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9 Tips To Plan a Wonderful Disney Cruise For Your Family

9 Tips To Plan a Wonderful Disney Cruise For Your Family

My husband and I booked a trip on a Disney Cruise Ship for our honeymoon. It was a once in a lifetime chance to blow our money on this type of vacation without anyone judging us.

It turns out they did judge us, but a short way into the cruise we really didn’t care. From beginning to end we were treated like royalty. Honestly, we would go back any time, especially now that we have kids (and we do), but even without them.

Here are my tips for planning well and making the most of a Disney Cruise, with or without kids.

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1. Insure your trip

Disney charges more than other cruise lines that are popular with families And while they provide good value for their higher fees you want to make sure you don’t lose that money if something goes wrong.

At the time you book your vacation, buy proper travel insurance that covers all the reasons why might miss your cruise including missed travel connections, illness, weather, loss of employment, loss of a family member, or simply loss of vacation days.

If you are concerned about you might have to cancel because Covid 19 ask about it specifically. Insurance companies’ policies on Covid-related coverage have evolved since the pandemic has largely ended.

Travel insurance can also include travel health insurance, in case someone in your group gets sick on the cruise. This can come in handy in the most unexpected ways. But it’s especially good to have if you are traveling with grandparents.

ariel graces the space of a disney ship

2. Check in ahead of time

First-time Disney cruise guests can check in online 75 days before sailing. I suggest checking right on that tfirst date so you get first pick of popular excursions restaurants and other activities that require reservations.

Do a little research and know which activities are priorities for your family and determine which ones are add-ons. It will help you to not blow your budget and you can go right to those activities when you want to book them.

3. Pack Right

Disney Cruises has a long list of prohibited items. Some are obvious (fire arms) and some surprising (over-the-door hanging organizers). Small packaged snacks are usually okay but the only beverage you can carry on board is breast milk.

In the event you bring something that isn’t allowed you’ll generally get a receipt and can collect it when the cruise is over. But knowing ahead of time that you can’t bring a hair dryer or power strip could save room in your suitcase and save time when you’re boarding.

dad and daughter play in s disney cruise line pool while a lifeguard looks on.

Have a proper packing list. While most restaurants are “cruise casual,” the adults-only restaurants have a more formal dress code; something to keep in mind if you plan on a date night or two. In addition, most cruises have a fancy dress night and a themed costume night you might want to pack for.

A cover-up is handy for walking around the ship and Castaway Caye. And consider whether the excursions you want to do might require specific gear. Rash guards for snorkeling, for example, or sturdy sport sandals for other water activities.

4. Pack a good carry-on for day 1

As is usually the case with cruise ships, you’ll have to check your luggage dockside, which is incredibly convenient and makes check-in easy, But it won’t arrive in your stateroom later on in the day. A day pack with flip-flops, swimsuits and other pool gear and a sweater for the AC will allow you to get started on your vacation right away.

4. Don’t miss the boat!

disney ships have quiet adults-only pools. (matt stroshane, photographer)

Especially given the state of air travel these days, plan to arrive at your disembarkation city a day or two before you sail.

You’ll be happy for the wiggle room if your luggage is lost, your flights are delayed or, you could hit traffic on the way to the ship terminal.

In some ports you can book land excursions for the day before and after your trip if you don’t want to explore on your own.

5. Manage the crowds

Disney’s ships are not the biggest, but they are still big. If you don’t like crowds check the daily itinerary to know where different ages of kids or any big groups of people are likely to gather during the day so you can be elsewhere.

Some ships have libraries, which are excellent if you need a little peace and quiet. Seek out quiet corners of the pool decks and dine during evening activities like the shows on the nights you aren’t partaking in them.

kids meet olaf in the oceaneers club. (matt stroshane, photographer)

One good rule of thumb is to be wherever the roaming Disney, Star Wars Marvel characters aren’t, assuming your kids are too old or young to want to meet them.

6. Take some adult time

There are Oceaneers kids clubs for kids from ages 3 to 12, and teens have the Vibe lounge.

Parents with babies and toddlers (6 months old to 2 years old) have access to a nursery program, but there are limited hours and spots and there’s a fee for this one club.

disney cruise lines provides excellent date-night opportunities like remy, an adults-only french restaurant.

Once you lose the kids for a few hours check out the adults-only areas of the ship, including the no-kids pool, spa, fitness room and one of the upscale dining rooms.

7. Be prepared to dine with others

Disney arranges its ship dining so that you rotate through all its restaurants over the course of the cruise. This means they assign you a dining room, seating and table for dinner.

All tables are for six or eight and if your party isn’t that big you’ll be seated with other guests who you’ll dine with for the entire cruise. In assigning dining mates they consider the size of your group, whether you have kids with you and their ages, among other factors.

animator's palate offers fun dining on disney cruises.

On our honeymoon, Disney Cruise Line paired us with three other couples: a senior duo, a father and son, and another set of newlyweds.

Sometimes the chemistry isn’t there. If you don’t click with your table mates you can request a change or a private table. Considering we only saw each other for an hour or two a day, we had a great time meeting new people and exchanging stories about the day’s goings-on.

If your table mates have kids the same age as yours it can work out very well. If the age range is really wide this can be another reason to ask for a change.

8. Indulge in Disney entertainment

Attend as many live shows and movies as possible. Because Disney owns the cruise line and the rights to its own films, they are known to screen their latest movies for free on their ships.

tangled live, a disney cruise show. (ryan wendler, photographer)

For example, we watched Toy Story 3 just a few weeks after it was released in theatres. And we got to see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on its release date.

9. Take Lots of photos

Last tip. Take as many photos as humanly possible. Pack extra SD cards. Bring your cell phone as well as a camera. There’s so much to see and do, and every day is different.

It’s hard to remember it all when you get home, so you’ll appreciate having a little reminder of everything you did.

Also, when they see your fantastic photos, your friends and family will probably stop judging you.

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Canadian writer Christine Leger is the founder of Tapped Out Travelers and a huge fan of Disney. You can follow her on Instagram or Pinterest.

Photos courtesy of Disney Cruise Lines.