I took my first ever Disney cruise in February of 2016.
In fact, it was my first cruise of any sort.
We were invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration aboard the Disney Wonder and, as expected with Disney vacations, it was magical.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to take the entire family on the adventure –I traveled with just my mother and my youngest son who had just turned 9 at the time.
This year, when we were invited again, we were able to make it work for the entire family and all five of us set sail on a 3 day Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Dream!
It was a two-port adventure with stops in Nassau and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
I can’t express enough how magical of a vacation this was for our family.
With two teens and a tween, it’s always a challenge to find the perfect travel mix that everyone will enjoy equally.
We’ve always been huge fans of the Disney parks, and as much as we still enjoy visiting (we try to go at least once a year), we are finding that their attention begins to wane there a bit more quickly. Where before we needed 5-7 days touring the Disney parks in Florida to make the trip feel complete, we can do everything we want in about 3 days now. Adding a Disney cruise to the mix is the perfect way to extend our vacation doing something all of us find enjoyable!
We’ve found that there are plenty of activities and excitements aboard the Disney cruise ships that entice every member of our family. In fact, I think my 16 year old had more fun than anyone this year, and the year I took my mother along for the fun, she was the most happy with the adventure.
But this post isn’t to convince you to take a Disney cruise, it’s to guide you once you’ve already decided that’s exactly what you plan to do!
If you’ve booked a ride on the Disney Dream and are excitedly searching the Internet for tips to help you prepare for your first Disney cruise aboard this ship, you’ve certainly come to the right place!
First, check out our 3 day Disney cruise in 3 minutes video, and then read these 50 tips to help you prepare for your magical adventure!
Here are a few exciting facts and things to know before you set sail on your Disney cruise.
Disney Cruise Tips: 50 Things to Know About Cruising on the Disney Dream
Disney Cruise Tips: About the Disney Dream
The Disney Dream is one of the Disney Cruise Lines newest and largest ships.
It set sail for the first time in 2011 and can carry about 4,000 passengers. It has 1,250 state rooms, 14 passenger decks, 3 main dining rooms, 2 adult only dining rooms, 5 kids clubs, 3 pools, a sports court, a 9-hole mini golf area, a movie theater, a live-show theater, and more!
Get your bearings as quickly as possible and it will make navigating the ship easier.
Everything on board is located forward, mid-ship, or aft (back). There are elevators and stairs at each end as well as midship. The midship stairs and elevators tend to be the most crowded so, if you know where what you’re looking for is located, you can walk along the halls and use the stairs/elevator in that area to save time and congestion.
Take note of the areas you will visit most.
Main dining is on decks 2 and 3. All of the kids clubs (except for the teen club, Vibe) are on deck 5. Walt Disney Theater (where you watch the stage shows) is on decks 3 and 4 and the Buena Vista Theater (where you can watch Disney films) is on decks 4 and 5. All of the pools are on deck 11. The sports recreation area is on deck 13. And, if you need help booking something or want to find out anything going on around the ship, Guest Services is on deck 3.
Wi-fi is not cheap.
And it’s certainly not free. Check your cellphone carrier to find out what you will be charged while you travel. You can also purchase wi-fi while aboard although it’s probably not worth it because you’ll be too busy having fun to sit and scroll through Facebook -save that for your first day back at work. :)
Disney Cruise Tips: About What to Pack
Motion sickness medicine may come in handy.
You’ll want to keep your phone dry and sand free.
We use these waterproof phone pouches on the beach. They are way cheaper than a cumbersome waterproof case and they keep the sand away too. Plus, your phone can still be used without removing it from the pouch.
Bring a water bottle.
The paper cups they have are pretty small and, if you’re like me and like water by your bedside, you’ll want a larger refillable bottle to fill up and take back to the room.
Make charging up easy.
There aren’t a ton of outlets in your stateroom. We brought an expandable outlet so we could plug in all of our devices each evening.
Make sure your phone doesn’t die.
So you can charge your device when you’re out and about during the day. You may not have much need for it for your usual activities since you may not have as much access to affordable date, but if you’re taking pics or video of your magical moments, bring along a portable charger. You don’t want to risk it dying or have to waste time hanging out in your room to charge up.
You’ll want some pirate attire.
Because you will want to don it for the pirate night celebrations. We just got matching pirate shirts for the entire family.
Disney Cruise Tips: About Traveling on the Disney Dream
You don’t need a passport for a Bahamian Disney Cruise if you’re an American citizen.
You will need an official copy of your birth certificate as well as a government issued ID for all of the adults in your party. For children, you just need the birth certificate.
Embark as early as possible.
The terminal will be more crowded, but that’s because everyone has the same great idea: board the ship as early as possible to enjoy it as long as you can! Lunch will be offered as soon as you board and you can get that out of the way or you can tour the ship, check out the kids’ areas (they usually have open houses so you can take a tour), or hit the pool for a swim. It’s a great time to beat the lines to the Aquaduck.
Your Key to the World Card is Everything.
It is, in fact, your key to the world! It opens your door, turns on your lights, gives you purchasing power, and allows you to disembark the ship when you get to port.
Pack a day bag for when you board.
Your bags will be delivered to your room after you board but they may not arrive until early evening. You will want to have your swim wear to enjoy the pools and anything you need to dress for dinner just in case your bags don’t arrive in time.
There’s a laundry room on every floor.
The units are pretty small, but they may come in handy. I always wash clothes before we head home from a trip -I hate traveling with a suitcase full of smelly clothing. Pro tip: Bring a baggy of detergent and a few dryer sheets so you don’t have pay for it.
You can BYOB.
And wine. But check the guidelines because there are limits to what you can bring.
Tipping is encouraged.
It is included in your stateroom fee when you book, but tipping above that is customary and appreciated by the staff that serves you throughout your vacation.
Don’t miss luggage pickup.
The night before you dock back at Port Canaveral, you will be asked to tag your bags with colored tags and park them outside of your door by 10pm to be transported to the dock when you arrive. Don’t miss this deadline. If you’re not needing to catch an early flight or in a hurry to get off of the ship, allowing the staff to carry your bags so you just have to collect them when you get off the ship will save you a lot of hassle and cumbersome maneuvering.
Disembarking starts pretty early in the morning.
The time you disembark is related to your dining time -those in main seating will be scheduled to eat breakfast and disembark before those in the later seating time. Of course breakfast is optional and you can skip it if you want to sleep in a bit. Regardless, the boat is cleared pretty early in the morning (I believe we were collecting our luggage by 9am).
Disney Cruise Tips: Your Stateroom on the Disney Dream
They have cabins for families of five.
Very cool for those families with three kids! These rooms have a queen sized bed as well as bunk beds that pull down and a separate twin pull down bed. Each evening, the person who cares for your room will come in and set it all up for you. Then, in the morning, when they come into clean, they will put it all away so you have space to move around and comfortable or sit and watch TV if you like.
But, you might want to splurge and get two rooms if you can.
We made it work, but the one bathroom issue was rough. It took forever for everyone to get ready each morning and I used the public restroom on more than one occasion when I went back to find ours occupied.
Think about getting a room with a verandah.
It’s a great place to hang out and catch the sunset in the evenings. We also enjoyed watching the boat dock and enter and exit the ports. Note: If you aren’t feeling awesome, don’t spend a ton of time out here!
The lights work with your Key to the World Card.
Slide it into the slot to light up the place and be sure to take it with you when you leave.
The rooms aren’t super room. Don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable, but it helps free up moving around space if you unpack and then store your luggage under your bed.
Your stateroom door is magnetic.
Which means you can decorate it with cool stuff pretty easily. I’ve seen some pretty creative Disney cruise ship door decorations.
And the fish shaped hook outside of your door is basically your mailbox.
They are often referred to as fish extenders and often used as a place to leave gift exchange items. These gift exchanges are set up externally from your cruise and you can learn more about them here: Disney Cruise Fish Extenders.
Your housekeeping staff won’t change.
The person who comes in each evening to prepare your room and each morning to tidy it will be the same for the duration of the cruise.
Disney Cruise Tips: Dining on Disney Dream
There will be a dining rotation.
That means you will get to dine in each of the three main restaurants on board during your 3 night cruise.
You don’t schedule your dining time, Disney does.
They will ask your preference and then you will be assigned main seating (5:45pm) or second seating (8:00pm).
You’re expected to eat at your scheduled time.
Evening dining service happens on a split schedule to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the themed restaurants without waiting or feeling rushed.
But, if you miss it you won’t starve.
You can order room service, grab food on the pool deck, and they may even be able to fit you in anyway. Just go to the dinning room and ask them if they have space. If you missed, there is a chance someone in the other time is missing too and they may be able to seat you. You might have to wait though.
Your wait staff won’t change.
They will be the same for each meal and they follow you from restaurant to restaurant. We got to know our dinner servers very well and we had a good time with them.
You eat with the same people each night.
Just like your wait staff, your table mates will be the same for the duration of your cruise –make nice with them and your meals will be way more enjoyable!
Cabanas, the casual dining buffet on board, isn’t open all the time.
There are set hours for when the large, buffet style dining room is open. Always for breakfast and usually for lunch, but not always for dinner. Our favorite time to visit was after the big, night time deck party –we ate all of the desserts that night!
The good thing though is room service is included.
If you miss a meal or get the munchies after dining service is complete for the day, pick up the phone and order in.
There are other places on board to grab a bite.
You’ll find Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s Grill, and Fillmore’s Favorites, quick service eateries on deck 11 so you can order up a burger and fries or a pizza to enjoy poolside. My kids loved ordering plates of French fries to munch on when they took breaks from swimming.
And The Dream is the only ship in the fleet that has Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats.
But, it’s not included in your all-inclusive price so be prepared to pay because you’re gonna want to.
You can eat all of the soft-serve you want for free.
There is a machine on the deck near the pool to keep you filled with ice cream goodness and there are even machines on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. My middle son made it his mission to eat as many of these as possible. I believe his final count was 11 during our 3-day cruise!
Hand hygiene is super important.
It helps control the spread of illness onboard. You will be handed a hand sanitizing wipe before you enter every eating facility.
Disney Cruise Tips: About Entertainment on the Disney Dream
The shows are so worth seeing.
They are like Broadway level shows. Well produced, with amazingly talented casts. We loved every single one we saw.
And Beauty and the Beast is now playing.
The set is amazing and so were the actors. I loved this show so much I think I teared up at the end!
You can have a date night on board without the kids.
Book a reservation for one of the adult only restaurants on board and then check the kids into one of the kids’ clubs for the evening. They can dine there with their friends and you and your partner can have a nice, quiet meal together. Plus there are several bars and nightclubs to visit that are adult only as well. So, after dinner, go out for a drink, enjoy some live music, and do some dancing if you like. Believe me when I say your kids will probably not even notice you’re gone!
A Disney Cruise is the only way to see fireworks at sea.
You will get to enjoy them during the super fun “Pirates IN the Caribbean” party.
Disney Cruise Tips: About the Kids’ Clubs on the Disney Dreams
There are 5 separate kids clubs onboard the Disney Dream.
Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab for kids 3-12, Edge for tweens, Vibe for Teens, and the “It’s a Small World” nursery for children under age 3.
All of the kid clubs are included in your cruise fair except the nursery.
The nursery room requires reservations and is charged at an hourly rate.
The Millennium Falcon is on board too!
It’s located inside of the Oceaneer Kids’ Club and it is a seriously cool area to hang out in.
There are organized activities in each of the clubs.
You can check the daily schedule to see what your kids will be up to.
If you want to avoid a fee, be sure you turn in your kids’ bands.
Before (or shortly after) you board the ship, your child will receive a wrist band that needs to be worn for the duration of the trip if they intend to visit the kid centers on board. These bands need to be returned the evening before you debark, otherwise you will be charged a $12 fee. Unfortunately, we learned this one the hard way!
Disney Cruise Tips: About Castaway Cay
You’re probably pronouncing Castaway Cay wrong.
Cay is pronounced like the word key.
There are tons of activities on Castaway Cay to enjoy.
Go snorkeling, rent bikes and tour the island, relax on the beach, ride the ocean slides, shoot hoops, get a massage, explore, swim with stingrays, or even run a 5k. If you want a more organized adventure, you can purchase a port adventure from Disney while you’re ashore.
You can enjoy the island with or without your kids.
There are family beaches, but there is also an adult only beach and a teen beach. Our oldest son decided to sign up for the Wild Side adventure with his friends in the teen club so we didn’t see him on the island at all. He disembarked with the teen group, spent the day snorkeling, biking, and riding a speed boat, and then went back to the ship with the group when they were done. We didn’t seem him again until dinner time!
They give you bug repelling lotion when you arrive.
USE IT! This is a tropical island and the bugs can get pretty annoying and bitey out there.
Have more questions about Disney cruising? Ready our first timers booking post: 20 Things We Learned on Our First Disney Cruise