After already selecting a ship, the best date and itinerary for your dream vacation, after travel arrangements, hotels and airfare settled into place, after port adventures, spa appointments and adult exclusive dining already filled you itinerary what next?
A friends of mine recently spent a bit of time picking my brain on pirate night and port adventures and eventually reached a point where she asked me, “What would you want to know if it were your first cruise?” I pulled up short.
What would I want to know?
Where would I start?
What do I wish I knew before my first cruise?
I love lists, so…
1.) What do I wear?
|Ball gowns and tiaras?
Formal, Semi-Formal, Cruise Casual, Optional Dress Up, or Pirate appear as the evening attire on the front corner of your Personal Navigator each day. Although Disney lists limits on dress (no swimwear in the dining rooms, etc.) here on their website, what exactly do people “normally” wear?
I’ve got you covered in my blog: Disney Cruise Line 101 ~ What Not To Wear.
No matter what end of the closet you pack, I recommend at least one of the outfits features elastic. If you are prone to overeating, these may come in handy after several days of buffets and room service.
2.) Booking Port Arrival Times.
When you do your online check-in (which is available after you’ve paid in full, but before you cruise) you can select a Port Arrival Time. This will be the time you are able to enter the port, hand over luggage to a porter, head through security and begin check-in. It is NOT a boarding time. Boarding often begins up to an hour after the first port arrival time.
Everything Port Arrival Time helps with the nitty gritty.
3.) Dine in Style
Make sure to reserve any adult only reservations in advance of your cruise.
They hold some of the tables back until the cruise. You can make reservations in person on embarkation afternoon (check your Navigator for place and times).
4.) Travel Agents
If you have a Disney Authorized TA who is knowledgeable about DCL, they can help you manage reservations, look out for promotions and give you the inside scoop. Some from larger agencies offer gift baskets or (sometimes sizeable) onboard credits as a perk of booking with them. The TA retains control of the reservation until after it paid in full and reservations go through them, rather than Disney. Regardless of whether you book through an agency or Disney directly, you will receive the same rate on your cruise.
I’ve done both and both work great!
5.) Bathtubs and Split Baths
Almost all of the DCL staterooms feature a bathtub, except for some of the handicap accessible rooms. Despite being on the short side for an adult, these are not large enough for me to take a bath with the exception of the Jacuzzi tub in the Royal suites.
Some staterooms on the Dream and Fantasy have round bathtubs and not the standard squared off tubs. Conveniently, most of the staterooms feature the restroom in a separate “split bath” so soaking does not interrupt another person preparing for the day.
6.) Mini-fridges, Soda Fountains and Beverage Policies.
Each stateroom features either a cooling box or a minifridge for you to keep cold things cold. The pool deck features a complimentary drink station (sodas, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and water). Sodas are included at meals as well. Disney offers several packages onboard and allows a very lenient carry on alcohol policy. A few things to keep in mind, the drinking age is 21, no coolers and drinks must be carried in your carry on not in checked bags.
7.) Day Bag Do’s and Don’ts
The bag you carry with you when you walk through the terminal and throughout the afternoon, your day bag, must fit through a standard airport security style scanner. (The largest recommended dimensions are 22 inches wide, 14 inches high and 9 inches deep.)
What else goes in your day bag?
Passports or other allowed proof of citizenship, travel documents, completed and signed cruise documents, medication, valuables (jewelry, cash, purse) and anything you would like to have in your first afternoon on board. Ideas include swimwear and sunscreen, cameras, chargers, phones, anything your kids can’t cruise without (favorite snack or their stuffed bear they can’t sleep without, for example), necessary toiletries (contact lens solution), makeup or anything else you don’t want tossed around.
|Day bag and my mouseketeers!|
In practice my day bag (for a family of four) contains a large Ziploc bag containing our cruise documents and passports, medication, makeup, pin trading lanyards, Kylee’s doll, some granola bars, the kids’ travel journals and some pens and crayons (the last three for the kids in case boarding is delayed). This is one backpack for the four of us. Keep in mind you will be toting it with you until your room is available around 1:30 or so.
As far as don’ts, there is an extensive list on the website. Some of the more innocuous items that should stay at home include balloons, irons, tape, over the door shoe holders, food that is open or homemade, Christmas lights and portable fans. If in doubt, check with Disney.
8.) Bandwidth, Reception and Free Wi-Fi
There is internet available online, but it costs a bit (currently $0.25/MB, discounted packages available) and is considerably slower than land based connections. The best internet reception onboard is generally in the internet cafés or on the uppermost decks. If you want to take advantage of free wi-fi in ports either look for Starbucks or ask a crew member before going ashore, many of them are familiar with places to find free wi-fi.
9.) One on One Time
We catch opportunities for family time at meals and shows and really enjoy one on one time with the kids.
|Predawn one on one shuffleboard!|
So after Kylee, Ben and I go to animation class without Chris, Ben, Chris and I play shuffleboard or shoot hoops.
10.) You Can Enjoy an Awesome First Cruise on What’s Included (How to Not Spend More Than Your Cruise Once You Board.)
While your cruise includes almost all food, entertainment, snacks, ice cream, room service and activities, you’ll need to budget for a couple of things. Shore excursions (Disney calls these Port Adventures), spa services, salon services, internet and phone, video arcades, photo packages, alcoholic beverages, packaged candy or soda cans from room service, non-alcoholic specialty drinks, specialty coffee drinks from the café and any drink you get from a waiter around the pool is not included. Souvenirs aren’t either.
|Mickey Ears not included.|
Full disclosure, on our first cruise our end of cruise bill cost approximately the same amount we paid for cruise fare. In fairness, we got an awesome deal on the cruise fare and enjoyed cabana massages on Castaway Cay and adult dining. The Cove Café barista knew our names and our regular drinks. Worth every penny.
Still feeling a bit adrift?
Here are 10 MORE Things To Know Before Your First Cruise.