Disney Cruises can be INCREDIBLE vacations – especially when you are prepared beforehand.
While you can certainly walk on the boat without doing any research, I think it’s important to make sure you have a basic understanding of how the cruise will go for the best experience (especially for the amount of money you are paying!)
I had A LOT of questions before we went on our cruise (and quite honestly, new ones popped up while we were on the cruise). Most of them I found answers to by experience, and I figured there are probably a lot of people out there who have the same questions!
In this article, I’ll share the questions and answers just in case you’re in the same boat!
- What is dining like on disembarkment day?
- How many days is best for a Disney cruise?
- Can you leave your kids on the ship?
- Can you drop off luggage before your boarding time?
- What type of activities will there be?
- What type of entertainment is there?
- Do you really have to print your port arrival form?
- What is the best dining time?
- Do you have to eat in the dining room for dinner?
- Can you share a photo package across rooms on a Disney Cruise?
- How long does boarding take?
- How long does it take to get off the boat on the last day?
- How useful is a stroller?
- Do they have enough lifeboats?
- Are foam swords considered weapons?
- Can you get a Palo reservation on the cruise?
- Can you cancel a Palo reservation?
- What type of food is at the buffet
- Where is the best food on the Disney Cruise?
- How strict are the start and end times for activities?
- Can kids order from the adult menu
- How much is the popcorn – $3.50
- What types of activities are there?
- Can you get a dole whip?
- How much is the internet – don’t believe the articles online!
- Is the internet package worth getting?
- Is there cell service at sea?
- Do you have to be on time for dinner?
- Is the pool heated?
- How do they pick who participates in the game shows?
- Are there any formal nights?
- Can I use American money in port?
- Why do people decorate their doors/have hanging totes
- What happens if I lose my cards
- What should I wear?
- Can you take your own pictures?
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What is dining like on disembarkment day?
Since we boarded the ship around 1:00 PM, and our ship was set to leave at four, I wasn’t entirely sure what the dining would be like.
Thankfully, the Disney Cruise Line is pretty good about making sure you know where to be and when. As soon as we got on the boat, we were given instructions on where we could go to get lunch as soon as we arrived, and we were also told that we would be in one of the dining rooms that night at our assigned time.
Your best friend will be the Disney Cruise Navigator app, so make sure you download that before you get on the ship. You won’t be able to details until you connect to the cruise WiFi, but once you get there, it will give you all the information you need.
On our cruise, Cabanas (the buffet) was open for business as soon as you got on the boat. There were tons of options, and we were quite hungry, so it was nice to be able to get food and enjoy some food before we set sail.
How many days is best for a Disney cruise?
This is always a hot topic when discussing cruises. I’ve seen people say you shouldn’t even go if you can only go for three or four days (I disagree). I’ve also seen people say any cruise less than seven days is a waste (I also strongly disagree with this!)
I think as many days as you can justify and afford is the perfect number of days. Of course, if you are traveling a long distance – as many people do – it may not feel as worth it to hop on a cruise for just three days. But if it’s all you can afford – or you live close to the port – you can absolutely have a wonderful time.
We settled on five days, which ended up being perfect. While there were certain aspects of the cruise that I could have enjoyed for a great deal longer, I think five days was about my max for living on cruise food and having constant fun! By the time we got off, I was thinking, “aw, sad. Another two days would be nice!” But I think five days was perfect for our family of five.
And yes, I’m sure there are people who would disagree!
Can you leave your kids on the ship?
After our first stop in Cabo and a bout of seasickness, our oldest son was a little hesitant about going to the next port. We didn’t have major plans for Ensenada, but we were curious if we could safely leave him on the boat in the childcare facilities, should he choose to stay.
According to the Plan Disney website, you can leave your children in the childcare anytime that it’s open, even for a Port Adventure. With that said, I am not entirely sure if that’s just for Disney Port Adventures, or if you are going off on your own. I think you can, but that’s definitely something to ask when you get on the boat!
Our son ended up feeling better, and we had a great time exploring Ensenada, but it’s helpful to know that we could have left him in good hands had we so chosen to leave him.
We also considered doing an adult-only excursion at one point, which would be a helpful time to use this service.
Can you drop off luggage before your boarding time?
We had a fairly large gap between when we dropped off our rental car to when we were supposed to board the ship, and I was not really looking forward to keeping track of our luggage during that time. I was really curious if we’d be able to check our luggage before we got on the boat!
Thankfully, as soon as we arrived, there were people there waiting to load up our luggage and bring it to our rooms, so I happily loaded all our luggage there. They were able to take everything that we wanted (I think we put about eight items – plus a car seat) and there was no problem with that. We did have to tip, which was fine, and our luggage wasn’t by our room for a few hours – but it was worth it!
You can definitely bring your luggage yourself, though, if you’d rather!
What type of activities will there be?
As I did research before we got on the cruise, I was really curious about what activities there would be. I saw a lot of people saying there were tons of activities, but I didn’t really see anyone giving a ton of details.
There are a lot of really great activities to look forward to – I really didn’t know what to expect! There were activities for all ages – and it was really easy to sort through the schedule on the Disney Cruise app to filter out ones for the age group you were looking for. I loved that if you clicked the ‘heart’ next to an activity, it added it to your schedule and notified you when it was 15 minutes away and where to go.
Here is a big list of activities that were on our Disney Cruise:
- Trivia – tons of trivia on different topics. I joked that next time we go on a Disney cruise, we might do a bunch of Kahoots on the topics beforehand, which included:
- Marvel Trivia
- Disney Villian Trivia
- Disney Parks Trivia
- Disney Cruise Ship Trivia
- General Disney Trivia
- Towel Folding Demo
- “Anyone Can Cook” Cooking Demo with Sampling of Food
- Napkin Folding
- Karaoke (I wish we would have done this!)
- Variety of “game show” style activities – these are activities where just a few members of the audience were brought up to compete in trivia or other
- Animation Classes – I LOVED these.
- Character meet and greets
- Walking Tour
- Fitness Classes – some are free, some were listed as having a “nominal fee”
- Wine, Beer and Cognac Tastings (many of these cost money)
- D23 Event
- Shuffle Board – this wasn’t an official activity but you could do it any time. I rarely saw anyone doing it.
- Sports Court Arena – basketball, foosball, and ping pong
- Dance Parties
There were a lot of activities available in the kids’ clubs as well. My kids really enjoyed these. Some of them were story times with characters, car races, BINGO, Trivia, indoor soccer, and more. I didn’t pay much attention to the activities for tweens and teens, but they had a ton of activities for them available and almost all were included with your cruise
Most activities lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. I do recommend getting there early!
What type of entertainment is there?
One of the biggest selling points of a Disney Cruise is entertainment. This really made the cruise for me, especially because our whole family could participate.
There are a variety of Broadway-type shows available throughout the cruise. These will vary depending on how long the cruise is and what ship you are on. On the Disney Wonder, they had:
- Frozen – This was really fantastic. I’ll admit I wasn’t that excited at first because I have seen a lot of performances of Frozen… but it was so good! I felt like it was the best I’ve ever seen. The Olaf was incredible!
- Dreams: An Enchanted Classic – this included a wide variety of Disney songs and characters. Some parts were a little boring, but overall we really enjoyed it!
- The Golden Mickey’s – they ended up canceling this for our cruise for an unknown reason, which was unfortunate. I wasn’t really sure what it was.
The shows were available at two different times in the evening, usually opposite your dining time. For instance, our dining time was at 5:45, and we watch the shows at 8:30. However, they had a showing at 6:15, which is generally when the 8:15 dining time would go.
The doors open up 15 minutes before, though people start lining up before that. We don’t really like to wait in lines, so we always got there about ten minutes before it started and got seats, though they weren’t very good. If you want to enjoy some of the special effects, such as bubbles, you’ll want to get there early!
As you might expect, Disney Cruises are heavy on Disney movies – which is a good thing!
There are almost always movies playing outside by the pool on the big movie screen (I believe it’s called Tunnel Vision). Most of the movies were older than three years old, but they included a big variety. We really enjoyed watching these!
If you are more interested in new releases, there is a theater inside that plays 3-5 different movies throughout the day and the cruise. If a movie was just released in the theater, it actually gets released. on the cruise, too! For instance, Avatar 2 just came out, which my husband enjoyed watching. Honestly, I wish that they had played some of the classics in there as well – my kids wanted to watch a movie in the theater, but I didn’t feel like any of them were ones I wanted them to watch (or we had just watched it a few days before, like Disenchanted).
On our first night, they had a magic show. It was pretty fun, though since we were toward the back, I don’t know that we enjoyed it as much as some. My three-year-old wasn’t really that interested because most of the tricks were with a Rubix cube or a deck of cards, and he thought he should be doing “real” magic. However, he was entertaining and fun to watch, and it was very family-friendly, so no complaints from me!
There are many talented musicians on the boat. Some of them just play in the main lobby, but there are also other performances in some of the clubs. Most of them have some kind of theme, such as Disney classics or love songs.
I really enjoyed the live music that we listened to, and I think it’s great to support these musicians!
Do you really have to print your port arrival form?
Forrest tested me about this one, but I was genuinely concerned, especially because I forgot ours! When you register for the cruise, they send you a cruise port arrival form, and it says you MUST print it off and present it at the cruise.
However, when I printed it off, it was just a QR code that I had already added to my Apple Wallet on my phone. I crossed my fingers that they wouldn’t care when I presented that to them, and they didn’t! They just scanned it and led us to the next place in line.
This caused me way too my stress!
What is the best dining time?
There are generally two assigned dining times during the cruise. On our cruise we went on a few years ago with Carnival, we had a “flexible dining time” which allowed us to go whenever we wanted, which had its benefits. However, we never had the same service staff, which I had heard was a highlight of a cruise for many.
Disney doesn’t have this, so we were assigned one of two times (actually, I think we picked it) – either 5:45 or 8:15.
We never really eat after six, and with kids, 5:45 seemed like the best choice. I think some people liked to take their kids to the childcare place during the 8:15 dinner and enjoyed an adult-only dinner…but we aren’t in that camp. Though keep in mind that as of right now, they will not feed your children in the childcare place, so make sure they are fed before you go.
And again, I never eat after six, for the most part, so 8:15 just seemed really late!
I’m sure there are pros and cons to the different times, but we were pretty happy with our 5:45 time!
Do you have to eat in the dining room for dinner?
Nope! The buffet in Cabanas isn’t open during dinner time, but some of the quick service “restaurants” outside were open until late into the night. I believe you can also order room service free of charge.
Can you share a photo package across rooms on a Disney Cruise?
We ended up ordering the photo package before we got on the ship, but I wasn’t 100% sure how it would work since we had two different staterooms. I had seen people online say that they would connect your photo package with another room if there were minor children from another family in there, but they wouldn’t add any adults (even though I was the mom).
As soon as Shutters opened up, I went and explained our situation, and the staff member was super helpful and immediately said, “No problem! What are your staterooms? I’ll get those two connected right away!”
How long does boarding take?
Our boarding was actually quite quick! When they called our boarding group, I think it was about 20-25 minutes from the start until we were in our stateroom!
How long does it take to get off the boat on the last day?
This really took a lot longer than I thought it would. I think it was about 45 minutes from start to finish.
How useful is a stroller?
We found that having a stroller was helpful with our three-year-old, especially when we were boarding and disembarking, as well as in the ports of call.
We stored ours in the closet in our room, which, I believe, is required for strollers and wheelchairs (according to this Plan Disney post). With that said, I did see some stored behind the elevators while on the Disney Wonder, so it might be something to ask your cruise team about.
Do they have enough lifeboats?
This was a question my seven-year-old had 🙂 Yes, they have plenty of lifeboats, should anything happen.
Are foam swords considered weapons?
We had just gone to LEGOLAND, and all three of our boys got foam swords. We didn’t really think it would be an issue, but you just never know! The good news is – no one at security batted an eye 🙂
Can you get a Palo reservation on the cruise?
By the time we were able to book excursions, all of the Palo reservations were booked out. It gave me a notification telling me to check on the cruise when we boarded.
When we got on the cruise, there was a sign front and center telling us where to go to book for a reservation for Palo. There was a man sitting with a laptop booking people for any remaining reservations – so yes! If you were disappointed that you didn’t grab one before you got on the cruise, there’s a chance you can after boarding.
And if you have no idea what Palo is, it’s Disney Cruise Line’s premium restaurant. I believe it is $45 a person and is only for 18 and up, and apparently, it has 5 Star Dining!
Can you cancel a Palo reservation?
You might be wondering why I said it apparently has 5 Star Dining….Shouldn’t I know if we went!? Well, we decided we didn’t actually want to go – we were so stuffed from the rest of the cruise food, it seemed kind of silly to pay more money!
But we weren’t sure if we were stuck with a reservation. So we went to the customer service desk. She told us, “I am not sure if we can cancel at this point, let me check.” And when she saw that we had a reservation a few days later, she said, “Oh I don’t think that will be a problem. I will message the restaurant manager right now.”
A few hours later, we got a notification that it was canceled (no penalty). So just make sure you cancel with plenty of time to spare!
What type of food is at the buffet
There is a huge variety of foods available in the buffet. They have tons of meats, breads, fruits, veggies, salads, soups, etc. I found that they had enough variety that everyone could find something they liked.
I didn’t feel like there was a lot of ethnic food, beyond Indian and Chinese. I would have loved to see some Mexican food.
Here are some things you could always find:
- Carved meats
- Salad Bar
- Chicken nuggets/tenders
- Mac and Cheese
- Chicken dishes
- Lots of desserts
- Potato dishes (mashed potatoes, french fries, etc)
Where is the best food on the Disney Cruise?
Honestly, the best thing I ate was some chicken schwarma! It was at the grill outside, and it was absolutely delicious.
With that said, from what I’ve been told, the best food is found at Palos. We didn’t end up going here, and it is an extra cost. But everything I’ve read says this is the place to go if you are looking for a culinary delight!
How strict are the start and end times for activities?
Can kids order from the adult menu
Yep! There are no rules when it comes to who can order from where. My two oldest boys were always going back and forth between the adult menu and the kids’ men. I think they will even make you things that aren’t on the menu!
How much is the popcorn – $3.50
There is popcorn for sale outside the movie theater and before the musical events. This is not included with your fare, and there is no sign. On our cruise, it cost $3.50 for a box of popcorn.
What types of activities are there?
There are so many fun activities, and there’s something always going on. I had a hard time choosing sometimes. From cooking classes, to crafts, to trivia and game shows, there’s really never a time where you can’t find something going on.
If you have children, there are always activities available in the children’s center as well. Your Disney Cruise app is the best place to find what’s going on.
You will always find live musical performances throughout the cruise ship in different lounges as well. I actually really enjoyed these!
Can you get a dole whip?
You can! It’s going to cost you around $7, but the infamous Dole Whip can be found on the Disney Cruise line.
How much is the internet – don’t believe the articles online!
Many articles online said that Disney Cruise lines offer unlimited Internet connection packages. Unfortunately, the ship we were on was NOT upgraded to this, and you had to pay by the minute. It was super slow and inconvenient.
Is the internet package worth getting?
The package we got was not worth it, and I would not recommend it. The minutes went by fast, it was SO slow, and it was just really expensive.
Is there cell service at sea?
We actually did have some, but we could also see the coast of Mexico during the entire cruise. However, we did NOT use our cell phone service. We got a text message from T-Mobile informing us that our International Plan did not include cruise lines, and we would be charged $15 per MB (which, is a ton. For reference, it was about six megabits to send my brother four messages on Facebook – which I used with the cruise ship Internet)
Do you have to be on time for dinner?
You don’t have to be there the second it starts, but I won’t be too late. We saw one party get turned away because they arrived too late for the dinner service. I actually recommend getting there about five minutes later so you don’t have to wait in line! When you get there early or right on time, there’s always a line to get in (not that it goes slowly).
Is the pool heated?
The pools are heated, which was nice. I feel like the adult pool was warmer, but I never confirmed if that was true or not.
How do they pick who participates in the game shows?
This will depend on the game show and who’s hosting it. We got to one 30 minutes early, because we thought that might give us the advantage. Definitely not the case! They gave everyone a number, and then they used a random number generator to pick participants.
Are there any formal nights?
Yes, DIsney cruises do have formal nights, though for three and four-night cruises, they are optional. You can read this article for more information.
Can I use American money in port?
This will depend on where you are going, but in both the ports we were at (Ensenada and Cabo), we were easily able to use our credit cards. Just make sure to let your credit card company know beforehand that you are traveling!
Why do people decorate their doors/have hanging totes
Some people do this just to make their cruise ship experience more fun. The doors are magnetic, so you can easily put things up there! Personally, I didn’t want to advertise our kids’ names on our day, but that’s just because I’m paranoid.
There are also groups online that you can connect with before you get on the cruise, and I think you give gifts to each other.
What happens if I lose my cards
I lost my room key card, and I was worried they would charge me. Fortunately, that wasn’t case! I just went to customer service, and they reprinted my card right away.
What should I wear?
There are general guidelines available on the Disney Cruise website. You should keep in mind the destinations you are going to and make sure to check the weather before you go! My article on cruise clothing might also be helpful.
Can you take your own pictures?
There are so many characters on the boat! We weren’t sure at first if you had to have a photo package to get the pictures. Fortunately, all the staff members were more than happy to take a photo with our cameras.
Phew! That was a lot of questions. I do hope that this helps you prepare a little more for your upcoming Disney cruise. Let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions!