These Secrets Will Help You Get the Most Out of Your Disney Cruise

If you want to take a magical getaway with your family, you can’t go wrong with a Disney vacation. And Disney World or Disneyland aren’t your only options! You can also sail away with your family on a Disney cruise. People love the magic of Disney cruises so much that many become repeat customers. Whether you want an action-packed adventure or a leisurely getaway, a Disney cruise has what you’re looking for — so long as you know how to get the most out of the experience.

Below, check out our best insider tips for getting the most magic out of your Disney cruise.

1. Check in online — and early

Disney Magic ocean liners

Make sure you get prime spots to enjoy your day. |

Just as you check in online for a flight as early as you can, you should also register and check in online for your Disney cruise. As one repeat cruiser explains on Babble, checking in online as early as you can enables you to make reservations for restaurants, spa services, excursions, or even the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique before you even set foot on the ship. Check in early enough and you’ll also get an earlier boarding time, which will help you make the most of your first day on board. 

2. Make sure you choose the right room

Scenic view of cruise liner deck and ocean

Choose your room carefully. |

As on any cruise, you’ll have a dizzying array of room options to choose among. So you’ll need to do your research to make sure that you choose the right one for your family. You can choose inside, ocean view, and verandah rooms. But you may also have the option of an oversized room, a suite, or what the Disney Tourist Blog characterizes as several “secret” verandah and porthole staterooms.

Think about which class of room you want and what’s worth the upgrade. As the Disney Tourist Blog notes, “While a verandah is probably nice on longer cruises, we learned that it was an unnecessary luxury on a short cruise. By contrast, we’ve heard that a verandah is pretty much a must-do on an Alaskan cruise, due to the view of whales it might offer.”

3. Pay attention to the schedule

Cruise vacation

Make the most of all the activities. |

Want an action-packed vacation? Then iCruise recommends that you pay attention to the Personal Navigator, the daily newsletter delivered to your stateroom. That’s the best way to stay informed about what’s going on each day, and to take your pick of the activities available to you. The Disney Tourist Blog notes that you can download the Personal Navigator app, which helps if you’re going to carry your phone around with you. iCruise also advises you to listen to the onboard announcements, which will let you know when something special is happening. 

4. Figure out which way you’re going

Friends enjoying sunset on cruise

Use the map to your advantage. |

Big cruise ships can get disorienting. Sometimes, it’s tough to tell which direction you’re walking in, and that’s never ideal when you have tired or hungry kids in tow. But Babble reports that there’s an easy way to get your bearings on board a Disney cruise. Just look down at the carpeting. The publication explains, “You can tell whether you’re walking towards the front or the aft by looking at the map that’s depicted. If the map is upside down, you are going towards the back (aft).”

5. Take advantage of the free room service

waiter in hotel room doorway with tray

Enjoy the perks. | Chris Ryan/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Babble also advises that when you take a Disney cruise, you should take advantage of room service. After all, there aren’t any added charges! All you’ll need to do is tip the server. As Babble explains, you can ask for Mickey ice cream bars, a cheese platter, or even milk and cookies before bed. Or, you can arrange to have a continental breakfast delivered to your room each morning if you choose. Especially when you have young children, getting meals delivered to your room can make it easier to get everyone fed. 

6. Ride the AquaDuck during dinner

Disney Aqua duck water slide

Avoid peak times. | Disney Cruise Line

On several Disney cruise ships, you can ride a water slide called the AquaDuck. The elevated “water coaster” comprises 765 feet of tubes and gives you an amazing view of the ocean and the cruise ship. If you want to give it a try, iCruise recommends aiming to ride it during dinnertime. That way, you’ll avoid long lines. In fact, you may not even have to stand in line at all!

7. Don’t leave meals hungry

A menu resting on a restaurant table, emphasis placed on the golden embroidery lettering against the black with the image's focus. Silverware, napkins and glasses sit in the background as blurry shapes at the menu's edge, all resting on a light brown table.

Take advantage of what you paid for. |

The cost of meals at the rotational restaurants is part of the price of your Disney cruise. So, when you go to those restaurants, you can order as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want. As the Disney Tourist Blog notes, you probably don’t want to order a lot more food than you can eat. But there’s also no reason to leave a meal hungry. Servers are typically happy to oblige if you’d like another serving of something — so long as you don’t abuse the privilege. 

8. Take in a show or two

theater seats

Get a prime seat by beating the crowds. | Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Another piece of advice from iCruise? Don’t miss the opportunity to take in a show or two. The publication notes that depending on the particular ship or cruise, you’ll probably have your pick of two or three showtimes each evening. You may want to arrive early to get a good seat. The Disney Tourist Blog reports that when it comes to the shows you can catch onboard, “no one can agree on which of these shows is awful, good, or great, and the only one who can determine whether you will like the shows is you.” However, “the good news is that, regardless of what you think of the story of the show, production values and acting are top notch in all of the shows.”

9. Don’t forget to see a first-run movie

movie theater seats

Catch the newest Disney flick. | Thinkstock

If you prefer movies to live entertainment, a Disney cruise still has plenty to offer you. As iCruise points out, Disney cruise ships routinely screen first-run features as well as Disney favorites. Sometimes, cruise passengers even get to see movie premieres at sea. The best way to find out what’s playing? Check out the Personal Navigator newsletter or the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app for movie listings and show times. 

10. Book your shore excursions early

couple snorkeling in the tropical sea

Book any extras early. |

If you want to participate in any of the shore excursions offered on your itinerary, you’ll want to sign up as early as you can. (In fact, it’s ideal to book those excursions before you even board the ship.) You can always plan your own excursions, or book them with another tour company. However, if you really want to take part in the Disney cruise excursions, keep in mind that they fill up quickly. 

11. Attend the Pirate in the Caribbean party

Johnny Depp holding an old gun over his shoulder and smiling, next to a grim-looking Orlando Bloom

Partying with pirates sounds like a blast. | Disney

When you plan to go on a Disney cruise, you might want to pack your pirate costume! Many passengers report that one of the highlights of their cruise was the Pirates in the Caribbean party (based on the popular movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean). This huge celebration typically involves dinner, a parade, music, a performance, dancing, and even fireworks. You can buy pirate gear on the ship, and cast members hand out some accessories. But if your kids really enjoy dressing up, you can make sure that they get even more fun out of the party by bringing some costumes from home. 

12. Get autographs without standing in line

Disney Cruise Darth Vader

No need to stand in line. | Disney

If your kids have some favorite Disney characters, they’ll probably be thrilled to see those characters on board the cruise ship. You can say hello, but you can also get those characters’ autographs without standing in line. Babble explains, “Just take a photo mat, white T-shirt, pillowcase or autograph book with permanent markers in a bag to Guest Services and make a request to get your item signed. Just remember to label your bag or include a note with your complete name and cabin number in the bag so they know who to return the signed item to.” 

13. Ask a cast member to take a photo with your camera

Couple taking photo of themselves on cruise

Get a perfect photo. | Michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

On a Disney cruise, you can always pose for (and pay for) professional photos. We think that a great family photo is always worth a splurge, especially because most people manage to capture those photos pretty rarely. However, you can always ask a cast member to take a photo of your family with your camera. Just ask politely and most cast members are more than willing to capture a snapshot for you. 

14. Take some time away from your kids

happy couple on summer vacation in Dubrovnik

Enjoy some alone time. |

Traveling with kids or grandkids is a great way to make some fun family memories, but it also gets exhausting. That’s why Babble says you shouldn’t feel bad about taking an hour or two away from the kids. They can enjoy all the activities at the kids clubs on board while you recharge, either by yourself or as a couple. The cast members in charge of the kids clubs can always page you if something comes up. 

15. Get your gift shopping done early

Disney store front window

Don’t be afraid to hit the gift shop. | Vesilvio/iStock editorial

If you want to buy souvenirs for yourself, your family, or your friends, you might want to get your shopping done early in the cruise. As iCruise explains, popular items do sell out. So if you see something you want, don’t procrastinate on picking it up. Missed the chance to buy an item you wanted? Not all is lost. If you’re visiting Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay, you may be able to find it at the gift shop onshore. 

16. Don’t write off the ship’s fine dining options

Afro American chef in restaurant kitchen

Enjoy a nice meal. | Michaeljung/iStock

The cost of regular, rotational restaurants are included in the price of a Disney cruise. So many passengers decide not to pay extra for a meal at one of the adults-only restaurants onboard. However, you might want to consider a meal at one of the fine dining options, like Palo, while on your Disney cruise. The Disney Tourist Blog reports that instead of looking at the meals at the rotational restaurants as free, and those at Palo as $25 per person, “look at Palo as costing about 2% the total of your cruise (give or take, depending upon the cruise’s actual cost). For a 2% increase in cost, does it not make sense to upgrade to a superb fine dining experience?”

17. Keep your room organized

over the door closet organizer

Keep all your essentials at hand. | Wander Agio Waterproof Jewelry Hanging Closet Organizer/Amazon

Especially if you travel with young children, you’ll want to set yourself up to stay as organized as possible throughout your cruise. One useful tip from Babble? Pack a shoe organizer that you can hang over the back of your door. Though you’ll have closet space to organize everybody’s clothes, a shoe organizer can keep shoes off the floor and help you organize other small items, as well. 

18. Get up early at least once on your cruise

Smiling young women on cruise

Beat the crowds. | Michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Many people enjoy sleeping in on vacation. After all, you don’t have to get up to rush the kids to school and make it to the office before your boss. However, Disney Tourist Blog recommends that you get up early at least one day on your cruise. You’ll be able to enjoy the early morning hours without tons of other people around. You’ll also be able to see the sun rise over the ocean — a pretty impressive sight. And if you get tired later in the day, you can always head back to your stateroom for a nap.

Read More: 18 of the Biggest Wastes of Money at Disney World