Hello everyone, I hope you are having a great day so far! I learned a lot on our first Disney Cruise, so today I thought I would share what I wish I knew before my first Disney Cruise! I did a lot of research before we left so I felt like I knew what to expect, but I still learned a lot! Okay, let’s jump in!
You Don’t Really Need Cash
We are Canadian, so we took out a some of US cash before we left. We were in Walt Disney World for a few days before our cruise, but tried to save our cash for the cruise portion of the trip. Well, we didn’t really need it! Unless you are planning on paying the gratuities for your servers and stateroom host in cash, you won’t need it. On the ship you use your Key to the World card for everything, so unless you’d be using cash for any excursions or while in the ports, it’s not something you need to be worried about! And if you need change to make up the cash for the gratuity envelopes, you can go to Guest Services for that.
Castaway Cay excursions get cancelled
While we were in the line for Guest Services we heard someone behind us mention that they had signed up for the same excursions on Castaway Cay twice (on two different trips), and it was cancelled both times. When we were at Castaway Cay it was very windy, so all excursions were cancelled and the adults only beach Serenity Bay was closed. The only excursion we booked for the cruise was snorkelling in Castaway Cay, and we saw people snorkelling so we don’t believe we could have gotten a refund. We didn’t ask- so I’m not sure.
But if we were to do it over, I would have waited to pay for the rental of snorkel gear until the day of. We ended up not having great weather as I mentioned in my trip recap, so that is definitely a lesson learned!
use the app
If you want to have all different types of cruise information at your fingertips, or be able to communicate with your family members, I would definitely suggest getting the Disney Cruise Line app! I didn’t use it because I really wanted to just turn my phone off and disconnect. We picked up a paper Navigator (schedule) every morning from Guest Services to know what was happening around the ship.
Shopping on Board
I knew that the shops weren’t open all the time while aboard, but I wasn’t sure exactly what the times would be. Basically it’s when you are on open water (or technically on international waters). We were on a 3 night cruise, so this basically meant evenings. If you plan to do some shopping, just make sure to leave some time in the evenings to do so!
be prepared to take the stairs
There are a ton of people and only so many elevators, so we took the stairs almost always. Sometimes it was a lot (like going from deck 5 to deck 11), but our room was on deck 9 which I liked. Just be prepared, and know that it kind of offsets the amount of food you might be eating!
Walk All the way around Cabanas
One thing we didn’t notice until the last morning, was that there were different sections to the Cabanas buffet! It’s not the same thing repeated multiple times. There’s a carving station, and sushi, and even dessert that we didn’t know about right away! So make sure to take a look at the whole section when you are grabbing food.
Firework- yes please! We didn’t know exactly which direction there were going to be launched from, and we ended up having a really good view! If you want to see them from the side they are launching, your should be on the Starboard (right) side of the ship. There were people by the railings that tipped us off, because they must already have known!
On thing that I didn’t really realize until our booking window opened, was that it was the last window. They cater to Castaway Club members (different levels based on how many times you’ve cruised), and depending on your level your window opens 120 days before sailing, but for first timers it’s 75 days. We weren’t looking to book many things, but we were interested in the Palo Brunch. It was completely booked when I logged on the minute the window opened, so I was disappointed. We also tried to book as soon as we boarded, and went on a wait list, but didn’t get to experience it. If it’s your first time, just be prepared that you might not get a spot for everything you wanted when the window opens up.
show doors open 30 minutes prior
One thing we were really excited to see on board were the shows, but we didn’t know that the doors opened 30 minutes early! So we made sure to be there before the doors opened so we could get good seats. It was funny because we sat in the same seats all three nights, and so did the people in the row ahead of us. The theatre wasn’t completely full for the first or last show (Golden Mickey’s or Believe), but it was definitely full for Beauty and the Beast. If the shows are a priority for you, I would definitely recommend getting there before the doors open.
Disney Vacation Club Member Discounts
Just like mentioned above, Castaway Club members get a better discount in the stores than Disney Vacation Club members. If you are a DVC member, you receive a 10% discount for purchases over $50, and make sure to have your membership card with you. I didn’t get the discount twice, once because I didn’t know if you got a discount, and second because it was under $50. I think it’s silly that there’s a minimum purchase for DVC members who have paid thousands of dollars for the membership. But, it’s something I learned and definitely wanted to mention. You can walk between stores, so maybe buy everything at once to get discount.
One thing I saw in my research before hand was about fountain drinks. There are stations for pop and water, tea and coffee, and disposable cups. People recommend you bring your own cup, but we didn’t do that. We noticed while on board that a lot of people had brought their own, and while there are signs asking you not to- I don’t think anyone actually monitors it. I would recommend bringing one just at least for water- because I wished I had some in our room during the night. Your mileage may vary on this, but this is just my experience!
Popcorn on board is not included, but they sell buckets just like in the parks! You can’t use one you bought in the parks on the cruise, and vice-versa, but you can get discounts on refill just like in the parks! If you saw my trip haul, you’ll see which popcorn bucket we picked up!
Castaway Cay 5K
You can now sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K before you board the ship, which is what we did. If you want to have your bib and be all ready to go, attend one of the sessions on board the day before. You can find the times and locations on the Navigator. I’m pretty sure you still have to sign a waiver once on the island, so it might not be that much faster, but I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. When in doubt, just follow the people in exercise gear- they are probably running the race. Also another note, you get walked out a bit from the start sign of the 5K before you start, so it’s actually around 4.5K.
Charging your credit card and Gift Cards
If you are planning on using any Disney gift cards while on board, make sure to visit Guest Services to add them to your account early in your trip. We waited and learned something else when we applied them to our account. If your onboard charges exceed $300, they will charge your credit card on file. By the time we added the gift cards, they had already charged our card so we had a credit that would be refunded to our card if we didn’t spend that. It didn’t really matter in the end, but it was definitely something helpful to know!
If you’d like to hear more about what I wish I knew before my first Disney Cruise, check out the video below!
Have you cruised before? What was something you learned? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you so much for joining me today!