The internet is a wonderful source of information power at your fingertips. Unfortunately, with great power comes great ability to spread misinformation. (I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who once said that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.) Here are some tidbits of misinformation about Disney Cruise Line that often come up from online sources, along with information to clarify some of these statements.
1. Everything is included on Disney Cruise Line.
Compared with some other cruise lines, there is more included with the base price of a Disney Cruise. Non-alcoholic beverages from the drink station, many activities, most dining, many items from room service, and some snack options (like soft-serve ice cream or nibbles from the coffee bar) are included, and you can have a wonderful time without spending a fortune on extras. On the other hand, there are some extra charges for gratuities, bingo, port adventures, spa treatments, alcoholic beverages, food from theater snack bars, drinks from the coffee bar or juice bar, meals at Palo (on all ships) or Remy (on the Dream and Fantasy). A small package of internet service is free if you sign up before midnight on your first night, but additional internet is available for purchase. (Note: Some of the additional costs are waived for certain circumstances, like internet provided for certain levels of concierge staterooms and a free dinner at Palo available for Platinum Castaway Club members.)
2. All ships are the same.
There are many similarities between the four Disney Cruise Line ships, but there are also significant differences. In some cases, it is simply a case of different names for the same thing. The young child splash area that is called Nemo’s Reef on the Dream and Fantasy is basically the same as Dory’s Reef on the Wonder, for instance. In other cases, there are significant differences. The Magic and Wonder don’t have Remy for a high-end dining experience. Rooms within the kids’ clubs have different themes on different ships. Minigolf and Midship Detective Agency are not available on all ships. Even something as simple as the advice of looking for the Seahorse outside of stateroom doors to know you are on the Starboard side of the ship doesn’t work on all of the ships. If there is something specific that you know you want to do, check the Disney Cruise Line site to make certain it is offered on the ship that you will be sailing on.
3. The late-night Pirates buffet has been discontinued.
Every time this comes up, there is also a follow-up from many repeat cruisers of “What pirate buffet?” Part of the confusion exists because the pirate buffet isn’t largely publicized. It occurs immediately after the Pirates in the Caribbean party and fireworks in Cabanas, but is only open for an hour or less. It isn’t largely noted on the Personal Navigator, but its time is listed under the “Late Night Snacks” section of the Dining & Lounges section. The buffet includes some unique options including make-your-own tacos, a crepes station, and turkey legs. Although I’m not a huge fan of the food, I do love going to look at the pirate-themed carved melons.
4. Disney isn’t that strict about (blank) rule.
Even more than Disney parks, there are a variety of rules about what you can and can’t do, age restrictions, and what you can and can’t bring on a Disney cruise. These rules do change from time to time, and so not every person knows the most up-to-date information. In addition, sometimes people manage (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to get away with something, and so they tell others that something can be done. Yes, you may know someone who once was able to bring a surge protector on board, but they are on Disney’s prohibited list. At one time, you could bring a greater variety of alcohol on board than you can now. And, especially in the days before lifeguards, someone may have snuck their swim-diapered child into the main pools, maritime law prohibits children wearing swim diapers in the pools. When in doubt, or for clarification about Disney’s list of prohibited items, contact Disney Cruise Line directly. Likewise, understand that age restrictions are strictly enforced. Even though your child who is age 17 years, 364 days might want to join you at Palo, you’ll have to wait until the clock ticks past midnight for that to happen.
5. The earlier you arrive at the port, the better.
Because cruise terminals are small compared with the size of the cruise ship, it would be challenging to have every guest arriving at the same time. There would be lines to drop off your luggage. There would be a line to pay at the parking garage. There would be a line to get through the security screening. And then you’d have the lines to check in and to get on board the ship. To manage crowd flow, Disney has you select a Port Arrival Time (PAT) when you complete your online check-in. The rule is that you can arrive at any time after your port arrival time, but are asked not to arrive before your port arrival time. Still, many people try to arrive at the port before their port arrival time to “make the most of their vacation”. In reality, there is little benefit to arriving well before your port arrival time. The cruise terminal is essentially a giant hall for holding people. At best, you can stand around and watch people come into the terminal. You can stand in lines to register kids for the kids’ club (which you can do much faster online with a quick stop at the kids’ club to get your band when you get on board). You can stand in line for a single character meet and greet. Once you get on board, you’ll continue on with your throng of people to get lunch and then camp outside the hallway to your stateroom until they are open at 1:30 PM. All this time, you’ll be carrying your carry-on bags.
6. A three-night cruise isn’t long enough to have a good time.
In a perfect world, my life might include me as a recurring guest star on a Disney version of The Love Boat. But work schedules, finances, and life in general means that not every cruise can be a week or more. There are many reasons why a three-night cruise might be the only option for getting on a Disney cruise ship, but from some online chatter it may seem that it is better to skip a cruise than go for “only” three nights. A three-night cruise will allow you to dine in all of the main dining rooms, see several high-quality shows, and experience a relaxing time on a luxury cruise ship. Yes, there will always be more to see or things that you didn’t get a chance to do. (That happens even when you book a week or more, however.) But a three-night cruise can be a relaxing getaway and is worth the trip.
7. First-time cruisers will be shut out of everything.
While it is true that those who have sailed more often with Disney Cruise Line and have Gold or Platinum Castaway Club status get first dibs to sign up for cabanas on Castaway Cay, certain character meet and greets, spa treatments, port adventures (aka shore excursions), or meals at Palo and Remy, even first time cruisers may have some luck when their booking window open. In general, cabanas will be the hardest to secure, but more often than not almost everything else will be available, depending on length of cruise. (For instance, a cruise with only one sea day means fewer opportunities for Palo brunch, and so it may be “sold out” when it is time for first-time cruisers to book.) Never give up, though. Keep checking online as people drop reservations, and even check when you get on board the ship. You never know what may become available.
8. You can’t drink the tap water, but you can fill a water bottle at the drink station.
I’m not sure where this particular rumor got started, but it is a strange one. According to rumor, you cannot drink the tap water on board Disney Cruise Lines, but you can take your water bottle up to the soda station and refill it there. The tap water goes through filtration processes that make it not only perfectly safe to drink, but actually taste better than most tap water that you’ll find on shore in parts of Florida. For those with medical needs (for instance, those using a CPAP with a humidifier), distilled water can be requested in advance by calling Disney Cruise Lines or putting a request with your travel agent to list that in your file. When it comes to filling your water bottle at the drink station, for hygiene purposes, you are supposed to take a clean, disposable cup each time you use the drink station and not directly fill a personal cup or water bottle directly from the drink station. Yes, it isn’t as eco-friendly, but it does help to prevent the spread of germs.
9. There’s a huge fee that gets charged for the kids’ clubs on your last night.
The nursery service for children ages six months to three years (or ages 1-3 years on Transatlantic, Hawaii, or Panama Canal itineraries) does charge a fee per hour (currently $9/hour for the first child and $8/hour for additional children). For the other kid clubs, such as the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab for ages 3-12, Edge for ages 11-14, and Vibe for ages 14-17, there are no additional costs to attend (although Vibe offers smoothies for an additional fee). At the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab, you may experience a charge of $12.95 if you do not return the Youth Activities Band (essentially a MagicBand that can only be used on DCL), which is provided when you register to attend, by midnight on the night before you debark. Once you leave the ship, there’s not much use for the old band–you cannot use it at Disney Parks, for instance–but it does unlock some special features in the Disney Infinity game. In some cases, people may be confused that there is an automatic gratuity charged for children, just like there is for adults, for your stateroom host(ess) and servers, but that gratuity is in no way connected with the kids’ clubs.
Heard any other rumors or potential disinformation that you’d like us to check? Feel free to share what you’ve heard in the comments.