As a gold member of Disney’s Castaway Club (DCL’s elite loyalty program for repeat cruisers), I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about sailing the high seas with Captain Mickey. Honestly, Disney cruises rank at the top of my list when it comes to most memorable and relaxing vacations. I hope that the tips I share here today will help ensure that your next Disney cruise is as magical as can be!
1. Book early
In my experience, cruse fares only increase over time. The very best way to get a low rate is to book on or as close to the schedule release date as possible.
2. Plan early, too
While certain experiences needn’t be reserved (like nightly rotational dining), other experiences do require reservations and can book up fast–especially certain shore excursions and brunch in either of the adults only restaurants. Disney Cruise Line allows its guests to book activities and dining reservations online before the cruise. Here’s a handy tool to help you understand when you can book:
Platinum Castaway Club members, Suites/Concierge, Weddings/Vow Renewal, VIP, Media and Make a Wish Guest Types can book 120 days in advance.
Gold Castaway Club members can book 105 days in advance.
Silver Castaway Club members can book 90 days in advance.
Everyone else can book 75 days in advance.
3. Bring cash
Once you board the ship, you won’t be able to spend cash in any of the restaurants or gift shops. You will, however, need cash if you plan to tip the porters who assist with your luggage curbside. You’ll also need cash to tip the servers if you plan to take advantage of free room service on the ship. Lastly, you may want to bring cash if you want to give your service team (dining servers and room steward) something beyond the tips that will automatically be applied to your stateroom account.
Did you know that DCL allows guests to bring alcohol on board? It’s true! The caveat is that guests must consume any alcohol brought on board in his or her own stateroom–it cannot be brought into any public spaces. The one exception is that guests can bring their own bottle of wine to dinner and pay a corking fee. It’s important to note that any food or drink you bring on board must be packed in your carry-on luggage; it cannot be checked.
5. Join a Fish Extender group
The DCL Fish Extender gift exchange is a fun way of meeting fellow cruisers and adding a bit of magic to your trip. The children in your party will especially enjoy finding a little surprise awaiting them at the end of the day.
6. Dine late
Disney Cruise Line offers two seating times for nightly rotational dining: main at 5:45 and late at 8:15. My family did main dining during our first several cruises, but once we tried late dining we found we preferred it. One of the perks of eating late is that parents can opt to have kids served first and then Cast Members from the Kids Club come through the dining rooms and take any kids who want to go to the activity centers. It’s a great way for mom and dad to have the best of both worlds: dinner with and without the kids!
7. Dry clean on board
Considering the fact that almost everything is more expensive on vacation, it might surprise you to learn that dry cleaning or pressing charges on Disney’s ships are very reasonable–probably even cheaper than what you’d pay on land. I never bother to have our formal wear cleaned before we leave; I simply send it off for cleaning on our first night and it comes back ready to wear the next day!
8. Pamper yourself
Keep an eye on spa specials as you approach the halfway point of your cruise. Often times the spa will offer deeply-discounted treatments if bookings are low.
9. Use available space
Many of Disney’s lounges remain open for guests to use and enjoy throughout the day, even if there are no scheduled events or activities going on. We’ve found that the lounges offer a quiet place to read or chat (often times with an excellent view) during slow daytime hours.
10. Take advantage of the activities
Disney offers so many fun activities on any given day. You’d be surprised how much fun you might have in an animation class, or at a cooking demonstration. Don’t skip these events (that is, if you can fit them in to your schedule)!