You’ve booked your Disney Cruise Line vacation! High-fives all around! Of course, all you can think about right now is that massive ship waiting to whisk you away to your dream destination. But hold tight for a minute Steamboat Willie! You may have booked your DCL vacation… but now what?
Editor’s Note: Disney Cruise Line has resumed cruising with new guidelines in place. Click here to learn more about the return to sailing on Disney Cruise Line, including the new health and safety requirements in place for guests.
1 – Review New Health and Safety Protocols, Requirements, and Operational Changes for Your Upcoming Cruise
Let’s face it. Cruising in the near future will be a different experience than the cruising we’ve known in the past before the pandemic crippled the cruise industry and shut it down for over 15 months. While cruising has resumed, things are different. New rules are in place and you need to be prepared to show proper documentation whether it be testing results or vaccination status, or both. We are firm believers in setting proper expectations. The more you know about how things will occur, what new guidelines will be in place, the better you can go with the flow, do what you need to do, so you can focus on your fabulous cruise vacation. We truly believe that a Disney cruise can still be a magical experience, but know that it will be different. Disney Cruise Line has got all of the information in one easy place so you can review new safety protocols and operational changes so you can be ready for your upcoming trip. Click here to learn about what to expect—including experience updates and details about Disney’s multi-layered approach to health and safety.
2 – Request Dining Time & Note Food Allergies
If you haven’t already when booked your Disney Cruise Line (DCL) vacation, you’ll want to be sure you select a dining time as soon as possible. The DCL has two dining times each evening. “Main Seating” includes being sat for dinner between 5:45 pm and 6:15 pm. “Second Seating” is seated for dinner between 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm. This is especially important if you have children and you don’t want them eating super late, Main Seating is an ideal dining time. If you are traveling as adults; however, Second Seating is typically less crowded. Keep in mind this is only a request, so the earlier you make the request, the better. This is also the time you’ll want to make a note of any food allergies in your party, so the Chefs and Servers will be able to offer plenty of yummy food that will work with your allergy.
3 – Make Onboard Reservations
The DCL ships have plenty of activities offered onboard! Many of these unique activities do require advanced reservations and fill-up before boarding. Once your cruise is paid in full, you can begin booking onboard activities such as Spa and Salon Services, Palo and Remy Restaurants, Beverage Tasting Seminars, “It’s a Small World” Nursery, and more as soon as the booking window opens. The booking window is as follows:
- First-time guests can book 75 days before the sail date.
- Silver Castaway Club Members (cruised 1-4 times with DCL) can book 90 days prior to sail date.
- Gold Castaway Club Members (cruised 5-9 times with DCL) can book 105 days prior to sail date.
- Concierge Guests and Platinum Castaway Club Members (cruising as Concierge or cruised 10 or more times with DCL) can book 120 days prior to sail date.
4 – Make Port Adventures/Excursion Reservations
Do a little research on your Ports of Call and get ready to enjoy your port to its fullest! The DCL has what they call Port Adventures, which is known in the cruising world as Port Excursions. Port Adventures are Disney-approved, and Disney-guided excursions of the many different ports offer on your cruise. The booking window for these matches that of the above onboard reservations. We highly recommend booking your excursions with Disney, as they guarantee the ship won’t leave without you! If you decided to do an excursion offered at the port that is not affiliated with Disney and something goes wrong, and you can’t get back in time, the ship will leave without you. Keep in mind the safety aspect of where you are traveling to. It is a safer option to explore with a Disney-approved excursion, in our opinion.
5 – Make Travel Plans
It’s easy to focus solely on the ship, but you’ll still need a game plan for how you plan to arrive at the port and how you are returning home. If coming from Walt Disney World, you’ll have it easy as you can make arrangements with the Disney Cruise Line bus transportation, which will take you right from your Disney resort to Port Canaveral. If you’re doing one of the DCL’s many cruises away from Disney World, arranging for transportation to and from the port is important. If flying in and staying overnight, many hotels surrounding cruise ports will offer shuttles to and from the hotel or even a place to pay to park your car while cruising. You’ll likely find taxis readily available or can call for an Uber or Lyft to and from ports. The most important point we can relay here is being sure you have concrete plans to arrive at the port! Arrive well in advance, as you don’t want to miss your dream cruise as it sails away without you.
6 – Get a Passport
Most of the DCL itineraries will have cruisers traveling into international waters. Proper identification will be required for all people in your family (including children) upon arrival back on land at the end of your cruise and possibly to board the ship at one or more of the ports of call. Head to your post office now and make an appointment to get a passport. If you already have a passport, be sure it hasn’t expired. The process of obtaining a passport can take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks, so getting this done early is your best bet!
Note from Chad & Cindy: One question we often get is if you MUST have a passport for cruises to the Caribbean. While technically you can cruise with a driver’s license and an original copy of a birth certificate, it’s a really bad idea for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a lot bigger pain in the rear to replace a lost or damaged birth certificate than a passport. Most importantly, while you can cruise to the Caribbean with a license and birth certificate, you CANNOT fly from the Caribbean without a passport. If you find yourself in the situation of having missed your ship’s departure (yes, it happens) or a medical emergency that requires flying back to the US, if you must have a passport or your bad situation will be a nightmare.
Bottom line, here are three important things to know. First, passports aren’t expensive and they only take an hour or so to go get one. Get one and use it. It’s a bit of insurance against a really bad situation. Second, when you get off the ship take your passport with you. If either of the situations mentioned above occurs, your passport does you no good if it’s in your stateroom. Finally, please note that passport cards cannot be used for international air travel. You need the paper book.
7 – Order Door Magnets
Did you know the doors on the DCL are magnetic? You’ll see lots of door magnets decorating the many staterooms onboard the DCL. It’s really a fun way to show off your creative style! Family names, cute characters, and celebration notes, it’s that extra touch of fun that makes the memories. You can order door magnets in advance from Amazon, Etsy, etc., or you can get crafty and make them yourself.
8 – Make a Packing List
There is no harm in starting to think about packing early! Go ahead and start making your packing list now. Be sure to include weather-appropriate clothing depending on the average temperature of where you are cruising. All of the DCL ships have multiple pools so don’t forget the swimsuits! Good walking shoes are important for port days. Plus, sunscreen is a necessity. While you can purchase clothing and sundry items you may forget to pack while onboard, remember special items like contacts, glasses, and prescription medicines should top your packing list.
9 – Pack a Carry-On for Arrival Day
You can pack the luggage you plan on checking until your heart is content! Just note, once you check these bags, it may take them some time to reach your stateroom. We highly recommend packing a carry-on to have with you for your arrival day! This carry-on should include important items that you may need before your checked luggage arrives later in the evening (such as prescriptions). You’ll also want to include your swimsuits as this arrival day is a great time to swim or get in line for the popular water coasters before they get too crowded.
10 – Plan for Themed Nights
Editor’s Note: At this time, Deck Parties are temporarily suspended.
Disney is well known for throwing good parties! The DCL is no exception to that! In fact, some of the best Disney parties are on the DCL. Chances are your cruise itinerary includes a themed night, such as a Pirate Night. This is your chance to dress to match the theme – such as a pirate outfit for each of the family members. You can wear your outfit to dinner that evening, take photos with characters also dressed for the occasion, and catch the deck show/party matching the theme. Look to see what is offered within your cruise itinerary and get ready to embrace the theme!
11 – Download the DCL Navigator App
The DCL Navigator App is a huge perk to have when sailing the DCL. Just like the My Disney Experience app is essential for your Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll find you the DCL Navigator app just as important. While you can download the app right now, the app doesn’t give you many options until you are on the ship. It will then become a guide with schedules of different activities and even a texting opportunity for those onboard with you. It’s free, so go ahead and download it now so you’ll be ready to go on the cruise!
12 – Preorder the Photography Package
Looking for a great way to make the memories last? Preorder the Photography Package! Much like the Memory Maker, you’ll find at the Disney Parks, the Photography Package is a great way to get the pictures taken of your family throughout the cruise for one set price. This way you can snap as many photos as you’d like, knowing they are included. There are several different photo packages that vary depending on what’s included. If you order them at least two days prior to your sail date, you will save roughly 15% versus ordering them when on the ship.
13 – Shop DCL Merch Now
Go ahead and shop till you drop but try to do it before you get on the ship! The shopDisney app and website are great ways to get some DCL merchandise in advance. This way you’ll be dressed for the occasion, but you’ll also save some money. Not all merchandise you see online is the same as what you’ll find in the stores on the DCL, but there is still a great selection from t-shirts to mugs and everything in between.
Are you ready? Set? CRUISE!
For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.