Are you thinking of sailing on your very first Disney Cruise? It is an amazing experience and once you have sailed on Disney you will most likely be hooked forever!
However, what is surprising about a Disney Cruise? What will you find that you really did not expect on your first Disney cruise?
Become a Disney cruise expert before you board so that you can make the most of your experience.
A Disney cruise is an amazing experience and we are here to help you make the most of it!
How Many Bags You Can Bring on a Disney Cruise?
These days when airlines are charging more and more to let you board a flight with even a carry-on, lots of people ask how much luggage can you bring on a Disney cruise.
So my legal background told me I had to actually look at the Disney cruise contract to see what it says about luggage.
There is a whole lot of speculation out there on the internet and most of it is wrong!
The Disney Cruise contract says “Each guest is allowed to bring aboard the Vessel a reasonable amount of clothing and personal effects, not to exceed two bags per person”.
Of course, the lawyer in me loves the phrase “reasonable amount”. There is no bag size restriction.
No one is saying you have to be over 18 to have a baggage allowance.
Or that it has to fit in the overhead locker when you are last on the plane.
In other words, be reasonable.
Lots of Disney cruisers will be flying to get to the port, so they will have to deal with airline restrictions anyway.
But if like me, most of the time you just drive from home onto a cruise, you can bring 2 or even 3 bags each.
That’s quite a lot even for a week on a cruise.
Who is going to check how many bags you have?
I have sailed on so many cruises and have never been questioned about the amount of bags I have.
You simply hand them over to the porter before you head through security and they miraculously arrive at your stateroom.
When you walk down the stateroom corridor on embarkation day you are going to see huge amounts of luggage outside some staterooms. Others get by with a carry-on.Just be aware of the fact that whatever you bring in your suitcase you are going to have to store in your stateroom. There is a good amount of storage in even the smallest of the inside staterooms, but do you really need that 10th pair of shoes?
You can store your suitcases under the bed on all the Disney cruise ships. It is rare that I have had a suitcase that doesn’t fit.
It is a great idea to always bring Packing Cubes with you as they save so much time and effort in packing and unpacking.
They just let you keep things really organized so you can transfer them straight from your bag to a drawer or shelf.
Just How Large The Disney Cruise Staterooms Are
First-time Disney cruisers are often anxious about just what their stateroom will be like.
Fortunately, Disney has some of the largest staterooms available on a family cruise line.
The industry average is around 140 square feet for an inside stateroom.
Even the smallest of the Disney cruise staterooms, the Standard Inside on the Dream and Fantasy, is 164 square feet.
Here you can see a video that shows you exactly what to expect from the Standard Inside Stateroom on the Disney Wonder or Magic.
They are larger than the Dream Class ships at 184 square feet.
Remember that this is the smallest of all of the staterooms and that most are significantly larger.
If you want more space, and the luxury of a verandah, the Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah have 268 square feet of space and sleep up to 4 guests.
There are also some Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah which sleep up to 5 guests – a rare thing for a cruise line.
Another brilliant design feature that most of the Disney cruise staterooms have is the split bathroom.
This means that the bathroom is split into two separate rooms. One has a toilet and a sink.
The other has a bath with a shower over it and another sink.
This means it is so much easier to live in this space, particularly with a family.
It certainly minimizes the fights over who will use the bathroom first in the morning!
The staterooms are very well designed to make maximum use of space. There are plenty of closets and drawers to store all your belongings.
The Ship Cannot Always Dock at Castaway Cay
One of the highlights of a Disney cruise in the Caribbean or the Bahamas is a visit to Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Cay.
However, sometimes the ship is not able to dock at the purpose-built port.
With the skill of the Captain and his crew, we often forget just how complex it must actually be to dock a cruise ship anywhere!
The Castaway Cay dock was built by Disney so that guests could walk off the ship directly onto their island, rather than having to get a tender boat.
This makes it extremely convenient, most of the time.
The Captain will always do his very best to make sure that the ship can dock at Castaway Cay.
However, occasionally it just isn’t possible due to the high winds and currents. Sometimes, it has been due to a mechanical issue with the ship.
Your Disney Captain always has safety as a priority.
Sometimes bad weather prevents port stops – I sailed on a Panama Canal Disney Cruise which was dodging a hurricane in 2014 and we didn’t make a port stop from San Diego until Columbia! That was probably the best Disney cruise I have ever sailed through …
It isn’t possible to predict when the ship can’t dock at Castaway Cay.
However, some people say that the chances of not being able to dock are higher in winter than in summer.
Really it is a rare occurrence but always be prepared for it.
The Weather is Unpredictable
Disney Cruise Lines sails in many different parts of the world.
Most cruises are in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, but they also sail in Europe, Alaska, the Transatlantic, Panama Canal, the Mexican Riviera, and the Pacific Coast. Newly added itineraries are Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.
That covers a whole lot of different weather possibilities!
Even in the Caribbean, it can be cold in the evenings when it is super hot during the day.
This is a surprise to many Disney Cruise First Timers.
Make sure that you look at the weather forecast for your vacation and make sure you are packing the right things for your Disney Cruise.
I always pack my Soft Cashmere Pashmina as it is so versatile and available in lots of different colors.
It is really inexpensive and you can wear it to dress up an outfit in the evening, go out walking on deck, or even use it as a blanket wrap to sit out on your verandah.
It is one of the best accessories I have ever found for a cruise and it is very easy to pack.
I have spent a lot of time on a cruise ship. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to rain very often. However, it does happen and it pays to be prepared!
I always pack a Lightweight Waterproof Jacket.
If you prefer a cape-style jacket that you can use in the parks this Rain Poncho Jacket Coat is really good.
It’s available in a lot of different colors and you can use it over and over in the parks.
How Great the Entertainment Is
It is difficult to describe just how amazed you will be at the quality of the entertainment on a Disney ship. The quality of their production shows is just off the charts. This is Disney after all.
A Disney Cruise First TImer is going to be blown away by just how amazing the stage shows are.
On each of the Disney ships, there is the Walt Disney Theater.
Every evening there will be 2 showings of either a headline performer, a movie, or a production show.
If you are sailing on the Disney Fantasy you will get to see Frozen A Musical Spectacular and Alladin A Musical Spectacular.
On the Disney Wonder, the shows include Frozen A Musical Spectacular, and The Golden Mickeys.
The Dream also has Golden Mickeys as well as Believe.
On Disney Magic, you can see Tangled The Musical, Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, and Twice Charmed An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story.
These are all Broadway-quality production shows. If you were to buy tickets for these on land you would be paying hundreds of dollars for your family.
How Attached You Will Get to Your Disney Cruise Server
Disney has a very different system for the main dining rooms than any other cruise line.
They have what is known as Rotational Dining.
Every Disney ship has 3 main restaurants. You will dine in each of these restaurants at least once.
The unique thing about Disney cruise lines is that your serving team will rotate with you – so that you have the same servers every day.
This has a huge advantage that they will get to know your likes and dislikes. You don’t have to keep explaining that you have a special dietary request, or that you like a certain beverage with your meal.
If you have children with you then prepare to be more than impressed with how they remember that your youngest likes a certain type of bread, or your teen wants chocolate milk.
They will even cut up food for your child. To say they go above and beyond is an understatement.
Almost without exception, we have had amazing servers on all our Disney cruises. We have made some amazing friends over the years and now often plan our cruises around when we know certain servers will be on board.
When you board the ship you will be given your Key To the World. On there you will see which dining rotation you have.
All of the Disney ships have Animator’s Palate as one of their restaurants. So you are sure to spend at least one night in these amazingly innovative restaurants no matter which Disney ship you are sailing on.
- The Disney Magic has Lumiere’s and Rapunzel’s Royal Table.
- The Disney Wonder has Triton’s and Tiana’s Place.
- The Disney Fantasy has Royal Court and Enchanted Garden.
- The Disney Dream has Royal Palace and Enchanted Garden
- The Disney Wish has Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Experience, 1923 and Worlds of Marvel
Unless you have sailed on a Disney cruise you really aren’t prepared for just how attached you could become to your servers!
It is difficult to end any vacation, but it seems all the more difficult that you are leaving such great people behind.
That the Room Service is (Mostly) Free
One of the many things that are included in a Disney cruise is Room Service.
Although there are a few exceptions, most of the things on the Room Service Menu are free.
The menu on the Disney Wish is a bit different.
You can find the Room Service Menu on the Navigators App.
There are also some items that you can request which are not found on the Room Service Menu.
These include the infamous Mickey Bars!
Possibly because Room Service in hotels is always so ridiculously priced, it feels like an amazing luxury to be able to order food delivered to your stateroom on a Disney cruise.
Remember though that although most items are free, you do need to tip the server who brings you the food. It is customary to tip at least $1 per item.
You can do this either in cash or by adding a tip to the delivery slip that they will bring for you to sign.
If you really need coffee in the morning you can order it to be delivered late at night and it will keep hot until the morning.
The regular coffee on a Disney Cruise is really not the best. What I do now is take these Starbucks Colombia Via Instant Coffeewith me and request a carafe of boiling water so I can use this in the morning.
If you want breakfast you should leave the request card out by 3 am in the morning. The breakfast items are limited to cold selections such as fruit, yogurt cereal, and pastries.
If you are getting up early for an excursion it can be a good idea to get a Room Service breakfast to save time.
Go ahead and order Room Service on your Disney Cruise. It is just one of those indulgent things you need to do!
That There Is So Much For Adults To Do on a Disney Cruise
Disney cruise lines are particularly known for being family-friendly. They do an amazing job of providing opportunities for families to spend time together doing lots of different activities.
Children are well looked after in the amazing Disney Cruise Kid’s Clubs.
However, what isn’t quite so widely appreciated is that Disney is a great cruise line to sail with if you are an adult. This is true whether or not you are sailing with kids.
I have enjoyed many family vacations on Disney ships, but I have also enjoyed sailing without kids.
Disney really does look after the adults on board.
There is a lot of space dedicated to the over-18s only on all of the Disney ships.
On all of the ships, you will find an adult-only pool deck with a swimming pool, the Cove Cafe, and the Spa.
Disney does a great job of ensuring that the under-18s are not allowed in these adult-only spaces. I have sailed on other cruise lines where it is obvious that others are breaking the rules and no one does anything about it.
However, Disney actually does ask guests for ID if it is questionable that they are old enough to be in that space.
My adult daughter was asked more than once for her Key to the World card to prove that she was over 18.
Whilst in the day most of the bars are open to families, after 9 p.m. these spaces are for adults only.
There is a dedicated Cast Member on each ship who will look after the entertainment for the adults.
There is entertainment exclusively for adults every day, and there are sometimes special shows in the Walt Disney Theater in the evening just for the grown-ups.
All of the Disney ships have Palo, which is an Italian-inspired restaurant just for the over 18s.
Palo serves Brunch on Sea Days and Dinner every evening.
If you are sailing on the Disney Fantasy or the Dream, you can dine at Remy. This is recognized to be one of the best fine dining experiences at sea.
The Disney Wish has Enchante as its fine dining restaurant.
So often first-time cruisers think that a Disney cruise is just for kids. Second-time Disney cruisers know that they are looked after whatever age they are!
How Much Weight You Can Put On In A Few Days
The food on a Disney Cruise is amazing. There is a huge amount of choice and you are almost certainly not going to go hungry.
However, the downside of this is that it is very easy to overeat and then you have to live with the consequences.
According to some surveys the average cruiser puts on between 5 and 10 pounds in a 7-night cruise! That is about one pound for every day on a cruise.
If you take some easy steps though you can minimize the risk that you are going to get off the ship heavier than when you boarded.
The buffet is very tempting, but you can consume a huge amount of calories in a very short space of time. It is all about making some good choices and minimizing the bad.
In the buffet, there are plenty of healthy choices available.
The difficult task is actually being disciplined enough to choose them.
If you make rules before you start, then it will be easier to stick with them. If you only allow yourself to have a dessert every other day you are saving hundreds of calories just by making that choice.
It is pretty obvious that having a donut is not the best choice you can make!
Also, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise on the cruise. I know that many people just want to relax, but this may be the time to start a new activity.
There isn’t much of an excuse not to go to the Gym on a Disney Cruise.
It’s so convenient.
You don’t need to get in your car and drive there – it is less than a 5-minute walk away from your stateroom.
If the gym is not your thing, why not take the stairs instead of the elevator? Or take a walk around the deck.
It really will make a difference in how much weight you will put on during the cruise. You can still enjoy lots of amazing food and not put on weight.
That Disney Cruise Gratuities are Not Complicated But Some are Unexpected
A lot of people get confused about Tipping on a Disney Cruise.
However, it really is easy to understand, once you break it down.
This Disney Cruise Gratuities Calculator below shows the amounts that will automatically be added to your stateroom account.
The automatic gratuities are only for your service team and your Stateroom Host.
These amounts are per person and include both adults and children.
These are recommended amounts only which will automatically be charged to your stateroom account. You can adjust them up or down if you want to.
There are some gratuities that may take you by surprise. There is an automatic tip of 15% added to all drinks at the bar.
If you have any spa treatment 18% will automatically be added as a gratuity.
The one I tend to forget about is the Rainforest Pass. This one does annoy me.
Whilst I can see that for most spa treatments it is warranted as there is a service element, However, in the Rainforest all they have to do is hand you a wristband!
How Little Movement You Will Feel on the Ship
Often, first-time cruisers are understandably concerned about how much movement they will actually feel on a ship. No one wants to experience seasickness.
Fortunately, most people do not get seasick. The Disney ships are incredibly stable and most of the time you will most likely not feel any motion at all.
The Captain has your safety as a first concern and he can see where bad weather is and a lot of the time can avoid it.
However, some people are more prone to seasickness than others. It is a lot easier to act to prevent seasickness than to deal with it once it has started!
On one Panama Canal cruise, I sailed on we sailed for days keeping a safe distance away from a hurricane.
Sometimes the ocean waves were pretty significant but fortunately, most of my family don’t experience motion sickness.
The exception is my daughter.
She knows how to take precautions to minimize the effects. Bonine Motion Sickness Relief works really well for her if she takes it before she boards the ship.
This Motion Sickness Patch also works really well for a lot of people.
Just How Many Disney Characters are on The Ship
If you have ever visited any of the Disney parks you know that there are lots of opportunities for character greetings.
However, you often have to wait a very long time to meet your favorite character. Often in the hot sunshine!
But, if you love meeting Disney characters you are going to love a Disney cruise. It is so much easier to get involved in the meet and greets.
Yes, you do still have to wait in line most of the time, but often you do not wait for more than 15 minutes.
And you are waiting in air-conditioned comfort.
Disney cruise lines also offer unique character greeting experiences that you simply can’t get anywhere else.
If Princess Tiana is a favorite you really should sail on the Disney Wonder.
Tiana’s Place is one of the rotational dining restaurants on the Disney Wonder.
Here you are treated to a Princess and the Frog experience hosted by Princess Tiana herself.
Princess Tiana will come to your table as well as entertain you with her fabulous band The Crawfish Crooners.
This is much more of an interactive experience than you have at Disney parks, where you feel part of the whole show.
On Disney Magic, you get to meet Rapunzel in her very own restaurant.
Sometimes you will even see the Disney characters where you least expect them.
You could find yourself with Goofy in the elevator.
Or see Belle in the corridor.
These impromptu meetings are so much fun and can often happen on a Disney cruise.
That You Can Bring Some Alcohol on the Cruise
A lot of cruise lines will not let you take any alcohol on board. The reason for this is that most cruise lines have their own drinks package and they will lose revenue.
Disney Cruise Line’s alcohol policy is one of the most generous at sea.
- Disney Cruise Line Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage. For Australia and New Zealand cruise, the age is 18 and over.
- You can also bring on the same amount at each port-of-call for a Disney Cruise.
You must put this alcohol in your carry-on baggage. Do not put it into checked luggage.
Of course, there will always be people who want to break the rules and will research how to sneak alcohol onto a cruise. Just don’t be one of these people.
You Will Want to Book Another Disney Cruise While You Are Still on the Ship
The cruise industry is huge and is always growing.
More and more people are discovering that a cruise is a great way to travel.
Once you have sailed on a Disney cruise you are very likely to be hooked!
Many people count the days between Disney cruises and are always thinking of ways they can sail on another!
However, first-time cruisers and indeed some seasoned Disney cruisers miss the easiest way to save money on a Disney cruise.
The problem is that once you have disembarked your Disney cruise it is too late to save money in this way.
So what is the easiest way to save money on a Disney cruise? It is to book what is known as a Disney Cruise Placeholder.
If you book a Disney Cruise Placeholder or book another Disney cruise whilst you are onboard, you will get a 10% discount on the current rate of the cruise.
This is a huge saving that can save you a lot of money on a Disney Cruise.
If you book a Placeholder you will get a reference number to prove that you have paid your deposit.
There is also the advantage of a reduced deposit of $250 instead of the usual 20% of the total price.
There are some block-out dates that cannot be used for the Placeholder 10% discount. These are the most popular dates for Disney cruises so you will not get the placeholder discount.
You will still get the reduced deposit, but you will not get the Disney Cruise discount.
What surprised you as a First Time Disney Cruiser? What do you wish you had known before you sailed on your First Disney Cruise?
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Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.