Disney Cruise – What to Pack (And What Not To)

Disney Cruise Tips - What to Pack

The second most stressful thing for me (after embarkation) was what to pack. And what not to pack for that matter. You may read on other blogs that they packed way to much, and that you should make an effort to not over pack. I agree and disagree all at once.

Let me start by saying, I am not an over-packer. There are people in my family, who shall remain unnamed, that definitely fall into the category of over-packer. I know what these people look like, HUGE suitcases filled to the brim, 6 different pairs of shoes and emergency items for each person in the family, I am not one of them. However, a cruise is unlike any other vacation we take. I found packing to be challenging.

Clothing

This is where most of your consolidating can take places. That being said, you will still feel like you are over packing. That’s because you need to pack for all sorts of occasions. Here is what my list consisted of:

  • Everyday Summer Clothing – an outfit for each day
  • Swim Wear – bring multiple bathing suits for each person. I suggest bringing at least 2 swimsuits per person. One will dry, while you are using the other and so on.
  • Casual Evening Wear – Jeans, nice shorts, sundresses, polo shirts
  • Semi Formal- Sundresses, polo shirts, khakis
  •  Formal – Long dresses, suits and ties
  • Pirate Night Outfit & Princess Dresses
  • Shoes – tennis shoes, flip flops, sandals and nice shoes

We changed our clothes every evening for dinner. This is not a requirement, but we were ready for showers and a change of clothes after being in the salty air all day. I would say 75-80% of our fellow travelers changed their clothes for the evening meal. Here is Disney Cruise Lines thought on the matter. 

Other Necessities

Many of the things on this list I thought were totally ridiculous when I read them before our cruise. I am telling you, these are NECESSITIES. There is nothing on this list that I would even consider leaving at home on our next cruise.

  • Water Bottles – I was nervous about the water on board. I was worried it would taste “off”. I am happy to report that it in no way tasted bad. Next trip I will only pack water bottles, and leave the bottled water at home. We filled these at the soda fountains and then took them ashore during our excursions.
  • Cups with lids – I highly suggest bringing larges cups with lids for everyone in your traveling party. You could use your water bottle for this as well. The cups that are provided at the soda fountain are very small and have no lids. It is nice to fill up your own cup and be able to have that wherever you go on the ship. If you have been to WDW, refillable mugs work great for this. 
  • Nightlight – This is one of those tips that I simply did not listen to. We got very lucky and one of our awesome FE  participants gave us one the first night. We used it the entire trip. Our little one is not afraid of the dark, but the inside stateroom is pitch black and it is impossible to navigate without a light. Leaving the bathroom light on is an option, but a nightlight is better. 
  • Watch – We don’t wear watches, we have our cell phones. And again going into the cruise both my husband and I laughed at the suggestion that we would not be carrying our cell phones around. Think again! Unless you are using your phone for your camera, there really is no need to carry it. Luckily, I listened to this piece of advice and had a watch. There are no clocks on board (that can be easily seen). And there is a schedule to keep!
  • Clothes Pins – This seems like a silly one. But drying those swim suits can be an issue. There is a clothes line in the tub, but the clothes pins allow you to hang the swim suits up better and dry more quickly.
  • Snacks – You will not need a ton of snacks. But I do suggest packing a few. We used them when we went ashore and it was handy to have them during the excursions. They saved us from spending money while ashore and allowed us to wait until we were back on the ship where food is included!
  • Lanyards – Another suggestion that I ignored. I mean honestly who wants to be a dweeb wearing a lanyard. I haven’t had one of those since I turned 16, in 1998 (ugh 98?!). Again I was saved, because I am a sliver club member I received a lanyard from DCL at check-in. I used it every single day. I don’t know what I would have done without it. For men it isn’t such a big deal, although my husband was jealous. But I spent most of my time in outfits with no pockets, sundresses, swim suits and so on. Having the lanyard to hold my key to the world card was crucial. 
  • Door Magnets & Decorations – This is so much fun and I suggest taking part. Show your personality, hometown, sports team, whatever you are passionate about. It is fun for you and it is fun for your follow passengers to see as they are walking down the hall. 
  • Sunblock – And lots of it!
  • Reading Materials – If your kiddos are in the kids clubs there is plenty of downtime. And what better chance will you have to catch up on your reading?
  • Gallon Ziploc Bags – This is a must pack item for me on any trip. I pack tons of things in the Ziplock bags and then use them throughout the trip. They are good for snacks, water, extra clothes and on and on.

Don’t Bother

  • Towels – Of any kind. There are plenty of beach towels all over the pool decks. And as you disembark you are given towels if you need them for any of your excursions.
  • Shoe Hangers – you may see these are a tip on other blogs. But please be careful, you cannot use them over your bathroom door unless they are modified. You can google how to modify them, but be careful that you are following the rules. We had plenty of storage in our 169 square foot room room, lol. 
  • Toiletries –  The next time we go I will not be packing shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The products on board are amazing, they are spa quality. 
  • Hair Dryer – There is one on board, and I am happy to report it does dry your hair!
  • Power Strips – This is another tip you may see floating around the internet. Outlets will be an issue, and a power strip would be great. But it is not allowed due to it being a fire hazard.

Click here for more Disney Cruise Line information.

Disney Cruise – Fish Extenders

Disney Cruise Tips - Fish Extenders

If you have done any research on the Disney Cruise Line thus far you may have come across the term Fish Extender, or FE. You may have also read about it in the blog post Need to Know Secrets. We are here to shed some light on this Disney Cruise tradition and help answer the questions you have about the Fish Extenders.

What is a Fish Extender? 

The fish extender stems from the on deck mail delivery system that DCL put into place. Each stateroom has a fish, which is a decorative clip to hold important information. This could include spa appointment confirmations, excursion details, disembarking times and your Personal Navigator (although ours was always inside our stateroom waiting for us).

Our stateroom and fish on the Magic

Our stateroom and fish on the Magic

How did this come about?

According to legend the first cruise that featured a Fish Extender was a Disney Vacation Club group on a 2005 cruise. Shortly before this, online groups started arranging meet and greets, events and gift exchanges creating a group of friends before they were even on board (DISboards has long been the place for these types of meet groups). It was at this point that some brilliant Disney fanatic realized that you could leave your gift hanging from the fish, and the fish extender was born.

FE

The Forbes family Fish Extender

This is a very much homemade affair, but if you are not crafty (like myself) search Etsy for people who are. We love ours!

How do they work?

Along with your door magnets, they make your room easy to spot and they serve as a location to receive all the wonderful gifts that your follow passengers will bring by throughout the cruise.

Here is the most important thing, you MUST sign up for an FE group in order to participate. If you do not sign up, your fellow cruisers will not know that you are bringing gifts or expecting them. You will be very disappointed when you receive nothing in exchange. Please do your homework and find your group. 

  1. Start with the DISboards, and find your Meet and Greet. Read through the thread and you will quickly begin to catch up on what has been happening in your group.
  2. Then look for your Facebook group (DISboards does not allow a Facebook link to be added to your Meet and Greet thread. If one is posted they will immediately remove it). Search under groups, names are typically formatted as Disney – ship name – date, example Disney Fantasy September 10, 2016. Much to the dismay of DISboards, I have found that most of the Meets are taking their planning to Facebook.

Once you find your group you will be able to sign up for the Fish Extender on your particular cruise. Remember, this is a non-sanctioned activity and is run by fellow cruisers. Each cruise has their own separate rules and ways of doing things. Typically there will be multiple Fish Extender lists and a cutoff is determined for the date and number of people that can sign up. Our previous cruise had 15 staterooms per group, this was a LOT because remember you are to give a gift to each person within the stateroom. Our upcoming cruise has limited each group to 10 staterooms per FE group and is up to 7 groups!

Gifts range from handmade, prepackaged, practical or just plain awesome. They come throughout the cruise and throughout the day. We loved coming back to check our “mail” to see what cool things came that day.

Should We Really Do This?

Obviously this goes back to personal preference. And there are definite pro’s and a few con’s.

Pro’s – The FE’s really add a magical touch to your cruise. It is just as fun for you as it is your little ones. Gifts are tailored to their ages and likes, and there is no need to buy a souvenir because you come home with a boat load of stuff, pun intended.

Con’s – That being said for a first time cruiser, especially if it is a short one this may be something you want to hold off on. Planning, packaging, packing, organizing and distributing gifts for up to 100 people may sound like a scavenger hunt and a headache. And to be honest finding 15 different staterooms on a ship the size of the Disney Magic was a scavenger hunt.

My advice would be to find your Meet and Greet group, you do not need to be apart of the FE Groups to be apart of the Facebook page. Take some time to look over what everyone is doing and decide if the added magic is worth it to you and your family. You may be just as happy decorating your door and skipping the FE.

What Should We Give as Our FE?

The gifts range from lanyards and picture frames for the adults, to ice cream toppings for the kids. They can be homemade or purchased. We did gifts that focused on our home state, think Old Bay. Pinterest and Etsy have tons of ideas. Just remember that you will need to pack your FE’s and that you will need to bring home all that you have collected.

My absolute favorite FE we received was a hand-carved cherry wood cross made by a fellow cruisers grandfather (and no joke they are the Disney family, I am so jealous of their last name). It sits on our mantel, and reminds me everyday of the blessings we have and the memories we made on that trip.

Wood Cross

Our wooden cross hand carved by the Disney family.

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Disney Cruise – Need to Know Secrets

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There is a lot of information that you are trying to digest about your upcoming cruise. This post is for those of you that want just the highlights and those of you that could use a recap of all we have talked about so far.

Secrets You Need to Take Advantage Of

  • Character Signatures – two of these are allowed per stateroom. You drop them off when you embark on the cruise at Guest Services. They are then returned to your stateroom at the end of your cruise. You need to provide the items and the permanent markers. We had a matted picture frame signed and a white Christmas ornament.
Our autographed picture frame

Our autographed picture frame

  • A small amount of free Wi-Fi is offered with a promo code on embarkation day. Be sure to check the Personal Navigator to get the code. This is great for Southwest flyers who need to check-in 24 hours in advance.
  • Character Calls are also available for free for each family. On our last cruise we scheduled our free call on Christmas Eve, it was a great surprise on a special evening. On our next cruise our character call will be coming the day before we leave, which happens to be my daughters 7th birthday. It is going to be an amazing surprise!

Secrets That You May Want to Take Advantage Of

There are so many fun things that you can do on the cruise ships and it is hard to know what to take advantage of. I love to get involved in all the fun things arranged by Disney and by others on my cruise. A word of warning though, do not let these types of activities stress you out. Know your limits and do not push it, you do not want to let stress hurt your vacation and time with your family. That being said take a leap, go to the Meets, and hang out with new people. It can be such a great bonus on your vacation to make new friends. Here are some of things you can get involved in before and during your cruise. 

  • Fish Extenders – this activity deserves a post all of it’s own. For brevity, if you sign yourself up to be apart of a Fish Extender group you will exchange small gifts with the others on your list.
  • Door Decorating – All of the stateroom doors are magnetic, which make door decorating very easy. You can buy customized magnets or make your own. It’s a fun way to show your personality and it makes it so much easier to find your room! Tip: please use magnets only and do not use tape or other adhesive. This ruins the doors. 
One of our door magnets

One of our door magnets

  • Other Exchanges: Depending on your cruise there may be other exchanges that are organized by your fellow passengers. For example, an ornament or a trick or treat exchange during the Halloween Cruises.
  • Carry-on Alcohol – The Disney Cruise Line is the only one to my knowledge that allows carry-on alcohol. This is a great budget saving tip if you plan on enjoying a beverage while on board. 
  • Mixology Classes: These classes are held during your day at sea and require a certain number of participants. There is a small additional fee for the class. Many times they are organized on Facebook or the DISboards by the same people organizing the Fish Extender groups.

Click here for more Disney Cruise Line information.

Disney Cruise – On Board Tips

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Once you get on board the ship you may feel overwhelmed with the sheer size of the space. Do not worry, you will soon know the ship like the back of your hand, it will quickly feel like home.

Must Do’s

  • Read your Personal Navigator! You will see this tip throughout these posts. But seriously read it, every day. Your stateroom host will leave it for you the nigh prior, or you can download the app on your phone. It will work once you get on the ship. Take highlighters for each person and highlight each activity you would like to do. You may have to divide and conquer or you may have to make a tough decision between two activities. But at least you know about them!
  • Deck Party’s! Starting with the Sail Away party at the beginning of the trip you will not want to miss a single deck party. Yes they are crowded, yes they can be hot depending on the weather. But they are so full of life and energy. They will leave you wanting to book your next vacation immediately. Tip: To stay out of the action a little bit, head to the top deck and look down on the party. This keeps you out of the middle of the crowd, bu tprovides a great view. Be wary though, your little one may be unhappy with this choice. We chose this spot for the Sail Away party, but she was not having it for Pirate Night. 
  • Pirate Night! Whether you dress in your pirate finest (yes tons of people do this) or simply enjoy the pirate festivities this is a night that should not be missed. The fireworks over the ocean are a show of their own. Be sure to get a good spot and be ready for a fun filled night.
Our family's pirate night costumes.

Our family night costumes.

  • Nightly Shows! My husband was skeptical, he’s not a “show” type guy. But our whole family loved every one of them. From the Broadway type productions to the comedians and magicians each night is something that should not be missed.
  • Palo/Remy! Take one meal for yourself as an adult. It is worth the additional money. My suggestion is do brunch! It’s an amazing meal and you won’t miss out on any of the fabulous dinners on board.

Pools

Most of the ships have three pools, an adult only pool, a family pool and a child’s pool. They also have splash zones for the very little cruisers.

  • The family pools are very crowded on sea days. To get a chair near the pool you either need to go very early, or get very lucky.
  • There are no diapers allowed in the pool, there are no exceptions. The splash zone is for children that are not potty trained.
  • There are height requirements for the slides. Be warned that the AquaDunk (Magic) is a serious slide. And even if your child meets the height requirement they may not want to go down. The Mickey slide is much tamer and so much fun.

Adult Things

  • Carry-on Alcohol – To my knowledge DCL is the only cruise line that allows you to bring on your own alcohol on board. Just be aware that you need to carry it on. Literally on embarkation day you have to carry it around the ship until your room is ready. This is a great money saving tip, although you are only allowed to consume your carry-on alcohol in your stateroom.
  • Mug Club – If you are a beer drinker this may be the way to go. The mug is good throughout the ship, and you return it for a chip when you are finished. You purchase the membership and then pay less per beer.
  • If you are more of a fruity cocktail type (pick me!) buy the souvenir cup the first day. It is around $9.00 but you will get the cocktail of the day for the rest of the trip for about $4.50.
  • The tip is included in the charge of the drink. Do not feel as if you need to tip on top of the cost of your beverage. 
  • The adult only area, or nightclubs are very cool. The nightly entertainment is always good. Our daughter loved being in the kids club late into the night. We took that time to have some alone time and enjoy ourselves.

Click here for more Disney Cruise Line information.

Disney Cruise – Embarkation Day

Embarkation Day

I don’t know about you but I had two major stresses when it came to our cruise. The first was what to pack. And the second was the process of boarding the ship. Where did I need to go? What time should I arrive? Did I forget any documentation? I am happy to say all of those worries were unfounded. Because of course DCL has it down.

Embarkation Day

If you followed the tip to register early and get an early check-in time, then you are all set. Try to arrive at the Port no later then 11am. The earlier you arrive, the earlier you will get onboard. This allows you to have lots of extra time to enjoy the ship, beat the lines for lunch and make all your remaining reservations.

Transportation

There are many options on how you can proceed to port. These are tips that are specific to Port Canaveral.  Be sure to do your research and price out your options.

  • The Disney Cruise Line bus system will transport you from the airport to Port Canaveral. The cost of this is $35 per person one way. $70 per person can add up quickly, so this may not be the best option for you. Especially if you are heading to a WDW resort before or after your cruise.
  • Renting a vehicle is an option. We came in a couple days early to enjoy WDW first and there are many rental car companies that you can pick up at MCO and drop off at Cape Canaveral. They typically offer free shuttles to the port. My husband dropped us off at the terminal with our luggage and then rode the shuttle back to meet us. We felt it was easier then transferring all our luggage into the shuttle and then off again.
  • Town cars/limos are another option. This is not something I have done, but I have read many people having success with it. It works especially well if you are in a large group, or can coordinate with other groups on your cruise.
  • Parking at the terminal is expensive, last I read it is a $75 flat fee. There are other places to park, but again require a shuttle.

Carry-on bag

The carry-on bag is always important. But it is even more so when you are boarding a Disney cruise ship. If you don’t read any other part of this post be sure to keep in mind that you will not be allowed into your stateroom until at least 1pm, and you will not receive your luggage until at least 3pm. Which tells you why your carry-on is so important. You need to pack everything you will need from 11am at port arrival up until dinner, if you are the early seating. This should include:

  • Swim wear, to take advantage of the pools. They are nearly empty until mid afternoon.
  • Sunscreen
  • Your camera
  • All documentation for check-in purposes
  • Your two items per stateroom for character signatures
Empty pool on embarkation day!

Empty pool on embarkation day!

Check-In

Lines are very clearly marked and there are dozens of cast members waiting to answer your questions. Be prepared for the lines, and be patient. There is no hurry because boarding does not start until noon, get all the standing out of the way before the doors open.

  • Line #1 – gets you checked in. You will receive your key to the world cards, boarding group and navigator (the end all be all schedule and information for each day of your cruise). **Tip: in this navigator there is a promo code for free Wi-Fi. It is a small amount, but enough to get you all check in for your flight home. 
  • Line #2 – at the very end of the terminal you can check for discounted upgrades to your current room.
  • Line #3 – if you have children, this is a great time to get them registered for the kids club. You can fill out the paperwork ahead of time but they will need their magic bands. There are other opportunities to register your little ones. So if you have to pick between line #3 and #4 skip this line.
  • Line #4: Pictures with Mickey!
Picture with Mickey in front of the ship model!

Picture with Mickey in front of the ship model!

To Do List Once Onboard

There are a few very important things to do once you are on board. Unfortunately there are two more lines to stand in.

  • Head right to Guest Services, this is typically where the Meet and Greet tickets are handed to you (ask a cast member to be sure there is not another venue for these tickets). You must have a Meet and Greet ticket for both Anna and Elsa, as well as the Princess Gathering. These tickets work like Fastpasses in the park. They tell you when and where to come and line up for your Meet and Greet.
  • At Guest Services you will also give them your two items to be signed by characters. This is the only time they will accept your items.
  • Head over to the Bon Voyage desk if you have any questions about your excursions or want to add any additional excursions once on board.
  • Lunch is next, either at Cabana’s (the buffet) or there is typically another restaurant open serving lunch. Because we are early we typically opt for the buffet and snag a table by the pool.
  • Swim! If you did not wear your suit, you can change in the pool restrooms. There are even lockers in there for rent if you want to use them.
  • Once the pool starts to fill up we like to walk around the ship. Typically the rooms are finished being cleaned and we can unload our carry-ons and change back out of swimsuits. This is a great time to take your little one to the kids club. It is open house and touring this awesome space with them makes them incredibly excited to hang out and will put you at ease.
  • Don’t miss or try to skip the mandatory lifeboat drill. It is a legal requirement. Please do not make the crew chase you down.
Kids Club

Touring the Oceaneer Club

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