew.
Some travel agencies offer up to $1,000 in onboard credit for Disney Cruises. Most travel agencies don’t charge any planning fees to book cruises through them, so it truly is free money for those already planning a cruise.
Read More: Disney Cruise Onboard Credit
Get a Personalized Price Quote and Onboard Credit
Cruise pricing can be confusing and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Fortunately, you can get free help planning your Disney Cruise from the Disney experts at The Vacationeer!
Working with an Earmarked Diamond Level Authorized Disney Vacation Planner such as The Vacationeer is the best way for first-timers to plan a cruise.
You’ll have one, dedicated agent from start to finish — no giant call centers and waiting forever on hold! Your Vacationeer will answer your questions, share great advice, and help you find a cruise that fulfills your dreams and respects your budget.
When you’re ready, they’ll book your reservation, set up your payment plan, and help you keep track of important dates along the way.
Best of all, they provide a generous Onboard Credit of up to $1,000.
Their services are completely free, and there’s absolutely no obligation to book when you contact them.
Disney Cruise Line sails from 19 departure ports around the world. If you want to take a Disney Cruise, you’ll need to get to one of these locations to board the ship.
Florida Departure Ports
Other U.S. Departure Ports
- Galveston, Texas
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- New York, New York
- San Diego, California
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
International Departure Ports
- Auckland, New Zealand
- Barcelona, Spain
- Brisbane (Queensland), Australia
- Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Dover, England
- Melbourne (Victoria), Australia
- Sydney (New South Wales), Australia
- Southampton, England
- Vancouver, Canada
It’s tempting to just book a Disney Cruise that starts close to home; but you might need to travel to a far-away port to get a certain type of cruise, your preferred time of year, or your preferred Disney Cruise ship.
For example, Disney’s Alaska cruises start only in Vancouver. Galveston hosts Disney ships during winter only, not summer (Florida is the only state that hosts Disney cruises every month of the year). And the popular new Disney Wish cruise ship sails only from Port Canaveral.
Port Canaveral — Disney’s Home Port
Port Canaveral, Florida is the Disney cruise departure port that’s closest to Walt Disney World, about 60-90 minutes away. It’s close enough that many people choose to bundle some time at Disney World with a Disney Cruise.
Multiple Disney Cruises sail from Port Canaveral each week, year-round. The port is so busy that Disney has its own private cruise terminal building there.
Port Everglades — Disney’s Second Home Port
Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida becomes a second year-round home port for Disney Cruise Line in late 2023. The Disney Dream will be the first Disney cruise ship assigned to there, starting November 2023. At least one more ship is expected to join by 2025, and Disney will likely build its own dedicated terminal there.
Getting to the Departure Port
Most people take flights to reach the city of their departure port. We strongly suggest you fly in a day early and spend the night at a hotel. This helps prevent missing your cruise due to a flight delay. (Your return flight home shouldn’t be too early, either, in case of port delays.)
Disney has agreements with hotels near each departure port; you can stay a night or two before/after your cruise and bundle the hotel reservation in with your cruise reservation. Of course, you can also stay at any hotel you like by booking separately.
Disney also sells ground transfers that will get you from select airports to the departure port, and to/from Disney Cruise Line’s approved hotels. Or, you can take a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or a shuttle.
If you’re driving yourself to the port, you’ll have to pay for extended parking onsite. Port parking prices are set by the Port Authority, not by Disney.
A big part of booking your Disney Cruise is picking your itinerary — which ship you’re on, when/where the cruise begins, where it goes, and how long it lasts.
Picking a Cruise
You can choose short 2-night jaunts or longer cruises lasting up to two weeks. 3-, 4-, and 7-night itineraries are the most common.
As for where to travel, there are numerous possibilities. The most popular — Bahamas cruises and Caribbean cruises — are offered year-round.
Other options are offered only at certain times. Alaska cruises happen in the summer to avoid the worst of the cold weather. And at least one Disney ship spends part of the year cruising in Europe.
Additional options include Hawaii cruises, Mexico, the Pacific Coast, Canada, Bermuda, the South Pacific, and New Zealand / Australia.
There are even a few one-way cruises, which start in one location and end in another. These include Transatlantic, Transpacific, and Panama Canal cruises.
Read More: Best Disney Cruise Line Itineraries
There’s enough to do onboard the ship to keep you busy from breakfast to bedtime, but cruising is also a great way to experience other parts of the world. After all, where else but on a cruise does your hotel move to a different city each day?
Any time your ship visits a port-of-call (a stop during your cruise), you’ll be able to leave the ship for a few hours to go exploring. There’s no charge to leave the ship, but you’ll pay for any activities you do while you’re there.
Just be sure to make note of what time the ship will be leaving — you don’t want to be left behind!
Read More: Where Does the Disney Cruise Go?
Disney has its own private island in the Bahamas. Castaway Cay is included as a stop on many Bahamas and Caribbean Cruises. The island is so popular among Disney Cruise passengers that a few cruises offer two stops at Castaway Cay.
Because Castaway Cay is Disney’s own island, you won’t be competing for beach space with passengers from another cruise line — Disney doesn’t even bring two of its own ships there on the same day.
Highlights include a family-friendly beach, an adults-only beach, a kids club, water slides, all-you-can-eat BBQ, and all types of water recreation. There’s lots to do and enjoy on the island!
Read More: Castaway Cay — Disney’s Private Island
Although it’s free to leave the ship and explore on your own, you might choose to take a Port Adventure. This is a paid activity, usually organized by a tour operator who has an agreement with Disney. Some cruise lines call these shore excursions.
Port Adventures can be as simple as transportation and admission to a nearby tourist attraction, or as complex as a guided tour with special activities and a meal. Popular Bahamas and Caribbean Excursions include everything from dolphin interactions to Jamaica “Bobsled” rides. Alaska cruise excursions allow you to ride the White Pass Railway through Yukon territory or take a helicopter flight to land on a glacier. Castle tours are popular excursions on European departures. Or explore volcanoes on a Hawaiian cruise excursion.
You can book similar experiences on your own, but there’s a huge benefit to booking Port Adventures through Disney: if your Disney-arranged tour runs late, they’ll hold the ship at the port — or pay for you to catch up to the ship at the next port!
Day at Sea
Many itineraries include at least one Day at Sea. The ship won’t stop at any ports that day — you’ll just stay out on the open ocean. It’s a fantastic way to relax without feeling like you’re missing anything! Catch a free movie, watch a show, try a new restaurant, go swimming, or just order room service and stay in bed!
Your Disney Cruise ship is almost like a floating city. Onboard, you’ll find hotel-style guest rooms, restaurants, nightclubs & lounges, theaters, shops, pools & water slides, and even a medical center.
Disney has five ships to choose from, with three more under construction. We’ve listed them here alphabetically.
The Disney Dream was the third ship in the fleet, first sailing in 2011. It has 1,250 Guest Staterooms for 4,000 passengers and is similar in size to the Disney Fantasy. It is significantly larger than the Disney Magic.
Itineraries: Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Departure Ports: Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome), Copenhagen, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, San Juan, Southampton
Rotational Dining: Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace
Adult-Exclusive Dining: Palo, Remy
Broadway-Style Shows: Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s Believe, The Golden Mickeys
Youth Clubs: Edge, “it’s a small world” nursery!, Oceaneer Club, Occeaneer Lab, Vibe
Oceaneer Club Features: Andy’s Room, Disney Infinity Game Room, Pixie Hollow, Star Wars – Millennium Falcon, Disney’s Once Upon a Time, Puzzle Playtime with Mickey and Friends, Jedi Training – Experience the Force
The Disney Fantasy was the fourth ship in the fleet, first sailing in 2012. It has 1,250 Guest Staterooms for 4,000 passengers and is similar in size to the Disney Dream.
Itineraries: Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean
Departure Ports: Port Canaveral
Rotational Dining: Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, Royal Court
Adult-Exclusive Dining: Palo, Remy
Broadway-Style Shows: Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, Disney’s Believe, Frozen – A Musical Spectacular
Youth Clubs: Edge, “it’s a small world” nursery!, Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Vibe
Oceaneer Club Features: Andy’s Room, Star Wars – Command Post, Marvel Super Hero Academy, Pixie Hollow, Puzzle Playtime with Mickey and Friends, Woody’s Roundup, Doctor Strange – Defy the Dark Dimension
The Disney Magic was the first ship in the fleet, first sailing in 1998. It has 877 Guest Staterooms for 2,713 passengers and is similar in size to the Disney Wonder.
Itineraries: Bahamas, Mexico, Panama Canal
Departure Ports: Galveston, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, San Juan
Rotational Dining: Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, Rapunzel’s Royal Table
Adult-Exclusive Dining: Palo
Broadway-Style Shows: Disney Dreams – an Enchanted Classic, Tangled – The Musical, Twice Charmed – An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story
Youth Clubs: Edge, “it’s a small world” nursery!, Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Vibe
Oceaneer Club Features: Andy’s Room, Marvel Super Hero Academy, Disney Junior, Pixie Hollow, Thor Becoming Worthy, Puzzle Playtime with Mickey and Friends, Mickey and the Roadster Racers, Disney Royal Academy, Join the Lion Guard
The Disney Wish was the fifth ship in the fleet, first sailing in 2022. It has 1,254 Guest Staterooms for 4,000 passengers.
Departure Ports: Port Canaveral
Rotational Dining: 1923, Arendelle – A Frozen Dining Adventure, Worlds of Marvel
Adult-Exclusive Dining: Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement, Palo Steakhouse
Broadway-Style Shows: Disney Seas the Adventure, Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, The Little Mermaid
Youth Clubs: Edge, “it’s a small world” nursery!, Oceaneer Club, The Hideaway, Vibe
Oceaneer Club Features: Marvel Super Hero Academy, Star Wars – Cargo Bay, Fairytale Hall, Walt Disney Imagineering Lab, Mickey and Minnie Captain’s Deck.
The Disney Wonder was the second ship in the fleet, first sailing in 1999. It has 877 Guest Staterooms for 2,713 passengers and is similar in size to the Disney Magic.
Itineraries: Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia, Pacific Coast, South Pacific
Departure Ports: Auckland, Brisbane, Honolulu, Melbourne, San Diego, Sydney, Vancouver
Rotational Dining: Animator’s Palate, Tiana’s Place, Triton’s
Broadway-Style Shows: Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, Frozen – A Musical Spectacular, The Golden Mickeys
Adult-Exclusive Dining: Palo
Youth Clubs: Edge, “it’s a small world” nursery!, Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Vibe
Oceaneer Club Features: Andy’s Room, Marvel Super Hero Academy, Disney Junior, Frozen Adventures, Captain America’s Super Hero 101, Mickey’s Roadster Racers, Join the Lion Guard
Disney is building three more cruise ships.
The Disney Treasure will become the sixth ship in the fleet in 2024 and should be similar in size and design to the Disney Wish.
An additional ship, not yet named, is being custom-built and will join in 2025. It should be similar to Disney Wish and Disney Treasure.
And Disney has purchased the partially-constructed Global Dream and will convert it into a Disney ship by 2025. This ship will be based in Singapore for at least five years.
Your stateroom is your “hotel room” on the ship. It’s your own private space to sleep and relax onboard. Disney designed its staterooms thoughtfully, with sensible layouts and extra storage space that’s perfect for families. You’ll have a stateroom host who provides daily housekeeping and a nightly turndown service.
What’s in a Stateroom?
Your stateroom includes these amenities and more:
- A traditional bed, usually queen-sized, designed to sleep two
- A sleeper sofa (plus a pull-down upper berth and/or Murphy bed in rooms holding 4-5 people)
- A private bathroom, usually in a split design which lets two people get ready at the same time
- A mini-fridge
- A television
- A desk or table
- Drawers, closets, and other storage space
- An in-room safe
Four Types of Staterooms
There are four main types of staterooms to pick from, and the price changes based on what you pick.
Inside staterooms do not offer any direct outside view. These are the smallest and least expensive rooms onboard the ship.
Oceanview staterooms have at least one window, called a porthole, that lets you look out from your room. The window does not open.
Verandah staterooms have private balconies that let you step outside your room to enjoy the fresh ocean air.
Concierge staterooms are either oceanview or verandah, but add in additional perks and benefits. They may be a traditional room, a one- or two-bedroom suite, or even an astounding multi-story room. These are the costliest rooms onboard the ship.
Picking Your Stateroom
To pick a stateroom for your cruise, you first need to select the Type of stateroom.
Next, you’ll pick a stateroom Category, which is based on room size, layout, and occupancy.
Then, you’ll pick a Subcategory, which is based mainly on location within the ship — forward (toward the front), midship (toward the middle), or aft (toward the back), and whether you want to be on an upper or lower deck.
Finally, you’ll pick the exact stateroom you’ll be staying in. This is one of the big ways that reserving a cruise stateroom differs from reserving a hotel room.
There are lots of things to consider when picking a stateroom. You’ll want to study the ship’s deck plans (or get help from a travel agent) to decide what’s best for you.
Read More: Best Staterooms on a Disney Cruise
Get Free Stateroom Advice from a Disney Cruise Expert
Because you pick your exact stateroom on a cruise, you’ll want to make sure you’re thinking of everything before choosing.
Get free guidance from The Vacationeer! They’ll discuss costs, help you choose, and book your stateroom for you at no additional charge!
They’ll even give you a free Onboard Credit of up to $1,000 to use toward purchases on the ship!
You’re never under any obligation to book, so there’s no risk in contacting them!
If you go hungry on a cruise ship, you have only yourself to blame! There’s plenty of food available 24/7, most of which is already included in the cost of your cruise.
Dinner (Rotational Dining)
The nightly dinner service is a highlight for most Disney Cruisers. Each ship has different restaurants — some offer just a meal service while others add in live entertainment.
Dinner when you cruise with Disney includes something called rotational dining. Passengers are pre-scheduled to visit a different restaurant each night of the cruise — no need to make separate reservations. The same servers travel with you to each restaurant; by the end of the cruise they’ll know you well enough to have your favorite drinks ready and remember how you like your steak.
When you make your cruise reservation, you’ll pick your dining time — either Main Dining (around 5:30 PM) or Second/Late Dining (around 8:15 PM). Want Second Dining but are concerned about the kids? Servers will expedite children’s meals if requested, and Oceaneer Club representatives come to the dining room to take the kids while the grownups continue eating.
You may be seated with another group; if so, it will be the same people for the entire cruise. Some families love this because they can make new friends — but if you want to be seated at a private table with no other guests, ask your travel agent to note that request on your reservation.
Your dinner is already included in the cost of the cruise, so it’s a great way to try something different. Fearlessly order the escargot or pate — if you don’t like it, you can always get something else at no charge.
Even “complicated” foods like crab legs and lobster are served in a way that’s easy for novices to eat. Can’t decide between steak or chicken? Get both! Your crew will happily serve you two entrees or bring three desserts.
There’s usually at least one optional dress-up night / formal night during dinner. If you don’t want to participate, you can always pick an alternate dinner option.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Alternate Dinners
Breakfast and Lunch onboard are less “rigid” than dinner. Each ship features a buffet-style restaurant where you don’t have to show up at a set time and can sit wherever you like.
This same location also typically serves an “alternate” dinner if you’re just not that impressed by your assigned restaurant’s menu.
One of the usual dinner restaurants may also offer breakfast or lunch on some days of the cruise. These can be a more-relaxed meal than the often-lively buffet restaurant.
Adult-Exclusive Dining ($)
Each ship has at least one adult-exclusive restaurant which offers elegant meals for an additional fee. Reservations are required, and a dress code applies. Service is mainly at dinner, with an occasional brunch offering.
Snacks can always be found on the pool deck — food windows offer up everything from chicken tenders to hot dogs to pizza to BBQ or Tex-Mex (offerings vary by ship). And there are free ice cream cones, too!
You don’t need to purchase a drink package if all you want is soda, milk, juice, or standard coffees/teas. They’re included at no additional charge — just fill up at one of the complimentary drink stations onboard the ship.
Specialty beverages (smoothies, iced coffees, etc.) and alcohol cost extra.
Room service operates 24/7 and is included in the price of your cruise (but please tip the crew member who brings it to you).
The menu is relatively simple, but not sparse. You’ll find salads, soups, burgers, sandwiches, wings, fruit/cheese trays, cookies, and cake, among other offerings. Canned sodas and packaged candies are also offered, but cost extra.
You can get breakfast through room service, but it’s mainly pastries and cereals — no eggs, bacon, or oatmeal. Room service shuts down on the last night of the cruise, so you will not be able to get room service breakfast before you leave the ship at the end of the cruise.
Lounges and Bars ($)
There are plenty of lounges and bars on each ship. These can be simple places to get a drink, lively dance clubs, or highly themed experiences such as a Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge.
Offerings vary by ship. Most drinks here cost extra, but you can purchase optional drink packages to help ease the cost.
Read More: Food on Disney Cruise Line
Booking and boarding a cruise is a bit more complex than booking and checking into a hotel.
What’s Needed to Book a Disney Cruise
When you’re ready to book a cruise, you’ll need to have some information handy.
First, you’ll need to know exactly which cruise you want to take.
You’ll also need to know who is traveling. “Guessing” now and modifying later can be complicated and costly.
For each passenger, you’ll need:
- Legal name (exactly as it appears on government-issued ID)
- Birth date
- Country of Citizenship
- Phone Number
Infants must be at least six months old on the day the cruise begins. For Transatlantic and Panama Canal cruises, the minimum age is 1 year old.
Passengers who enter their 24th week of pregnancy before or during their cruise may not sail.
Neither a doctor’s medical statement nor a waiver of liability will be accepted.
When do You Pay for Your Cruise?
You’ll usually only need to pay a deposit (typically 20%) when you book. After that, you can pay the balance on your own schedule. There is a final payment deadline and you won’t be able to book any onboard activities until you’ve paid in full.
If you need to modify or cancel, do so before cancellation penalties begin. Some last-minute bookings must be paid in full right away and have strict cancellation rules.
Requirements to Board a Disney Cruise
Cruising is a method of international travel. You’ll need to present proof of citizenship and proof of identification to board.
Some cruises allow U.S. citizens to board with only a Government-issued photo ID and an official copy of a birth certificate. There are very specific requirements for this — check the information provided with your cruise booking.
The best option is to have a passport. If you have a mid-cruise emergency or miss the ship at a port-of-call, you will need a passport to board a plane.
Read More: Do You Need a Passport for a Disney Cruise?
Boarding the Ship for the First Time
Ahead of your cruise, you’ll be able to do Online Check-In to complete and print important documents. By all means do so — it’s no fun doing paperwork at the terminal! You’ll also pick a port arrival time during this step.
You’re allowed to have both checked bags and carry-on bags. You’ll receive airline-style luggage tags in the mail prior to your cruise — put those on any bags you want to check at the port, then give the bags to a Porter at the terminal (don’t forget to tip). Those bags won’t be delivered to your stateroom until later on the first night, so be sure your carry-on contains any medicines, sunscreen, swimsuits, etc. that you’ll need for the first afternoon and evening.
Passengers and bags undergo security screening at the terminal, so don’t pack or bring any prohibited items. You’ll then head to a check-in counter for a quick security photo, basic health questionnaire, and other necessary info. Then you’ll wait until your boarding group is called.
Once you board the ship, you’ll be able to access most areas right away, but your stateroom may not be ready until mid-afternoon.
Exiting the Ship at the End of Your Cruise
On the last night of the cruise, you’ll have the option to have your checked bags picked up and delivered directly into the terminal.
If you DO let them pick up your luggage, everything must be packed and placed outside your room by a certain time (which might be during your dinner). You won’t see your bag again until you’re off the ship, so be sure not to pack anything you’ll need prior to that — shoes, undies, medicine, etc. You’ll be given new luggage tags to place on each bag. Breakfast on the last morning of your cruise will take place at a set time, at the same restaurant you were assigned to dine at on the night before.
If you DO NOT have them pick up your luggage, you’ll be taking part in Express Walk Off. You will be responsible for getting all of your luggage off the ship with no help. You’ll need to leave the ship as soon as the Express Walk Off announcement is made, as early as 7:00 AM. Those doing Express Walk Off skip their scheduled breakfast on the last morning, though there are usually some pastries and coffee available somewhere on the ship.
Either way, you’ll need to clear Customs at the port after you exit the ship. You’ll receive a declaration form in your stateroom on the last night. Take some time to fill it out then — it’s no fun, but it’s even less fun to have to rush to do it the next morning.
If you’re not doing Express Walk Off, you’ll head to breakfast at the designated time and place. Then, you wait for the announcement that you’re clear to leave the ship, and off you go.
And that’s it! Your first cruise with Disney is sadly over – but it’s already time to start dreaming about the next one!
There are many ways to book a Disney Cruise, including directly through Disney Cruise Line’s website or phone number.
But for first time cruisers, you’ll get the best service and guidance by booking through an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner such as The Vacationeer.
- Free help planning your Cruise — there’s no charge to book with The Vacationeer and they’ll walk you through every big decision
- The best prices — they know all the ways to save, so you’ll never pay more than if you’d booked it yourself
- The best discounts — they can help with Military discounts, Florida resident rates, and more
- One dedicated agent from start to finish — no huge call centers and no waiting on hold (unlike major wholesalers)
- Expert advice from frequent cruisers — your agent knows the ships because they sail on them, too
- They’re First Cruise experts — Vacationeers book thousands of trips each year and specialize in helping first-timers
- Up to $1,000 to use onboard — get a free Onboard Credit for Port Adventures, gratuities, souvenirs, and more
- Land and Sea Specialists — Want to spend some time at Disney World, too? Your Vacationeer handles it all!
You’re never under any obligation to book, so there’s no risk in contacting them!