Disney Cruise Line: Planning and Preparing for Your Disney Cruise
Last week, my family experienced our very first Disney Cruise Line vacation. In fact, it was our very first cruise ever and our first time out of the country! There is so much to share that I will be breaking it up into a Disney Cruise Line series. Today’s post is on preparation for your cruise! I will be adding to this post as I receive tips from readers as well, so make sure you leave a comment after reading.
I want to start off by saying that this post was in no way sponsored by Disney Cruise Line. Disney Cruise Line did offer to cover our expenses one night at the Palo restaurant, as well as 100 minutes of internet and free access to the Rainforest Room, but we did not end up using any of these offers. We were grateful for Disney’s invitation to do so, but were simply too busy with other fun activities on the ship to take advantage of them. This post does include a couple of Amazon referral links.
photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line
WHICH DCL CRUISE WE SELECTED AND WHY
Since this was our very first family cruise, we wanted to play it safe by booking a four night cruise. In many ways, this was a trial run for us and we certainly didn’t want to commit to a full week if one of us were easily nauseated at sea or just plain bored. We also really wanted to experience the Disney Dream ship, as it is one of the newer ships that the DCL offers. (the Fantasy is now booking reservations!) Our Disney Dream tour included a day to Nassau (Bahamas), one day at sea and a day at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island). The first day was spent boarding and then out at sea.
HOW TO BOOK A DISNEY CRUISE AND EXCURSIONS
I booked our cruise online at disneycruise.disney.go.com and was pleased with the ease of the reservation process. I also appreciated the planning lists and tips that Disney provided after booking. I was able to choose from several stateroom sizes and styles, and even a stateroom number.
Even though I booked our cruise two months before we sailed, there were only a few stateroom options available, all of which had verandas. At first, I was hesitant about spending the extra money on a room with a veranda and I was COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT about having a veranda with kids, but I have to say that I was so glad we ended up with one. Not only did it make our stateroom feel more open, but it was a great relaxing escape to sit on the veranda and see the ocean. Also, the veranda bars were covered with a hard plastic and the lock for the door is set very high (so out of little one’s reach), so I felt very safe having my kids there.
After booking our Disney cruise, we were able to reserve excursions online, like scuba diving, snorkeling and parasailing. We ended up choosing a day at the Atlantis beach, jet ski rental for my son and husband at Castaway Cay, a glass bottom boat tour at Castaway Cay and snorkeling rental at Castaway Cay. These excursions are VERY costly, so be careful deciding. After our experience, I would say that we overdid it on the excursions and would have been just as happy staying on the ship or just experiencing Nassau or Castaway Cay as is. Saying that, my son and husband did enjoy the jet ski rental quite a bit and would definitely do that again. You can also book excursions at the locations, but you do take the risk of it being overbooked.
We could also check-in to our cruise 75 days before departure and set our arrival time to board. (we chose 12:30 pm) A few weeks before departure, we received special luggage tags to place on our suitcases so that DCL could deliver them to our room once we checked in. You will also be given your dinner time (5:45 pm or 8:15 pm). When I booked I was only given the option of second dinner, which was at 8:30 pm each night. Honestly, 8:30 pm was too late for us and I wish I would have tried to change it. My 4 year-old fell asleep each time, sometimes before he even had his dinner. Next time I will make sure to get the 5:45 pm dinner.
Since this was our first time traveling outside of the country, we had to apply for passports. I was a total newb to the passport process, but with some help and advice from friends, I found the process not at all difficult.
We pre-filled and printed our application forms at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html (but did not sign, you must sign when applying), gathered our family’s birth certificates, took passport photos at a nearby Walgreen’s, and then went to our local Passport Application Acceptance Facility to apply.
We received our passports in only 2 weeks! It can take up to 6 weeks to receive, so make sure you plan accordingly. Also keep in mind that each family member applying for a passport must be present when submitting their application. (in other words, kids must be present)
WHAT TO PACK
- passports/proof of citizenship (I brought our passports AND birth certificates just in case)
- swimsuits and coverups (ladies-you cannot walk into restaurants without a coverup, so get one!)
- beach bag
- casual clothing that includes pants or dresses for cruise dinners (see your specific cruise for any special dress codes and seasonal weather)
- deck party clothing – each cruise includes a themed party night, so check with your cruise for more information (our cruise had a fun pirate party!)
- comfortable shoes – swim shoes, sandals, sneakers and one nice pair for dinner (again, this may vary depending on the locations and time of year you are visiting)
- sunglasses and/or hats to shade from the sun
- lots of sunscreen – you will want to apply sunscreen often as to avoid burns, so bring multiples bottles (we brought 3 and that was just enough)
- aloe vera – just in case you missed a spot!
- camera – I mostly used my cell phone for pics
- quick snacks for impatient or grouchy kiddos – we brought peanut butter crackers and fruit snacks to store in my purse/backpack for flights and any in-between meals where we weren’t near the ship’s ice cream machines or Flo’s quick service restaurant
- anti-nausea medications
- 3-5 plastic grocery sacks for packing wet clothing or accidents
- any toiletries you would normally travel with (see “what not to pack” below for more on toiletries you do not need to pack)
- UPDATE! Disney Cruise Lines no longer allows over the door shoe organizers in staterooms as of late Spring 2013. Guests will be charged for any damage or scratches to doors for doing so.
NOTE: In most cases, you will not want, or will not be able to use your cell phone, so make sure you set your phone to “airplane mode” or “roaming off” once boarding the ship to avoid any outrageous roaming charges. You will receive two “wave phones” free of charge in your room that you can use while on the ship. (the Oceaneer’s Club will also contact you using these phones)
- towels – you will have plenty of towels available to you on and off the ship
- shampoo, conditioner, lotion (unless you need prescription lotion or a particular brand for sensitive skin), body wash and soap – the H2O plus spa and bath line provided in each stateroom is more than enough and smells nice
- hairdryer – a hairdryer is provided in the room
- large amounts of cash – most of the transactions you make both on and off the ship will be done with credit/debit cards, so no need to carry around large amounts of cash
TRANSPORTATION TO PORT CANAVERAL
There are several options for transportation to Port Canaveral:
- Disney Cruise Line motor coach from airport to Port Canaveral ($35/person one way, $70/round trip)
- airport to resort, resort to Port Canaveral, Port Canaveral to airport ($70/person roundtrip)
- renting a vehicle – we flew in the day before our cruise, so we rented a vehicle from Hertz and dropped it off in Cape Canaveral before our cruise (Hertz provided a free shuttle to the port)
- town cars – see www.fltours.com/reservations.htm for pricing
- 3-night cruise – $60
- 4-night cruise – $75
- 5-night cruise – $90
- 7-night cruise – $120
Nausea was a HUGE concern of mine, especially since my husband can become easily nauseated by motion. I did a ton of research in the DIS Boards and found that most people had success with Bonine, so it was one of the many things I packed before leaving. I also purchased Sea-Bands (they make Sea-Bands for children, too) and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RD25OK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=momspa-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004RD25OK. We ended up not using the Sea-Bands and occasionally chewed on ginger gum if we felt the least bit woozy. We took a Bonine each morning (they are chewable and do not make you drowsy) and were just fine throughout the entire cruise.
You can certainly feel the boat move, most of all the first night out of Port Canaveral. Although it did not make us nauseous, it was a little strange getting used to. It didn’t take long for us to get our “sea legs” and after that it was hardly noticeable. Having a veranda in our room really helped with getting fresh air.
A friend of mine introduced me to a few fun items that you can purchase before taking your family Disney cruise!
- door magnets – the stateroom doors are made of metal, so many people decorate their doors with magnets. I purchased a personalized magnet from eBay. (seen above) so fun!
- fish extenders – for those families who connect on the DIS boards, you can purchase a personalized fish extenders on etsy to hang on your fish hook outside of your room. each family puts little surprises for other families (who coordinate via the DIS boards perviously) in the fish extenders! such a neat and fun idea, but we didn’t take part this time around.
- matching t-shirts – okay, I would have TOTALLY done this with my family, but my oldest son and husband thought it was completely dorky. you can find fun matching Disney t-shirts on etsy as well.
SHARE YOUR TIPS AND QUESTIONS!
This series is a work in progress, so I want to hear from you! Do you have any additional tips for preparing for a Disney Cruise? Do you have a question? Leave a comment below!
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