My girls were invited to a “Dancin’ at Sea” program, so we’re getting ready to embark on our first cruise outside of Disney Cruise Line. Feeling like a rookie all over again got me thinking; A Disney Cruise is an experience like no other. Though “veteran” cruisers may feel they know what to expect on a Disney Cruise from their prior experiences, there are some key differences when sailing with Disney Cruise Line. Check out these Disney cruise tips to find out how to prepare specifically for your Disney sailing.
How will I know what to expect on my first Disney Cruise?
If you’ve previously sailed on another line, you may be thinking your Disney Cruise will be more of the same – just with Mickey and friends joining you. If you were to make this assumption and embark on your journey, I assure you you’d still have a great time. A little extra planning can go a long way though, when it comes to special offerings on Disney Cruise ships.
Do Your Research
There are plenty of articles right here on the Delightful Life about Disney Cruises; there are far more in my head (or in my drafts folder), so the section will continue to grow. I’ll also link below to a couple I’ve written elsewhere. That said, we all know the internet is far more vast than just my little corner. Here are some trusted sites you can use to get your questions answered about Disney Cruises specifically.
- Traveling Mom: Disney Cruise Tips, Tricks, and Insights section
- DISboards.com Disney Cruise Line Forum
- The Disney Cruise Line Blog
- Follow Disney Cruise Line’s Twitter and Instagram accounts for inspiration
- … and of course the official Disney Cruise Line website
Connect with Other Cruisers
I don’t know if this is a “normal” thing in the cruise industry, but one of the things that helps us get ready for our upcoming Disney Cruises is connecting with others that will be on the same sailing.
The aforementioned DISboards forum has threads for each sailing, but sometimes a single thread can be harder to follow.
In recent years, Facebook groups have become a super easy way to connect with other cruisers, get questions answered, plan optional meet-ups, etc. Simply enter your ship name and sailing date into the Facebook search bar (plus the kind of itinerary, if you know it off-hand – though it shouldn’t be necessary in your search). You should find a group that has been created for your particular sailing; there isn’t a formal process for this in place, but I’ve literally never found a sailing that didn’t have a facebook group formed well in advance!
Pack Disney Gear, Costumes, etc
Even just a Disney-themed shirt or outfit will make your cruise photos – and perhaps even interactions with crew members and Disney characters – extra special. You may want to take it a step further though, and pack Pirate attire for Pirate Night, Star Wars or Marvel gear if your sailing has special “Marvel Day at Sea” or “Star Wars Day at Sea” offerings, or costumes for the kids.
Check out this article for some more things that you may want to pack that are unique to Disney Cruise Line sailings. Fair warning though – it’s a bit overwhelming if you’re getting close to your sailing. Make sure you don’t miss the end of the article where I say, for the umpteenth time, that DCL will make sure you have a great sailing even without a single one of these things!
Participate in a “Fish Extender” Exchange
Once upon a time in an online Disney forum, a tradition started. Named for pockets or bags hanging from the fish-shaped door marker outside each state room, Fish Extender groups are groups of cruisers that exchange gifts with one another through the cruise. Think sort of “secret santa” exchange; some groups will keep gift givers a secret, others will reveal. In our experience, there are usually 6-12 staterooms per group, but it definitely varies.
The tradition began mostly on 7-night sailings on the Disney Magic, more than a decade ago. It caught so much steam though, that you’ll see Fish Extenders on every Disney Cruise. Passengers independently organize the gift exchange (usually through Facebook Groups, as mentioned above). Gifts can be purchased or homemade. Some groups will set a spending limit, some will not.
I probably need to write a full article on Fish Extenders, but to get you started just search for “fish extender gifts” on Etsy. Between those results and great finds you can score at the Dollar Store or in the Target Dollar Spot, that should give you an idea of what to expect.
Bring in the Professionals – for your first Disney Cruise or your fiftieth!
If this is overwhelming to you – or you just want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, learning all the secrets you absolutely need to know without putting in much effort on your part, etc – why not just leave it to the pros?
Travel specialists/travel agents like my friends at EZ Dis by Instant Impressions can really help make sure you’re getting the best deals. If you’re a veteran cruiser, you may already be aware that the best time to book a sailing is the moment the dates open up; the prices tend to only rise from there. These are the first kinds of things a travel agent can help with.
The agents at EZ Dis have tons of experience with Disney Cruise Line, and can help guide you to the right ship or itinerary and do whatever they can to help make sure you’re ready to have the best cruise experience possible. They’ll also throw in stateroom credits – which is basically free money to spend onboard or on Disney excursions!