Disney Cruise Line

Debunking DCL Internet Misinformation

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Debunking DCL Misinformation

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.)

You can tell just how different the ships are the minute you walk into the atrium.

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.

Even arriving at noon means much shorter lines and a more relaxed check-in experience.

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.

The kids’ clubs on Disney Cruise Line are awesome–and included at no extra charge.

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.

Want factual information about Disney Cruise Line from folks who cruise as often as they can? Subscribe to TouringPlans for DCL and buy our book, the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line.

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.

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Julia Mascardo

Former writer, editor, and social media manager of TouringPlans. Embarking on new adventures with husband, kid, and cats.

16 thoughts on “Debunking DCL Internet Misinformation

  • 3. The late-night Pirates buffet has been discontinued.

    Been on 3 Disney cruises and have yet to make it to the buffet. I forgot it existed until I just read it here..

    4. Disney isn’t that strict about (blank) rule.

    Surge protectors are prohibited?!?! I never knew that one. I do bring a multi-outlet/charger thingie, because there are only 1-2 outlets in the room.

    Overall, Disney is strict on their cruise where they have to be. But cruising overall is a very flexible experience — want to order something that might not be on the menu, they will try to accommodate you.

    5. The earlier you arrive at the port, the better.

    In my experience, the earlier you arrive, the earlier you board. Regardless of your PAT. PAT seems to me, to be generalized guidance to prevent everyone arriving at the same time.
    There is something to be said for just arriving at 2… being able to board immediately, already having your cabin available.
    But there are also advantages of getting on board as early as possible — Getting to buffet for lunch while there are still open tables. Getting to guest services to do any on-board sign-ups as soon as possible.

    7. First-time cruisers will be shut out of everything.

    Cabanas are nearly impossible to get unless you are concierge/Platinum. Most other things are possible to get.
    But I was surprised by our upcoming cruise — we are traveling with 3 other families who are first time cruisers:
    — While we got princess gathering tickets, they were unable to do so by the time their booking window opened.
    –We managed to snag a Remy brunch reservation for the group, but it would have been gone by the time their booking window opened.

    I’d say first time cruisers need not worry about adult dinners, spa bookings, excursions. But brunches, character tickets, and of course cabanas… could be difficult.

    9. There’s a huge fee that gets charged for the kids’ clubs on your last night.

    From what I’ve seen in limited experience on other cruise lines… Disney cruises are the best value clubs for ages 3-12. Some other cruise lines charge for evenings or port days. or they are only open for limited hours of the day. The Disney clubs are basically open 15 hours per day, fully inclusive.

  • Another thing is that You can no longer drop off your item (s) to be autographed as is posted all over Pinterest that you can. You have to carry your items to your meet and greets with the character to have it signed.

    • Glad to know! I was going to get frame mate and leave it to get signed. I will just take the kids autograph books from our trip to Disney World 5 years ago and use them again. Autograph on one page then I glued pictures of them together on the other side when we got back.

    • This has caused a major backup at Character & Princess Greetings since a lot of guests will have 3 little ones, and have autograph books, pillowcases, AND frames for each character to sign. Took us over 1 1/2 hours to get through the line to meet Santa!!!

  • Boarding time is a big one! Internet articles/bloggers almost had me convinced to rent a car instead of Disney bus just for arriving early. (We had early port arrival time but no way to get there early from WDW!) Turns out there was no waiting at port, still had time to walk around the ship, and in reality I wouldn’t have wanted to be swimming (hot tub) during the Sail-away party on the swim deck anyway!
    Also, please add PHOTO PURCHASES to the “what’s NOT included” list. Photo Pass is a much different thing than at the parks! And decisions/payments have quick deadlines too since they print on board. (Even photo books need to be created/submitted before you depart. Not my idea of best use of vacation time, personally, but nice to have a memory-keeping option.)

  • Our waiter on the Disney Magic in March 2017 told us the pirate buffet was discontinued.

    • When we were on the Wonder in November/December 16 (back to back cruises) there was no Pirate Buffet either week. We were told it was discontinued. I continue to see it listed on Navigators from the Dream so hopefully they will have it when we sail in October 17.

      • I’ve been on the Wonder twice this year (Feb. and April), and it has been offered both times. Doing a grand slam this year, with the Fantasy in June, the Dream in September, and the Magic in December, so I’ll be looking to see if it is offered–even though I’m not a fan of the food at it. 😉

      • Wow, that’s weird. I wonder if it’s up to the captain’s discretion whether or not to have it. Our captain was Robert.

  • We did the three day cruise and it was amazing. Just enough time to experience most everything and get some relaxing in as well.

  • Yeah, we were also told by our cabin attendant not to drink the water from the tap. This was our first cruise in 2013, so they may have changed their stance?

    • I’ve been on nearly 20 Disney cruises and never been told this. Also, logically, the bathroom taps would have posted information about this rather than depending on the room attendant to pass on the information. I suspect in this case the room attendants may also moonlight as Disney bus drivers.

      • More likely, water taps would not even be made available if the water were not safe to drink. Someone would inevitably ignore the sign (or would not be able to read it, no matter how many translations were provided) and get sick from drinking it.

        In the attendant’s defense, the intent may have been to steer you away from filling reusable glasses from the tap and toward getting water from the drink station. “Please don’t drink water from the tap” doesn’t necessarily mean “the tap water isn’t safe to drink”. But if that was the case, it wasn’t explained and was clearly taken the wrong way.

    • If you try to drink from the taps, you’ll probably bump your head. So you probably shouldn’t do that anyway.

  • However, we asked our cabin attendant if we could drink from the taps in the rooms and he said no. Fine for brushing teeth but not drinking. That may have been where that one got started.

  • If your check in time is, say, noon, you can arrive at whatever time you want, you just can’t check in until noon. My first cruise said 1 so we arrived at 1, only to wait half an hour to check in. As long as it is 1 when you reach the desk, you are fine. Your check in time is assigned to you when you finish your pre boarding online. The earlier you complete that, the earlier you get to check in. However, it seems random after that when you are selected to board. Our second cruise, we were assigned group 17 when my FIL and his wife were assigned group 2. We waited a long time to get on board.

    We have never had luck snagging a cabana though, regardless of when we book. We have completed very popular cruises including Panama Canal (popular with adults), Star Wars day at sea and New Years Eve. We are just silver member me which means that, the gold and Platinum have first dibs.

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