It’s been over a month since Brad and I were on our first Disney Cruise, well our first cruise ever actually, and we still like to think back to how much fun it was. For all you other first timers out there, I have compiled a list of some interesting tidbits I wish I had known ahead of time to make your Disney cruise even more magical.
1. Clocks are not really present onboard:
For my next Disney cruise, I am definitely going to invest in a cheap, waterproof watch. I never wear a watch and on vacations I don’t love having my phone out, so I often didn’t know what time it was. While onboard I only saw one clock and it was inside the AquaDuck load area. Other than that, you basically have to use the angle of the sun and the rumble of your tastily overfed tummy to determine the time. For a lot of the day I didn’t really need to know what time it was ‘cause heck, I was on vacation, but around the evening time when there were dinner and shows and clubs, a watch would have been handy. Lucky for me, Brad is one of the few uberdorks left in the world who always wears a watch, and you know what they say: a husband with a watch is better than wearing a watch yourself, because that way, only he gets ugly tan lines.
2. You may be forced to sit with other people at dinner, and dinner can take a long time:
I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing. Some people love to make new friends and sit with new people and can talk for hours about what they did that day or life in general. I’ll be honest and say my husband and I are not those people. If you are there as a couple, you may be forced to sit with other couples. Brad and I are the kind of people who, for whatever reason, get along much better with people far out of our demographic. We like talking to people nearing, or in retirement, whose kids are our age. Perhaps we have old souls. But naturally, because we were celebrating our anniversary, we were with a bunch of other anniversary people our age. Maybe you will get lucky and like everyone you are sitting with. Maybe you won’t like them and you will have to awkwardly sit with them every night for the 1.5 hour long dinner. Having a little privacy at dinner would be much more relaxing for introverted couples. Again, depending on the type of person you are, this can be awesome or it can be a bit anxiety ridden. Apparently some tables for two do exist, and are available upon request. This is when having a vacation planner comes in handy. They know these secrets and help add some extra magic to your trip.
3. Outlets are for American gadgets:
I spent one whole day trying to figure out how to charge my phone. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out the outlet situation. Even though Brad, who is brilliant, told me it would definitely fit, I refused to try plugging my phone in because the outlets just looked way too big and foreign to be compatible with American electronics, and I was dead set on believing that he was an idiot. Finally at the pool one day I asked a veteran cruiser (who was nearing retirement and had kids our age) if I was missing something. He said they will fit. An older woman overheard us talking and said she too could not figure it out and had to ask a staff member. Whew, I was not alone in this. When I went back to my room and tried it, there were correct, it did fit. Mischief managed.
4. You can bring your own alcohol onboard:
This is something Brad and I unfortunately didn’t get to participate in since we had only carry on luggage and could not find a liquor store in the Orlando airport. If you can swing it, there is no limit to the amount of alcohol you can bring on, it simply just has to be in a carry on bag. This literally has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars if you like to drink while on vacation. Plus with the free unlimited drinks by the pool, you have all the mixers you might need. Buying drinks onboard will get very expensive very quickly. Brad and I ordered a grand total of two drinks on our cruise, and $30 later we decided we didn’t love alcohol enough to spend that kind of money. (We also come from a small town where drinks are typically $3-4). For our next cruise, we are checking luggage and therefore will have a nice bottle of rum or three to bring with us. Drink up me hearties yo ho!
5. You should bring some running gear so you can participate in the Castaway Cay 5k:
The Castaway Cay 5k is something relatively new on Disney’s private island. It is a real runDisney event. If you are a runner (or walker) it is something fun to do to help justify the enormous amount of food you have been eating. Make sure you bring some running shoes and clothes. You will start early so no sleeping in that day. And it will be hott. (Yes, I misspelled “hot” intentionally to make a point. But the payoff of the early rising is you get a nice mickey medal (plastic) that is only given out for this “race.” I say race loosely because you get a medal for participating and no one cares if you decide to walk the whole thing. In fact, the leaders, who we called “the skinnies” missed the first turn because they were travelling at warp speed. No one cared. We noticed some people brought bookbags with them to the race with their bathing suit and sunscreen so they could immediately start enjoying the island. We didn’t think of that and went back to our room to shower then back to the island. It really depends how much time you want to be out in the sun on the island or if you want to come back to some air conditioning for a bit.
6. There are different ways to get some free onboard credits:
For this you might have to do a bit of research in order to get some free onboard credits (obc). For starters, if you have the Disney visa card, you will get $50 obc if you book and pay for your entire trip with that card. Easy enough. Once you are onboard, if you book another cruise, they will often throw in some obc as well. Plus you will save a little bit by booking onboard. The other way would be booking through an authorized vacation planner, I know a really good looking vacation planner named Sandy who would love to help you out. Sometimes they have CLIA weeks, which offer $100 obc if you book through an agency with a CLIA number. Othertimes, agencies or individual agents purchase credits for their guests as a “thanks for booking with us.”
7. Having some sort of lanyard to keep your keys on would be helpful:
I will be honest and say I think it’s stupid that Disney cruise line hasn’t hopped on the MagicBand wagon. I love the ease of MagicBands and they would fit so seamlessly on the cruise. Plus you could recycle them at the end of the cruise and they could be reused. Anyways, until that happens, I’d recommend a lanyard that would hold you room key. As a woman, sometimes I don’t wear clothing with pockets (dresses, bathing suit, etc.) and I don’t love carrying around a purse on vacation. Having a lanyard might have been a little easier to keep track of and less worry about losing my key in my tiny pockets.
8. Bring your own Disney Mugs if you have them:
While my husband will deny being a Disney fan until his dying day, he has no problem praising the refillable Disney mug. I’m not quite sure why he likes them so much, but we have grown quite a collection of them at home. I knew that there were drink stations onboard Disney cruises similar to those at the resort hotels so we brought our mugs and were happy we did. Our mugs were bigger, more insulated, and more portable than the paper or styrofoam ones at the drink station. It just made pool time and Castaway Cay a little more enjoyable to have a little more to drink in my mug. Plus it’s way more environmentally sustainable to use one refillable mug instead of a million paper cups on a cruise.
9. Being able to read a map may be helpful in getting around the ship the first couple of days:
If it is your first time onboard, you may notice, as we did, that hallways and locations are not labeled particularly well. When we first arrived in the main lobby, we really had no idea where we were going. You will have to get very familiar with the terms forward, mid, and aft. To access some floors you might have to cut through restaurants. Some floors you can walk outside. Some floors it’s easier to go up over and down before moving forward or aft. By the 2nd day, we had become more familiar with the layout of the ship, and only sometimes used the navigator app to help us get around. Don’t be afraid to ask the cast members too, they are all super nice and helpful.
10. Three nights might not be enough:
Now that I’m officially a cruise lover, I tell people that three nights was not enough. While it was my first cruise and I had no idea what it was all about, I now know that it really wasn’t long enough. Part of this was my fault. We had a late flight the day of the cruise departure and were literally the last bus to arrive in the port terminal around 3:00pm or so. Perhaps if you were one of the first people on board around noon it would feel more like an extra day onboard. You really only get two full days on a three-night cruise, and on the morning of your departure, you are off the ship by 8:00-9:00 am, so no sleeping in there. I would have liked to try a couple more things (tours of the boat, onboard movies, different restaurants, different entertainment) but I also loved sitting by the pool so I was a bit conflicted. I feel that a longer cruise would let you do everything and still have plenty of time to lounge and relax.
Indeed three nights was not enough for Brad and I. We have already booked another Disney Cruise for this spring on the Disney Wonder. I am excited to see a new country (Cozumel, Mexico) and to return to the beautiful Castaway Cay. If you have any questions about the Disney Cruise Line or are interested in booking a cruise, I would be happy to help. Disney pays me, so my service is free!