Planning Tips for Your Disney Cruise

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Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay
Dreaming of a Disney Cruise?
Photo – Laurel Stewart

Greetings from chilly North Carolina! The cold was so bad yesterday that it killed my car battery. My reaction (other than to buy a new battery) was to think of all the places I’d rather be than here. Naturally, one of the first ones that came to me was on a Disney Cruise.

I’m lucky enough that at this point, after 13 cruises, I can pack and prepare for a trip in my sleep. And I’ve learned a few things along the way. Everyone knows about preparing your travel documents, like passports and birth certificates, doing your online check-in, and booking your Port Adventures before cruising. But what about all the little things that come with preparing to be on a ship, somewhat isolated from things like unlimited free Internet and Target? This is my list of things I do before cruising to reduce surprises the day before I pack for a Disney Cruise:

Disney Cruise Line pool
Find out sooner rather than later if your swimsuit still fits. Photo – Laurel Stewart

Clothing and Packing:

  1. 3 weeks out – if you’re cruising in February and the last time you wore your swimsuit was August, try it on now. Same thing for shorts. If you need to buy new clothes, this leaves you time to find something.
  2. 3 weeks out – are you participating in formal night? Round up your clothes now – men and women. Men – you can rent a tux through Cruiseline Formalwear that will be delivered to your stateroom. We’ve used this and were happy with the service. (Note: just don’t leave your Fitbit attached to the pants when you give them back. Right, Len?) Ladies – post holidays is a great time to find marked down festive dresses and pantsuits. Or, if you don’t want to commit, try a rental service like Rent The Runway. Because of inconsistencies in women’s clothing sizes, I’d recommend sticking with a brand you’re familiar with or leaving plenty of time to switch items if something doesn’t fit as expected. If you live in a larger city, consignment shops are also a great way to find dressy clothing in nearly new condition.
  3. 2 weeks out or more – are you participating in Pirate Night or does your cruise fall during the Halloween or Christmas cruises? If you plan to dress the part, figure out what you’ll be wearing and order it if needed. If you don’t want to pack these things, you’ll find a few options in the onboard gift shops – particularly for Pirate Night – that will do the trick, but many families go all out on these nights.
  4. 1 week out – take anything items to the dry cleaner that you’ll need onboard.
  5. After you’ve packed – if you’re flying, weigh your bag before leaving home. You don’t want to be the travelers redistributing your unmentionables on the airport floor to get under the checked bag weight limit.
  6. Pack your carry aboard – put any valuables, things that can’t be replaces, and items you need in the first 24 hours onboard in a separate bag. I’ve never had a bag delayed when cruising, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Include a change of clothes.

Personal Care:

  1. 2 weeks out – schedule any haircuts, manicures, or waxing you’ll want before your cruise. As someone with short hair, I can tell you that a cut that’s on the edge of needing a trim 2 days before a cruise will be driving you crazy by the end of a 7-nighter. And I prefer to see my usual stylists rather than trust the people in the spa for a cut.
  2. Are you prone to motion sickness – get your Dramamine, SeaBand, or preferred prevention method and start taking it one day before boarding. Remember, these are for prevention, and won’t do much for you if you’re already feeling the effects of the sea.
  3. Prescription medicines – make sure you have enough medicine on hand to get you through the cruise and then some. You never know what’s going to happen and it’s far easier to have your prescriptions with you than to attempt to get a refill if your travel is interrupted. If you’ll be needing a refill immediately upon returning home – take care of that before leaving too if you can.
Disney Cruise Line app
Important Information

Electronics and Cameras:

  1. 3 weeks out – find out about your mobile carriers international options so you’re not surprised by a large bill after your cruise.
  2. One week out – get up to date on all your mobile apps and download the Disney Cruise Line app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
  3. A few days out – make sure you have all the music, movies, books, and magazines you’ll want on your mobile device for your cruise. You pay by the megabyte while onboard, and it’s slower than you’re used to, so do it now for your sanity and wallet.
  4. A few days out – locate all your extra chargers and batteries. Start getting things charged up.
  5. If you’re using a stand alone camera – get all your old vacation photos off your memory card and start with empty ones for your trip. If you use your phone as a camera, check your capacity. If you tend to take a lot of videos or photos, you may need to clear some space for your new photos.
  6. Day of boarding – turn off all automatic updates and syncing. Seth Kubersky has more information about this in his article with tips for first-time Disney Cruise Line cruisers.
  7. I love this 5-port USB charger for my stateroom. It makes keeping up with the assortment of devices I travel with so much easier without fighting for electric outlets.
  8. I also love this portable battery – with the Disney Cruise Line app, I find myself using my phone’s Wi-Fi constantly during the day, and this is a good way to get some extra juice without running back to the room or camping out at Cove Cafe.

Sundries and Shopping:

  1. If you plan to buy duty-free items while cruising, price them before boarding. This way you’ll know if that bottle of perfume or whiskey is a deal or not. Don’t forget to include your local taxes, which may not be reflected in the shelf prices.
  2. If you’re planning to BYOB onboard, and you’re arriving buy car – buy your hooch now (unless you live in a high-tax state) and make sure it’s packed in your carry aboard bag. If you’re arriving by air, you’ll need to buy once you’ve arrived. Disney allows cruisers to bring aboard as much beverages (alcoholic or not) as they can carry themselves. Beverages are not allowed in checked bags brought aboard by the porters.
  3. You’re about to be away for awhile. Ladies, is there anything you need to buy now rather than depend on the gift shop for? There is a much greater, and cheaper, selection of feminine products at your local Target than in the onboard gift shop. Trust me.
  4. Don’t forget the sunscreen. You should be wearing it every day anyway, but just in case make sure you have enough for everyone in your party. Disney only carries Coppertone onboard, and while the price is actually reasonable, it’s not the brand I prefer so I bring more than I think I’ll need.
  5. Any snacks that you can’t live without? No one goes hungry on a Disney Cruise, but if you’re partial to starting your day with a certain snack bar or almonds or what have you, bring some aboard.

So what are your tips? Share them here and they may end up in the next edition of a certain book on Disney Cruise Line. Like our Disney Cruise content? Consider subscribing to it on TouringPlans for even more information and to support our research costs.

Laurel Stewart

Laurel has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1971 when she was negative-15 years old and running the Disney races since 2007. Her favorite attraction is Big Thunder Mountain.

5 thoughts on “Planning Tips for Your Disney Cruise

  • January 9, 2015 at 9:30 pm
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    Great info Laurel! I’ll be taking my first cruise on the Dream this July! How do most families dress on formal night?

    Reply
    • January 10, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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      Most dress up, but it’s not technically “formal” attire, but dressier than resort casual. Some go all out. Men mostly wear suits with ties, but some wear tuxes. It’s a great night to get family photos. That’s clear as mud, isn’t it?

      Reply
  • January 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm
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    Hi Laurel, great article! The only thing I would add it to be prepared for the frigid air conditioning in some parts of the ship (restaurants). We are from Canada and went on a Caribbean cruise; we packed for hot weather and ended up buying sweaters to wear in the dining room at night. If you are a person who gets cold easily, I would recommend packing a wrap or sweater you can wear to dinner. That way you can save your souvenir money for something you want instead of the warmest sweater you can find!

    Reply
    • January 10, 2015 at 12:15 pm
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      You’re totally right. I always pack a sweater. Even if the dining room isn’t chilly, the pool deck at night ALWAYS is.

      Reply
  • January 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm
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    You might want to give family or friends contact info in case of emergency since you will most likely be unplugged from most technology.

    Reply

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