Tips for an Optimal Disney Cruise

This is a follow up post to last week’s article about our fantastic experience on the Disney Cruise Line.

Welcome aboard with Minnie. Photo Source Kristi Marcelle

A cruise, like any other vacation, is a different experience for each family. For some it’s all about the service and the food while for others it’s about exploring new destinations and unplugging from the daily grind. No matter what the reason is for your trip, the convenience of having someone else plan it all for you helps to create a stress-free experience.

There are a few tips to make your cruise planning and experience more enjoyable for all.

Tips for Taking a Disney Cruise with Kids


On-line Forms and Reservations

Once you have reserved your cruise, you can complete pre-departure forms and make reservations for the adult dining (I highly recommend it), the spa and book port excursions on-line at the Disney Cruise Line website. This expedites check-in and also allows you to get your child’s kids’ club wristband before your board the ship.

If you are thinking about reserving a stateroom with a verandah be aware that while rooms are non-smoking, passengers are allowed to smoke on the verandahs. About half of the time we used ours, there was second-hand smoke coming in from next door. If I could change one thing about our cruise it would be to have a non-smoking verandah.

Research and Planning

I found the Walt Disney World Moms Panel after the fact, but this is a great resource for up-to-date information on all things Disney, including cruises — and it is all written from a parent’s perspective.

If you are not booking shore excursions through Disney, research your port destinations before you leave. Internet is slow and expensive on the ship. Disney promotes its own shore excursions and besides retail shopping information, there are no maps or other information available to passengers. Wandering around a city that you do not know well can be fun or extremely frustrating (in 90-degree weather with high humidity and kids-in-tow I do not recommend it).

If you want to go to Walt Disney World think about going before the cruise. Our family went afterwards and while we enjoyed our visit, the kids were just too tired from all of the activities on the cruise to do as much as we had wanted. Fortunately we were staying at a very kid-friendly hotel, The Beach Club Resort, which has a lazy river, waterslide and sand beach – perfect for the relax-time that we needed.

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During the Cruise

Activities and Breaks

Each night you receive the next day’s schedule in your stateroom – you cannot get the schedule beforehand. While there are activities throughout the day, there is a concentration of entertainment at night. Taking an afternoon break so kids are fresh for dinner and evening festivities can go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable. It’s not possible to do everything and a rested child (and parent) makes the ones you do choose more fun. We chose to skip Toy Story 3 in the big theater one night and watch it the next afternoon in the smaller venue to give the kids a break to roam around the ship and have an earlier bedtime.


Snacks, desserts and soda are readily available on the ship and can create a distraction that quickly turns into pleading and whining. Save yourself the headache and set expectations with your kids (and your dining room server) so they know when they can indulge.

Port Activities and Weather

Consider the weather when visiting and booking activities at port destinations. Summer weather in Florida and the Bahamas frequently means overcast skies and rain showers in the afternoon. We experienced this in Nassau and Castaway Cay. Our Stingray Adventure was scheduled at 1:00 pm and by then the skies had darkened and the water was rougher which made feeding the stingrays on the floating platform more challenging.

The Disney Wonder moves to the West Coast in 2011 to begin Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles and Summer Alaskan cruises from Vancouver. Enter the Disney Gamer Getaway Sweepstakes for your chance to win a free Disney Mexican Riviera Cruise.

Need help planning a trip to Caribbean or any other top family travel destination? Our Family Vacation Planning Team can help! Request assistance on My Trip Planner. 

Relevant Links:

Disney Cruise Line vacation review

Cruises for kids, the Bahamas with Disney Cruise Line

Walt Disney World vacation tips, enjoying the park without rides

Walk Disney World tips for all ages

Choosing between Disneyland hotels

Editor’s Note: Disney Cruise Line provided Ciao Bambino with free airfare and cruise accommodations. They did not ask us to express any particular point of view.

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