we recently went on a disney cruise with my parents, my brother and his family and my sister and her family. there were 18 of us in all and it was a whole bunch of fun and even more crazy. we had a fantastic time and we learned so much about cruising with kids and about how disney does things differently than other cruise lines. there are certain things we wish we would have known before we embarked. here are some of our tips to help you before you head on board.
10 tips for your disney cruise
1) sign up for your embarkation time early.
this can be done on the disney cruise website. early embarkation times book up fast. you will want to board the ship as early as possible so that you can enjoy one full day on the boat. you are paying for the entire day... you might as well enjoy it!
2) allow two hours of check-in time.
you will want to arrive at the port approximately two hours before your embarkation time. you will wait in line to turn in your baggage, you'll check in with the cruise desk, you'll check in your children with the kid's club, you'll take pictures. it really does take two hours. plan accordingly.
3) download the disney cruise line navigator app on your mobile devices before you board.
the disney cruise app really is a fantastic feature on the disney cruise line. you will actually want to bring your phones with you on the boat. the app gives you all the ship's activities for each day and also lets you connect with other members of your party. this was especially helpful with our huge group. disney has a limited internet connection just for the cruise line app and you are able to text family members who are also on the disney cruise line navigator app while also on board. it is completely free and it makes keeping track of family members so much easier. another great feature is that while you are using the boat, you can still cut off from the rest of the cell phone world. i only had my disney app connected for the entire trip so i could keep track of my family but was able to disconnect from everything else.
4) pack a carry on with things you will need for the first day.
you will check your bags in before you walk onto the ship. it usually takes a few hours before your bags are delivered to your room. you will want to have some items that you carry on with you that you can use for your first hours on board. if your kids are going to want to be in the pool, pack a swimming suit and some sunscreen. if you are wanting to start the day with photos, bring your camera along. bring along diapers and wipes for the day if you are in that stage. make sure everything you need for those first hours is physically with you when you walk on the ship.
5) use the in-room wave phones.
besides the disney cruise line navigator app, disney cruises provide two phones in each stateroom. these phones can be used to call other wave phones or to call into the state room telephones. my husband and i each kept one phone and we were able to reach each other when needed. when our eleven year old son wanted to play basketball with his cousins, we were able to give him one of the phones so we could always reach him and know where he was. they really are extremely helpful at keeping everyone connected while on board.
6) register your kids for the oceaneer's club or oceaneer's lab (even if you don't end up using them).
my kids wanted to go to some of the activities in the kid's club but also wanted to be with us. we registered them to be a part if they wanted to but gave them the freedom to stay with us as well. it is a good idea to get them registered just in case.
7) important note: there are serious restrictions if your child isn't potty trained.
everything we read said that the oceaneer's club and oceaneer's lab are for children ages 3-12. we couldn't find anywhere that listed potty training requirements. it is indeed a requirement that your child must be potty trained to go in the kid's club. i know many three year olds who are not yet potty trained. they would not be allowed into the kids clubs and would have to go down with the babies and toddlers in the childcare section of the boat. this area is still nice but is geared toward much smaller children and there is a cost per hour that the facility is used. my youngest did not want to go in the room with the crying babies. children who wear swim diapers are also not allowed in the ship's swimming pools. there are water play areas for little ones but they are not allowed to be in the actual swimming pools. if you are close to potty training your child, make sure you get it done before you get on the ship.
8) if you have small children, bring something to decorate your door.
the doors all look the same. as my children were walking down the halls, they always knew to look for our pirate mickey magnets. it is a cheap way to help the kids find their way back to their cruise ship home.
9) plan your shipboard and shore excursion activities well in advance.
there are many activities on board that require a sign up and that will fill up well before you ever step foot on the ship. we were hoping to do the princess tea party and were told it had filled up weeks before we got on board. use the disney cruise website to sign up for everything you can in advance. for other activities, go straight to guest services to sign up for character greetings and other special events.
10) make time to do the scavenger hunts on board.
all of the ten kids traveling with us loved to do the scavenger hunts...and they ranged in ages from 3-13. the kiosks for the start of the hunt are located at certain locations on board. locate them and use the hunts as a fun distraction for your kids. each hunt took our family from 1-2 hours to complete (and that was with our kids running from place to place).