This month Len Testa and I are heading on our next cruises, back to back 3 and 4-night Bahamas itineraries on the Dream. Two years ago after the Fantasy debuted, we began to toss around the idea of expanding our DCL coverage, and the result has been our DCL subscription on TouringPlans, which we brought online last fall, and the Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line, which we co-wrote with Erin Foster.
Between our theme park research, not living in Florida, the cost of fares, and needing to work around school schedules, we’re not able to cruise as much as we’d like (unlike the lady in front of us on the last cruise who checked into her 70th cruise), so each time is still special. (I can’t say that about every trip to Walt Disney World anymore.) However, even though I haven’t cruised 70 times, I feel like I’m really getting the hang of cruising Disney. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.
Our Best Disney Cruise Line Tips
- Pack a LIGHT carry-on if you’re checking into your cruise before 1:30 when the cabins are ready. A big bag gets heavier and heavier as you’re waiting to be able to drop it off.
- It’s OK to skip some meals. Ask yourself, “do I eat a restaurant meal 3 times a day, every day, for days at a time?” Whether it’s just to give your stomach or schedule a rest, there’s no harm in skipping a meal here or there. If you skip your dinner rotation, there are plenty of choices out there – TopSiders (Wonder) or Cabanas (all other ships) generally serve dinner from 6:30 to 8:30 each night, and you can show up any time. The quick service restaurants on the pool deck serve until late in the evening – we started referring to Casa Del Tires as “that Italian place on deck 11). And room service is available 24 hours a day. Adults have antipasto options in the evening at the Cove Cafe, and on the Dream and Fantasy, Vista Cafe has the same offerings for the whole family.
- It’s also OK to skip some shows. Having dinner on your rotation in the main dining rooms and seeing the evening stage show will take a nearly three hour block of your evening. This is time that can be spend enjoying the pools or spa with far lower crowds than you’ll encounter in the afternoons. Subscribers should read our entertainment reviews to prioritize which shows they think will be worth their while.
- Don’t head straight up deck to the buffet as soon as it opens on embarkation day. It’s crowded and loud. Not at all a relaxing way to start your vacation. Instead, check your Personal Navigator, for the other restaurant that will be serving lunch that day. On the Dream and Fantasy, that will be Enchanted Garden (in our opinion the most attractive of all the main dining rooms). On the Magic, it’s Carioca’s, and on the Wonder, it’s Parrot Cay.
- Explore the ship. I find something new that I didn’t notice each time, and the details in the decor of the ships are fantastic.
- If you were unable to secure Palo or Remy reservations before embarkation or tried and the online system said they were sold out, check when you board. Tables are held back for just this reason, and we’ve always been able to add them.
- There is nothing unique about any of the shopping experiences in the Caribbean. The same store proliferate each port.
- Special dining request? Give the kitchen a day’s notice, and you can get just about anything.
- Check your charge statement from time to time on a longer cruise – you may be surprised at how much you’ve spent onboard.
- I’m just as happy in a category 11 cabin as a category 4. Concierge is still on the list to review – we’ve needed to do a lot of cruising in the last year to review the ships and ports, and that up charge just hasn’t been in the cards yet.
- The adult entertainment in the evenings (after 10 pm in Fathoms (Magic), Wavebands (Wonder), Evolution (Dream), and The Tube (Fantasy) is cheesy, but fun. Go in with your buddies and plan to have a good time.
- I really want to be Castaway Club Platinum. Why? I don’t know – because I tend to book last minute the longer reservation window for experiences doesn’t apply to most of my cruises. But the complimentary dinner is Palo will be welcome. As will be the priority check in and boarding (with the concierge guests) at the port. This loyalty level was so in reach that I booked back to back 3 and 4 night cruises on the Dream while onboard last week to knock out my 9th and 10th cruises in one fell swoop.
- I prefer Palo brunch to Remy brunch. I prefer Remy dinner to Palo dinner. The only one of those I don’t feel the need to book again any time soon is Remy brunch, which was good, but not worth the $50 charge.
- Take the stairs when you can. It’s good for you.
- The pool decks at night are beautiful, but can be really windy – bring a jacket. Speaking of the elements – bring waterproof shoes to Castaway Cay and if you’re there in the winter, an umbrella – it does rain in the Bahamas.
What are your best Disney Cruise Line tips? When’s your next cruise? Talk about it in the comments.