Disney Cruise Basics: What to Expect on a Disney Cruise

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Lines is an amazing way to vacation for both families and adults. I am someone who has done several cruise vacations, and I can safely say that my Disney Cruise Line experience was my favorite cruise experience.

If you are looking to plan a Disney Cruise here is everything you'll need to know about your Disney Cruise, including my own experiences.

Booking a Disney Cruise

If you thinking booking a trip to Disney World is a massive undertaking, the Disney Cruise experience will be just as (and sometimes maybe even more) so.

highly recommend you use a travel agent to help you book your cruise. It costs nothing, and they can search for deals, help you pick the absolute best stateroom, and grab some of the hard to get experiences on the ship.

My partner Siera takes Disney cruises every year, and knows more about them than any person I know, so if you are looking for a quote and help planning you can get a quote from her here.

Cruise itineraries are typically released 3 times per year, and when they are released the cruises will be for more than a year out.

For example, itineraries released in October 2021 will have sailings for January-May 2023.

Prices on Disney Cruises typically only go up. So if you want the very best price, your best bet is to book the day cruises are released. This will give you the best price and first dibs on staterooms. Disney's website and phone lines are often tied up when booking windows open, which is again why I suggest having an agent help you out.

Disney Cruise Pricing

All cruise prices can be found on the Disney Cruise Line website or with your travel agent.

Prices are based on 2 adults per stateroom (adults are considered 13 and older). So if you are traveling alone, the rate will NOT go down for a single occupancy in a stateroom.

Disney Dream Donald Duck statue

Children 12 and under will pay a slightly lower rate, and children 0-2 will pay about 50% less.

Typically you'll be required to pay 20% of your cruise fare in order to reserve your trip.

Final payment is typically due 90 days before sailing for concierge rooms and 75 days before sailing for all other rooms. But please confirm your final payment date with your travel agent or your Disney Cruise Line account. If you miss final payment your reservation will be automatically cancelled.

What is Included in a Disney Cruise?

When you are on a Disney Cruise almost all of your basics will be included with the price of your sailing. Included is:

  • Food from the buffet, walk up windows, assigned restaurants
  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Soda (from the self serve machines and at restaurants. Soda from the bars will cost extra. So avoid ordering soda here)
  • Room service (excluding specialty drinks and tips)
  • Most recreation (All pools, water slides, mini golf and sports, movie theaters, shows, etc)

What Costs Extra on a Disney Cruise?

You can do a ton on a cruise without spending anything extra. But, there are definitely some fun extras that will cost you more:

  • Alcohol and specialty drinks
  • Port excursions
  • Adult only dining
  • Spa services
  • Specialty food items
  • Tips
  • Shopping

After You've Booked Your Cruise

There are several things you'll need to figure out once you have your cruise dates locked in.

First, you'll want to decide on transportation to and from the port.

always recommend arriving the day before your cruise if you are flying in. The ships typically start boarding in the morning, and any flight delay could mean missing boarding. The ship wont wait for you if your flight is cancelled, so it's always best to arrive the day before and stay overnight near the port if possible.

If you are taking a cruise out of Port Canaveral you can set up a cruise transfer with Disney, and even get a discounted rate at the Hyatt located in Orlando International Airport.

But no matter which port you are sailing from, you will want to look at hotel, shuttle, and/or parking options.

The next thing you will want to do is find your cruise's Facebook group!

This can be a fun way to chat with people who are going to be sailing with you. This is where you can plan gift exchanges on the ship (known as Fish Extender), plan meet ups, ask questions to Disney Cruise experts, and more.

Typically these groups are set up by experienced cruisers, and they can be fun for experts and first timers.

Next, you'll want to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App. On the app you'll have a fun countdown to sail, your stateroom information, and dietary and room preferences.

This is also where you can book any extras and excursions for your trip.

This app will also be what you use once you're onboard, so you'll want to make sure you have it on your phone before you board.

Finally, you'll want to have an idea of the activities and excursions that you might want to book. In true Disney fashion, some of the extras onboard cost extra and book up FAST.

If you want to book any of the following, you'll want to be ready to grab them as soon as your booking window opens:

  • Palo (adult only dining)
  • Remy (adult only dining)
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
  • Castaway Cabanas
  • Beer and Champagne Tasting Seminars

So this leads to the next big question....

When Can I Book Disney Cruise Extras?

Extras like excursions, adult only dining, spa treatments and more can be booked in advance. But, there is a hierarchy in this booking process. And if you are brand new to Disney Cruising, you'll be bottom of the barrel.

Here is when booking windows open:

  • First Time Cruisers - 75 days before sailing
  • Castaway Club Silver Members (1-4 previous sailings) - 90 days before sailing
  • Castaway Club Gold Members (5-9 previous sailings) - 105 days before sailing
  • Castaway Club Platinum Members (10+ previous sailings) - 120 days before sailing

All hope is not lost if you are a first time cruiser. Most experiences do not sell out immediately. The only truly difficult thing for anyone below Platinum to book would be a Cabana at Castaway Cay. Almost all other experiences will have limited availability that is held until guests board the ship. So if you were hoping to grab something that shows unavailable, head to Guest Services once you board. Chances are you'll be able to add most experiences once you are on the ship.

It's also important to note that the booking window closes out 3 days before sailing. So if you have your heart set on a cabana, you'll want to check continuously about a week before your sail date up to 3 days before.

On my very first Disney Cruise I was able to grab a cabana 3 days before our sail date by refreshing constantly, and hoping someone would cancel a cabana last minute. It's not a guaranteed method, but it can work!

Online Check In

Before you set sail you will want to check in online. While this step isn't required, it will make the boarding process incredibly fast. You will want to do online check in.

The online check in process includes uploading your required documentation (like passports or proof of citizenship). This is where you can add payment information for any onboard activities. So you'll add your credit card at this time, and once on the ship all charges will automatically be charged to that card.

You'll also be able to sign any children up for kids club at this time. This involves registration paperwork, information about your child and their needs, and security questions to make sure that only people you select can take your child in and out of the kids club.

Lastly, you'll be able to secure your boarding window. If you are taking Disney transportation this step wont be necessary, but if you are planning on driving or taking any third party shuttle transportation you will need to secure your boarding window.

Embarkation Day

On your departure day you'll arrive to the port at your designated time (either the time you selected when you checked in online or at the time your Disney transportation provided you).

Assuming all of your online check in documentation was pre-approved you'll only need to show your passport (or required documentation). Each member of your party will be given a Key to the World card. This card will serve as your room key, credit card on the ship, and your pass to get on and off the ship at port.

Once on the ship you'll be announced by Cast Members (get your phone out for this one! It's a lot of fun).

You'll then be able to connect to the ships wifi. The Disney Cruise Line app will change to the onboard app once you are connected to the ships wifi. With the new app you'll now be able to see daily onboard activities, chat with Guest Services, book activities, and chat with other people onboard.

While I found the app to be incredibly helpful and useful, it's also important to note that it can be buggy. We've found that people in our group who had iphones had no issues connecting to wifi and using the app, but android users had to restart their phones several times just to connect.

Should you have any issues with the app grab a Cast Member or walk over to Guest Services to get help.

If you have ever cruised before you might remember doing a muster drill on the first day of sailing. This is the safety drill that all guests are required to take part in. Disney does it a bit differently. Once you are onboard and connected to the wifi you must find your emergency meeting location, and scan the location placard in the app. If this sounds confusing, don't worry. There are Cast Members everywhere to help you find where you need to be. You wont be required to put on a life jacket or meet at your emergency life boat location, but there will be safety announcements and videos on day one going over all of this information.

Cruise Dining

Disney Cruises have rotational dining on their ships. Depending on which ship you are sailing, you'll have at least 3 sit down restaurant locations that you will rotate through nightly. Your servers will be with you each night on the cruise, but the location of your dinner will change. You can find your daily restaurant and dining time in the app.

Disney Cruise dining

If you don't want to sit down for dinner you can also hit the buffet for dinner. Or you can make a reservation for adults only dining at the restaurants Palo or Remy (this will be an additional cost).

Disney Cruise Characters

When you are on a Disney Cruise ship you'll find non stop character meets. Most can be found in your Disney Cruise line app.

Our experience was that a meet would be listed, but not the specific characters. So you never knew who you might find.

Characters changed out frequently, so there were always new characters to meet and take photos with. They also have fun costumes that you wont find in the parks. So you might see Mickey and Minnie in their captain uniforms one day. And the next you'll see them dressed as pirates.

Jack Sparrow character meet

Most of the character meets that we ran in to required guests to take their own photos with their phones or camera. Some had Disney photographers available to capture photos.

Photos taken with Disney photographers can be purchased at kiosks on the ship. Or you can pre-purchase various photo packages before you set sail. Either way, there are non stop photo opportunities. Both with characters and with backdrops or props. Photographers will also take photos of your group each evening at dinner.

Disney cruise dinner photos

    Disney Cruise Shows and Entertainment

    All cruise ships offer entertainment to passengers. The thing I enjoyed about Disney cruise was the variety of entertainment available for everyone.

    While entertainment will vary based on your ship and sail dates, there are some things you can count on for most Disney Cruises.

    Disney on Broadway Style Live Shows

    Shows like Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, and Aladdin are all examples of the Broadway level shows you'll find onboard your ship.

    Fireworks at Sea

    While the fireworks show is short in length, I found myself amazed at the fireworks at sea. I have never felt so close to fireworks in my life. And seeing the bright show against the black sky and ocean was amazing and a must see on your cruise!

    Pirate Night

    Pirate night disney cruise

    A Disney Cruise classic! Pirate night invites guests to dress up like a pirate. You'll hear Pirate music throughout the day on the ship, find characters dressed up like pirates for meet and greets, watch pirate shows, and even have a pirate themed evening at dinner. It is one of the most fun nights I have ever had at sea!

    First Run Movies

    Disney Cruise ships all have 2 theaters, and a screen out on the pool deck. You'll find show times in your itinerary on the app, but expect to find both Disney classics AND first run Disney movies that are still in theaters.

    Obviously this list is just an idea of what you can find on the ship. You'll also find live music, trivia, games, and more each day. Just check your cruise app when you board. There is no way you could possibly do it all, but it might be fun to try.

    Kids Clubs

    Spending time with the kids on vacation is amazing.

    But so is having a little adult only time.

    And if my kids could have it their way, they would spend the entire cruise at the kids club.

    Disney offers a few options for kids who want a little time away from Mom and Dad.

    Oceaneer Kids Club

    This area is for kids age 3-12. Although I will say personally my kids at age 10 and 12 felt they were too old for this particular area. But that will obviously vary from child to child. That said, my 4 year old never wanted to leave!

    The Oceaneer kids club (and lab) will be themed with Marvel, Star Wars, Toy Story, Tinker Bell or Disney Junior depending on your ship. Your child will be able to play games, do crafts and art projects, meet characters, and more.

    Some of the experiences my daughter had was learning how to draw Mickey Mouse, making slime, meeting Jessie from Toy Story, and learning a new dance on a light up floor. She loved her time at the kids club, and probably would have spent the entire cruise in there if we had let her.

    You must register your child ahead of time, and Disney takes this very seriously. You'll authorize yourself and anyone in your party who is allowed to drop off and pick up your child. You will create a secret word that you must provide to pick up. Your child will be given a magic band to check in and check out. Safety is a priority here.

    Edge

    Edge is a place specifically for Tweens. Kids age 11-14 can hang out here and play games and be led through fun activities with counselors.

    This one is popular because much of the focus is screens and technology. So depending on your kid, that might be what sells them on this kids club area.

    Vibe

    Vibe is a club for teenagers 14-17 years old. This area is more a place to hang out. There are counselors on hand to lead activities, and this area also offers coffee, food, and non alcoholic drinks.

    Adults Only

    Another thing that I found really set the Disney Cruise apart from others was all of the adults only options.

    While people think of Disney Cruise as a more kid or family option for cruising, there were enough areas and activities that were 18 and older that I truly felt I could have done this cruise without bringing my children (and honestly I might do just that next time).

    Each ship has a large portion of the pool deck closed to guests under the age of 18. In these sections you'll find pools, lounge chairs, hot tubs, bars, coffee bars, and more. 

    This area is large and a nice quiet getaway if you are traveling without kids, or if you want to send your kids to the Oceaneers Kids Club.

    The district

    In addition to the pool deck area, you'll also find a section of the ship called the District. This area has a group of bars that include a sports bar, a champagne bar, a bar with live music and karaoke and more.

    Lastly, Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, also offers an adults only section. If you are looking for a quieter area of the beach without kids, you'll want to head here.

    Castaway Club

    After your first sailing you are automatically enrolled in Castaway Club. This gives you some benefits for your next cruise.

    Obviously the best benefits are reserved for Platinum members, but having access to early booking is definitely a nice perk.

    Here are the current benefits for Castaway Club Members according to the DCL website.

    Castaway Club Benefits

    Disney Cruise Ships

    Disney has 4 ships, with a 5th coming June 2022.

    Disney Magic

    Disney Magic

    This was the very first Disney Cruise Line ship, and set sail in 1998. This ship has a capacity of 2713 passengers (not including crew members) and has 11 decks.

    There are several stateroom options available on this ship:

    • Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah (Category 1A)

    • 1,029 square ft
    • Sleeps 7
    • 2.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
    • 2 separate bedrooms with 6 beds in total
    • Walk in closet

     Concierge Two-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 1B) 

    • 945 square ft
    • Sleeps 7
    • 2.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
    • 2 separate bedrooms with 5 beds in total
    • 2 walk in closets

    Concierge One-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 2A and 2B) 

    • 614 square ft
    • Sleeps 5
    • 1.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
    • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
    • Walk in closet

    Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 3A)

    • 304 square ft
    • Sleeps 5
    • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
    • 4 beds in total

    Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 4A, 4B, 4E) 

    • 304 square ft
    • Sleeps 5
    • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
    • 4 beds in total

    Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Categories 5A, 5B, 5C, 6A, 7A)

    • 268 square ft
    • Sleeps 3-4
    • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
    • 3 beds in total

      Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom (Category 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D)

      • 214 square ft
      • Sleeps 3-4
      • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
      • 3 beds in total

      Deluxe Inside Stateroom (Category 10A, 10B, 10C) 

      • 214 square ft
      • Sleeps 3-4
      • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
      • 3 beds in total

      Standard Inside Stateroom (Category 11A, 11B, 11C) 

      • 184 square ft
      • Sleeps 3-4
      • 1 full bath
      • 3 beds in total

      Disney Wonder

      Disney Wonder

      The second ship in the Disney Cruise Line is the Wonder. This ship set sail in 1999. This ship has a capacity of 2713 passengers (not including crew members) and has 11 decks.

      There are several stateroom options available on this ship:

      • Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah (Category 1A)

      • 1,029 square ft
      • Sleeps 7
      • 2.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
      • 2 separate bedrooms with 6 beds in total
      • Walk in closet

       Concierge Two-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 1B) 

      • 945 square ft
      • Sleeps 7
      • 2.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
      • 2 separate bedrooms with 5 beds in total
      • 2 walk in closets

       Concierge One-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 2A and 2B) 

      • 614 square ft
      • Sleeps 5
      • 1.5 bath (with whirlpool tub)
      • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
      • Walk in closet

       Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 3A)

      • 304 square ft
      • Sleeps 5
      • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
      • 4 beds in total

       Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 4A, 4B, 4E) 

      • 304 square ft
      • Sleeps 5
      • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
      • 4 beds in total

       Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Categories 5A, 5B, 5C, 6A, 7A)

      • 268 square ft
      • Sleeps 3-4
      • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
      • 3 beds in total

         Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom (Category 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D)

        • 214 square ft
        • Sleeps 3-4
        • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
        • 3 beds in total

         Deluxe Inside Stateroom (Category 10A, 10B, 10C) 

        • 214 square ft
        • Sleeps 3-4
        • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
        • 3 beds in total

         Standard Inside Stateroom (Category 11A, 11B, 11C) 

        • 184 square ft
        • Sleeps 3-4
        • 1 full bath
        • 3 beds in total

        Disney Dream

        Disney Dream

        Disney's third ship was the Dream, and it set sail in 2011. This ship has a capacity of 4000 passengers (not including crew members) and has 13 decks.

        There are several stateroom options available on this ship:

        • Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah (Category 1A)

        • 1,781 square ft
        • Sleeps 5
        • 2 bath (with whirlpool tub)
        • Verandah with whirlpool tub
        • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
        • Walk in closet

           Concierge One-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 2A and 2B) 

          • 622 square ft
          • Sleeps 5
          • 2 bath (with whirlpool tub)
          • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
          • Walk in closet

           Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 3A)

          • 306 square ft
          • Sleeps 5
          • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
          • 3 beds in total

           Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E) 

          • 299 square ft
          • Sleeps 4-5 (Category 4E sleeps 3-4)
          • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
          • 3 or 4 beds in total

           Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Categories 5A, 5B, 5C,5D, 5E, 6A, 6B, 7A)

          • 246 square ft
          • Sleeps 3-4
          • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
          • 3 beds in total

           Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom (Category 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D)

          • 241 square ft
          • Sleeps 3-5
          • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
          • 3 or 4 beds in total

             Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom (Category 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D)

            • 204 square ft
            • Sleeps 3-4
            • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
            • 3 beds in total

             Deluxe Inside Stateroom (Category 10A) 

            • 204 square ft
            • Sleeps 3-4
            • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
            • 3 beds in total
            • "Magic" porthole with realtime views

             Standard Inside Stateroom (Category 11A, 11B, 11C) 

            • 169 square ft
            • Sleeps 3-4
            • 1 full bath
            • 3 beds in total
            • "Magic" porthole with realtime views

            Disney Fantasy

            Disney Fantasy

            The fourth ship added to Disney Cruise Line was the Fantasy, and it set sail in 2012. This ship has a capacity of 4000 passengers (not including crew members) and has 13 decks.

            There are several stateroom options available on this ship:

            • Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah (Category 1A)

            • 1,781 square ft
            • Sleeps 5
            • 2 bath (with whirlpool tub)
            • Verandah with whirlpool tub
            • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
            • Walk in closet

               Concierge One-Bedroom Suite with Verandah (Category 2A and 2B) 

              • 622 square ft
              • Sleeps 5
              • 2 bath (with whirlpool tub)
              • 1 separate bedrooms with 3 beds in total
              • Walk in closet

               Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 3A)

              • 306 square ft
              • Sleeps 5
              • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
              • 3 beds in total

               Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Category 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E) 

              • 299 square ft
              • Sleeps 4-5 (Category 4E sleeps 3-4)
              • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
              • 3 or 4 beds in total

               Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (Categories 5A, 5B, 5C,5D, 5E, 6A, 6B, 7A)

              • 246 square ft
              • Sleeps 3-4
              • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
              • 3 beds in total

               Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom (Category 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D)

              • 241 square ft
              • Sleeps 3-5
              • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
              • 3 or 4 beds in total

                 Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom (Category 9A, 9B, 9C, 9D)

                • 204 square ft
                • Sleeps 3-4
                • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
                • 3 beds in total

                 Deluxe Inside Stateroom (Category 10A) 

                • 204 square ft
                • Sleeps 3-4
                • A “split bath”: a bathroom with a vanity, sink, shower and round tub and a half bathroom with a vanity, sink and toilet
                • 3 beds in total
                • "Magic" porthole with realtime views

                 Standard Inside Stateroom (Category 11A, 11B, 11C) 

                • 169 square ft
                • Sleeps 3-4
                • 1 full bath
                • 3 beds in total
                • "Magic" porthole with realtime views

                Disney Wish

                This new ship will set sail starting June 2022!

                Ready to Book Your Cruise?

                Get a free quote here!

                Still Confused or Need Help?

                I am happy to help! Contact me.

                See you at the parks,
                -Julie

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