What To Know Before You Board Your First Disney Cruise

What To Know Before You Board Your First Disney Cruise

You’ve booked your cabin and purchased your plane tickets. You’re super excited about your first Disney Cruise, but you’re not really sure what to expect? Luckily for you, we’ve been there and we’ve got you covered. We have previously written about how easy it is to travel with kids. Now, here’s everything you need to know about your Disney journey on the seas.

What To Do Before You Get to the Cruise Terminal

A lot of people make no plans before they get on a cruise ship. However, on a Disney Cruise this can be a misstep. There are many things that you can or should do before you get to the ship.

Disney Cruise Line


Book Your Disney Cruise Shore Excursions

Most cruise lines have dozens of options for shore excursions at your destinations. However, since Disney is a family-friendly company, we have found that they offer fewer options for excursions. So, you may want to purchase shore excursion before you board. Usually before we cruise, we will research shore excursions, have some possible choices in mind before we board, and then ask cruise staff what they recommend. We often book our excursions once on board. But, not with Disney Cruise Lines. We purchased our excursions well ahead of our journey to assure that we got the tickets we most wanted.

Book Your Disney Cruise On Board Activities Too

There are a number of on board adventures — like virtual sports simulators on Goofy’s Sports Deck, Princess Teas, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique– that have limited availability, so it is crucial to book these events before boarding. You may also want to book spa packages early too, although the spa usually has daily deals on board.

Disney Cruise Ship
A look at the Disney Fantasy

Pack Your Disney Princess Dresses

Our daughter packed all of her Disney Princess dresses for our dining room experiences. Each evening, she put on a new dress and was greeted by the wait staff with a “Good evening, Princess” which of course made her light up each time, and made our son a little envious.

Disney Cruise Princess Dresses
Our daughter wears one of the princess dresses she brought on board

Participate in Gift Exchanges

Disney cruisers are unlike other cruisers. While you normally meet other cruisers once you get on board with other cruise lines, on a Disney Cruise you can meet other guests beforehand. Check out Facebook groups and see if you can join a Fish Extender group created for your cruise. Most likely, a group has been created, and, in this group, you’ll find information to join a cabin gift exchange (Fish Extender Group) once on board your ship. The name derives from the distinctive fish shaped mailbox next to your stateroom. Guests who have joined the group will swap gifts, delivering them to the fish extender boxes. We did not participate because we had to fly across the country and didn’t have room to pack gifts for several other cabins. However, this is a popular thing to do.

Design Your Cabin Room Door

Cabin doors are magnetic, so many people decorate their space with magnets, balloons, white boards, Disney characters, you name it. Not only is this a fun activity for your family, but it also helps you distinguish your cabin from the hundreds of other identical cabin doors. We brought easy-to-pack magnets for our door, but we saw many others who went all out with decorations.

Disney Cruise Cruise Ship Cabin
A view from a Disney Cruise cabin.

Register for Your Embarkation

You will need to register for an embarkation time before your trip. As your cruise date approaches, you should get notification of this. Basically, you will select a window of time to check in at the terminal, receive your cabin room key card, and get on the vessel. Follow your designated time window to expedite boarding for all of the cruise guests.

Pre-Register for Disney’s Oceaneer Club

This is Disney, so you know there will be a fabulous kids’ club on board. Of course, there will be hundreds of kids registered for the club, so you can save yourself a lot of headache by pre-registering your children for the club. Once on board, you’ll still have to check your kids in and get their wristbands, photos, etc. but it is far more convenient to pre-register and avoid the lines once on board.

Disney Cruise ships in San Maarten
A Disney ship and Carnival ship in harbor

You Don’t Have to Pack Soda in Your Bags

Those who have cruised on other cruise lines know that getting a soda on ship will cost you. Most cruise lines offer free water or tea only. Not so with Disney, which provides free soda to guests. So, if you’re someone who has carried on cases of soda in the past, take a sigh of relief and rest your muscles. You don’t need to pack those cases for your Disney cruise.

Research Your Port Destinations

Although there is plenty to do on board your vessel, much of the joy of cruising is visiting exotic locales on your port stops. Do a little research on each location before you get on board so that your family has a basic idea what you will do on port days. Of course, it’s always fun to be spontaneous, too, but a little research may help you get the most from your port days.

Have you been on a Disney cruise? Do you have other recommendations? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Ready to book a Disney Cruise? Click here.

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Check out our Guide to Cruising with Kids: It’s Easier Than You Think.


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What to Know Before Your First Disney Cruise

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35 thoughts on “What To Know Before You Board Your First Disney Cruise”

  • The Disney Fantasy sounds absolutely amazing. I have actually never been on a cruise, but I know our family would love a Disney cruise. This post is a great guide for what to know before you leave. I have never heard of Fish Extender groups and would never have guessed people decorate their doors!

  • That’s so interesting that people decorate their doors. I would have never known to have fun with the doors and to bring your own decorations like magnets. Is there a reason why this started? Or did Disney start and encourage this?

  • I confess I was curious to know what a ‘Disney cruise’ is… wow, the cruisers are some pretty hardcore Disney fans! There’s like a culture around this! I guess you’d have to be hardcore, to sign up for it in the first place!

  • I been to several Disney Theme Parks but haven’t tried the cruise yet. Would love to experience it in the future. Thanks for the heads up, surely this post is very helpful. Your little girl is very adorable. 🙂

  • I’ve been on a cruise before and it was quite an experience. I would really prefer exploring foreign lands than being on a cruise ship and being limited to the area of the vessel, so I’m not sure whether I would like to go on a cruise again.

    Nevertheless, the Disney cruise which you went on seems quite interesting, especially how there’s that element of customisation and personalisation of one’s rooms. Great to hear that you had fun.

  • We had no idea that there’s something like a Disney Cruise in this world! haha… But then again, we don’t have kids and are not fans of cruises nor Disney. LOL. But families with kids who like Disney stuff should definitely try this out. And it must be fun for the kids to decorate the magnetic cabin doors the way they like it. 🙂

  • I went for a cruise in December. But I am hearing of Disney Cruise for the first time. It sounds very intriguing and exciting. I am sure kids would find travel their favorite characters very interesting. I hope someone takes a clue and prepare a Harry Potter cruise too.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Themed cruises are becoming very popular. Disney now has Star Wars themed cruises. A Harry Potter themed cruise would be a lot of fun.

  • Haven’t been to or hopped in a cruise before, but I’m a fan of Disney, so I think I would really enjoy the cruise if given the chance. Great tips by the way. 🙂

  • I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Disney cruise! If only I knew when my daughter was going through her Disney phase then I’d have had an excuse to go haha. Great post a must for anyone booking a cruise, filled with detail and information. Thanks

  • I love the idea of the gift exchange and the magnetic door…how fun. I don’t think I’ll ever find my self on a Disney cruise, but it does sound like tons of fun for families!

  • I have never been on a cruise or a Disney cruise but I would love to one day. You have some great tips before you go and I especially like that you should book your shore excursions at your destinations before you leave. You are right, you don’t want to be disappointed when you get there and it is fully booked. And same with the onboard activities.

    • Thanks. I think the onboard activiites may have filled up quicker than the shore excursions, but we still felt at peace knowing we had these things booked beforehand.

  • This is really cute, first time i have ever heard of a Disney cruise but being in S.A we don’t have such things. This must be such an amazing experience to do with your kids from Decorating the door to choosing a princess dress for the occasion. Some great tips here for a first timer.

  • We love going on cruises. I’m hoping to get one out of Alaska in soon. I would love to do a Disney cruise though. They have always sounded like so much fun. I just worry that my kids are a little too old to really enjoy it as much. Are they geared more for younger kids? (I know I would love it, I’m just a big kid myself lol 😂)

    • I think the perfect ages are up to 10 years old. However, we have some friends who have teenagers who enjoy it. One friend’s son asked to take a Disney Cruise as his high school graduation gift. But there are activities geared toward teens too.

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