Are there free activities on a Disney cruise? My husband and I disagree on the words “free” and “included”. He’s of the opinion that nothing is truly free onboard, because you’ve already paid for it. (It’s just included in your initial cost.) I, on the other hand, like to think of it as free once I’m onboard! Coke at the drink station? It’s free! Mickey bars? Free! And quite frankly, the more Coke and Mickey bars I have, the more “free” it is! Am I right?
But whichever word you prefer, there are lots of things to do on a Disney cruise that don’t cost you a single penny more. Here are ten of them!
1. Movies – We take full advantage of the movies on board. We don’t see anything in theaters at home that we know we can see free on an upcoming cruise! Disney plays several first-run movies on board in their gorgeous theaters. Some are 3D, some are open captioning, and some are just plain old regular movies, whatever those are called. If you are on a longer cruise, they will often have special movie events like classic black-and-white movie marathons. If you’re a movie fan, it’s a great way to spend some time on quiet afternoons. If you’d rather stay in your room and relax, there are movies all day long on your stateroom television. I recently enjoyed a cruise on Royal Caribbean, but I was surprised by how much I missed the movie theater and having free movies in our room. On one cruise on the Disney Dream, I probably watched Jurassic World three times through, just by having it on the television whenever I was in the room. My life’s philosophy is that dinosaurs (and maybe Chris Pratt?) make everything better. Is that just me?
2. Jack Jack’s Diaper Dash – Another incredibly entertaining few minutes on your cruise will be Jack Jack’s Diaper Dash. I highly recommend it! This riveting racing of the babies is held on every cruise in the atrium. Parents bring their non-walking babies at the appointed time, and the babies are divided into racing heats. After a brief personal, on-mic interview, the contestants are placed at the starting line. When the starting signal is given, off they go! Or not. Often they just sit there, despite the cheering of the crowd, and the pleading and outright bribery of their parents. You’d be amazed at how entertaining begging parents and distracted babies can be. If you have a crawling baby, on behalf of the other cruisers, I implore you to race your baby!
3. Character Breakfast – As any regular visitor to Walt Disney World can attest, character meals at Disney are expensive! Well, not on your cruise! On most cruises of 7 nights or longer, Disney has character breakfasts. Characters vary: sometimes it’s Mickey and friends, and other times it’s Disney Junior characters. Unlike days past when your character meal day and time were determined by both your dining rotation and whether you were on Main or Second dining, now the days and times are available to book online as soon as your booking window opens. The food is standard breakfast fare, with Mickey waffles of course, and it’s a nice relaxed environment. Don’t fear if you missed your booking window, as they may have openings once you board. Check at guest services.
4. Shows – Shows don’t need reservations or payment. They’re free! Included! And so many options! There’s a show performed twice every night in the Walt Disney Theatre. Every ship has a variety of Broadway-style stage shows performed live by the incredibly talented entertainment cast onboard. These shows are spectacular. Frozen (on the Wonder) and Tangled (on the Magic) are two of the highlights in my opinion, and I’d expect Beauty and the Beast will become a new favorite when it debuts in November on the Dream. On other nights, there will either be a movie or a variety act of some kind. The variety acts will also perform both family and adult shows in the night clubs. The adult shows will be late at night, and they truly are for adults only. Take my advice, if you don’t want to be part of the show or are easily embarrassed, don’t sit in the front row. I speak from one absolutely-mortifying-I-am-sitting-next-to-my-in-laws experience. The name Heath Hyche still makes me sweat a little. Not his fault though. I sat in the front. I knew better!
5. Karaoke – I’m a big fan of karaoke. Be forewarned though, there are two kinds of karaoke on a Disney cruise. There is adult karaoke in the clubs late at night which is pretty much the standard, entertaining karaoke you will see at any karaoke bar on a Friday night in a town near you. Since I don’t tend to visit karaoke bars in a town near me on any night, a Disney cruise is my chance to see it. (And I love it!) I do not, however, love family karaoke. In fact I avoid it like a hot, sticky, full-capacity day at Disney World in the summer. But that is solely because I do not have small children anymore. If you do, then family karaoke may be exactly what you are looking for. Family karaoke is heaven for your little performers. They can sing “Let it Go” on the stage for all to hear and enjoy. In fact, at family karaoke, you can count on hearing “Let it Go” over and over and over. And over. It’s always performed with great earnestness if not always with technical perfection. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
6. Trivia Contests – Trivia contests are some of our favorite activities on board. There is trivia for all interests: Disney trivia, movie quotes, sports, 80s music, general knowledge, and more! There are always prizes of some sort, but they aren’t the real reason to join in. Join in for the jokes, the knowledge, and the entertainment of the whole thing. Even if you’re horrible, they’re still fun to participate in. (We are not horrible, by the way. We rock them. In case you were wondering. Ha! Okay, I lied. We are completely horrible at some of them. But we still have fun.)
7. Midship Detective Agency – The Dream and Fantasy both have a fun interactive game built into the artwork on board. Solving the mystery will take you all over the ship, but you can do it at your own pace. Start by picking up a map, game card, and instructions midship on deck 2 or 5. Use your game card to unlock clues and perform tasks at the interactive artwork all over the ship. There are several different mysteries, and some include the Muppets! The technology of this game is super cool, and worth a few minutes of your time even if you don’t take the time to solve the mystery.
8. Walking Ship Tours – Speaking of walking all over the ship, there are also some walking tours during the cruise. Your Navigator will list times and descriptions of each. While behind-the-scenes tours are rare these days, these walking tours are still entertaining and a good way to get oriented and see details you may never have noticed on your own!
9. Games — There are a ton of games to play on board! Shuffleboard, ping pong, and basketball are on all four ships, and there is mini-golf on the Dream and Fantasy. There are also some organized game times you’ll find listed in your Navigator. Games like shuffleboard tournaments, Chip it Golf in the atrium, and Mickey’s 200 where you build your own race car out of unconventional materials and then race it against other guests. If you are on a cruise with a Freezing the Night Away deck party, there is usually a scavenger hunt during the day. Not an ordinary scavenger hunt, a chocolate scavenger hunt! There will be a few family game shows on board like The Quest (an in-room scavenger hunt) and So You Think You Know Your Family (which is exactly what it sounds like). There also happen to be actual board games in some of the nightclubs on board. Free games are everywhere!
10. Classes – If you’d like to learn something onboard, you have that opportunity to. Your Navigator will list several classes that take place. You can learn things like origami, scrapbooking, lantern making (whaaa?), towel and napkin folding, and more. I always enjoy the animation classes, no matter how bad my drawing ends up! (I don’t blame the instructors.) There are some free fitness classes in the gym, but not all classes there are free, so check closely. I have enjoyed some dancing classes on longer cruises and the cooking classes are also fun to watch. And eat. You get to eat. So that’s always good. On holiday cruises you will have the chance to do some extra holiday-themed classes like gingerbread house making. On longer cruises you will get some lectures by experts about the history and culture of the ports you are visiting. You usually have the option to watch those in person, or later on the stateroom television, which is super convenient. Also, less obvious if you doze off…
Bonus – Castaway Cay 5K – If you are visiting Castaway Cay on your cruise, and you are not morally opposed to exercise, you’ll have the opportunity to run or walk a 5k on the island. Free! (And this activity comes with a medal. A rubber medal, but a pretty cool one nonetheless!)
Do you get the picture? There is so much to do on board–and many things you don’t have to pay for! Let me know what your favorites are, or what I may have forgotten, in the comments.
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obiligation quote on your next vacation.