Disney Cruise Hacks, Tricks and Tips

disney_cruise_hacksThere is so much to experience on any Disney Cruise and making the most of your time (and money) is important, so like most of you, I have scoured the internet looking for Disney Cruise tips, tricks and hacks.  There are some great lists already out there, like this one or this one, but I purposefully had in mind to create a list while on our latest cruise on the Disney Fantasy.  Some of these may be repeats from other places (but that just means they’re really good!) and this list is in no way exhaustive.  Some of these are only applicable to the Disney Fantasy and her sister ship, the Disney Dream, but most apply to all Disney cruise ships.

  1. keycard_lightSpare Room Key / Old Gift Card Trick: The Disney cruise cabins are outfitted with energy saving lighting, which means that in order to activate the power outlets and lights in your cabin, you have to insert your Key to the World (KTTW) card into the slot / holder at the entryway of the of cabin.  However, this can be annoying at best and difficult at worst, as it may be hard to fish out your KTTW card if your hands are full, you are trying to shuffle in multiple kids or it is inside an lanyard.  So, an easy hack for this is to use an old hotel room key, old gift card or even an old KTTW card for this purpose and leave it there for the length of your cruise.  Just make sure to lift it out of the locked position when you leave the room to save on energy and turn off the lights, but this way, when you first enter, you only have to press down on the card to activate your lights.
  2. drink_holderFast Food Drink Holder Hack:  For a larger family like ours, I often find myself getting more drinks from the top deck than my hands can hold.  And, if you want anything else (pizza, ice cream, burger, etc.) from the same area, there is no way you can carry it all.  The best way to reduce extra trips up and down the stairs (though I found I needed it after the ice cream, pizza and soda) was to bring a drink holder.  Some people like to deck it out and decorate their drink holders like this and I found the best one for this purpose is from Chick-Fil-A.  Now you can carry all the drinks you want in one hand and the snacks in the other.  You will certainly get lots of inquiries from other passengers on where you got this along the way!
  3. Bring Ziplock bags:  On of the most versatile items we packed on this last cruise were Ziplock bags.  We used them to keep crafts together, organize some of our freebies collected throughout the cruise, stash away wet clothes and bathing suits from port adventures and to help in packing lunches off the boat.  You never know how these may come in handy while on the sea.
  4. Uncrustables:  How is this a hack?  First, these handy sandwiches are not specifically listed on the room service menu, but they are available.  Second, almost every single kid I know likes them.  Third, they can be available in other eating places (if you just ask).  Fourth, these are not considered prepared foods and therefore can be taken off the ship at most ports.  This is where the true hack comes into play.  We like to place a room service order the night before a port day where we are planning on eating lunch out and order four Uncrustables.  We place these in our fridge overnight and bring them along to save big money on lunch.  So, Brooke and I can grab local fare, while the kids eat their lunch and we are all just as happy.
  5. Food, Food Everywhere:  Everyone knows about the “freely” (I use quotes because yes, you did pay for this as part of your fare, but it is not extra) available food throughout the ship, like at quick service (Flo’s Cafe on Dream/Fantasy, Pete’s and Pinocchio’s on Magic/Wonder), ice cream, at restaurants during service time and room service.  But, there are other places to pick up unique bites to eat during your cruise.  Make sure to frequently check out offerings available at Cove Cafe and Vista Cafe.  The treats are usually sweet bites (think cheesecake, cupcakes and brownies) and you have to ask the staff member to place the goodies on your plate.  Also, keep an eye on your Daily Navigator for Late Night Snacks.  Usually, a small buffet will be placed in the Adult Only area with some great options like fried shrimp, wings and dessert.
  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask:  This tip is one of the most quoted, but it worth mentioning again.  Disney Cruise Staff are encouraged to create Magical Moments for the passengers and love to fulfill your requests if they can.  So, if you have a request, don’t be afraid to ask.  It can be simple things, like when our youngest really wanted an Uncrustable while we were dining at the lunch buffet, or it can be more elaborate.  For instance, on one of our first cruises while we had two very young ones, there was a midnight chocolate buffet offered.  We were dressed up for formal night, but had the kids in their pajamas.  I was carrying Emily (3 at the time) who was asleep and Brooke was pushing Caitlyn (1 at the time) in the stroller.  We took a quick look inside at the buffet line and knew that we couldn’t possibly make a trip through with the kids and the stroller, so we made a quick stop at some couches just outside.  A crew member walked by and started a conversation which quickly led why we weren’t enjoying the chocolate buffet.  She took note of our preferences, said wait right here, and created a plate for each of us.  While I am sure it was really a small gesture, it meant a lot to us (and plus it must have been hard to grab all that chocolate goodness for someone else knowing you couldn’t have any).  It made a difference and we made sure to note on our survey about how this one crew member went out of her way for us.
  7. Picture Timing:  If you want to have your pictures taken in front any of the staged backgrounds, the lines can be pretty daunting.  I have found that the best time to go is just after second seating for dinner has started.  This can be difficult if you have second seating, but if you have first seating, try and squeeze this in before the nightly entertainment.
  8. Snacks for Nightly Entertainment:  If you are familiar with the Disney Cruise, you know that Preludes outside the Walt Disney Theatre has popcorn, soda and other drinks for purchase.  This is always tempting, not only for the kids, but for the adults as well.  One way to save some money here is to have one person in your party head up to the top deck and grab the free sodas there, and if Flo’s Cafe is open, some potato chips for a snack.
  9. rainforest_spa_heated_lounge
    Heated Lounge Chairs

    Rainforest Room Day Pass:  If you are considering the Rainforest Room Day Pass, buy it ahead of your sailing.  The day pass can quickly sell out for the entire cruise in the first day or so, so please make sure to grab yours before the ship even sets sail.  If you are not familiar with the Rainforest Room, check out our experience as part of the Star Wars Day at Sea.

  10. muppets_doorSnap photos for Midship Detective Agency:  The Midship Detective Agency  is meant to get you moving all around the ship.  However, I felt a bit run ragged as we attempted to do an entire mystery in one turn.  In particular, we had to visit one of the two non-picture clues (Pepe the King Prawn’s Cabin Room Door) twice.  Not a big deal, but we were all the way in the front of the ship and the Cabin 5148 1/2 is Aft.  It was a trek to get back to it.  If I had taken a picture, we could have quickly referenced the picture to get our next clue.  Make sure to take a close enough picture so you can clearly read the details of the info on the door.  Also, the outcome of the mystery can be different every time you do the Midship Detective Agency, so if you want to play more than once, it is well worth it.
  11. Order Breakfast Room Service on Port Days:  Port Days can be crazy busy.  It is busy for your family trying to get everyone ready, plus planning all your stuff that will need to go into bags take off the ship with you.  And, then, making sure that you are at your assigned meeting area for a Port Adventure on time.  With all that going on, it can be difficult to wade through the other groups of people at Cabana’s trying to get a buffet breakfast before leaving the ship. It gets really crowded on port days for breakfast because everyone is planning on leaving the boat around the same time and schedules are all in sync.  So, do yourself a favor and place an order for breakfast the night before by completing the breakfast room service door hanger the night before and hanging it on your door.  Double bonus, if you do it for early enough, it can act as a wake up call too.
  12. Visit Youth Areas During Open House:  This is a multiple part tip, the first part pertaining to Open House in the Youth Areas where you children are assigned to go and the second part for Youth Areas that your children may not be old enough for just yet.
    1. Our children are all currently only able to visit the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab (3 – 12 years old) so we have had the chance to explore these areas extensively.  However, it is still a great idea to visit again with your kids during Open House times.  First, this is a great time to be able to take pictures.  You are not allowed to take pictures during the secured play time, so Open House is your only chance to get pictures of the areas with your kids.  Second, your kids will love to show you around to their favorite places and activities.  Third, there are still a lot of planned activities going on during Open House that you can participate in with your children.
    2. edge_green_screenAlternatively, our children are not old enough to visit The Vibe (teens) and The Edge (tweens), so we like to visit with them during Open House.  There are some really cool things to experience, like video games, board games and interactive games.  The Vibe also has probably the best pool and hot tub on the ship just for the teens (can’t use it during Open House though).  Our kids’ favorite part was creating their own 90 second scripted TV piece with a green screen in The Edge.  After they read through the lines and like their production, the crew will burn it onto a DVD for a keepsake!
  13. Stateroom efficiency:  With so much to do on the Disney Cruise, you won’t end up spending a lot of time in your stateroom, but for the time you do, it is nice to have an organized and well-maintained cabin.  We’ve found that the best place to stash your suitcases is under the bed (there is plenty of room).  Sand toys and pool floats seem to work best in the aired chest that acts as a coffee table.  Drying your wet clothes in the bathtub/shower combo using the drying line works the best.  And, most importantly, if you want good pictures of your stateroom make sure to take them when you first walk in on the first day before your luggage arrives – it’s pristine then.
  14. Disney Cruise Line Navigator App:  Our most recent Disney Cruise was our first time experiencing the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App.  The app has some great features for communicating with others (and the Youth Areas) and staying up to date with what is going on that day.  However, one of the most underused features was the fact that it would list the planned activities for the entire cruise, not just for the specific day.  This allowed us to plan ahead a little, though we did not go as in depth as we could have with it.  For instance, if we knew that our girls would like to do a Disney Cooking Class in the Oceaneer’s Lab, but it conflicted with another activity, we could use the app to click on those two activities and see when else they might be offered later in the cruise.  If one of the future times worked better, it allowed us to prioritize our time even better and spend the most of our time doing what we wanted to do!
  15. Be picky (and greedy) at Dinner:  The wait staff on the Disney Cruise wants to please, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.  If you want a side from another option, just ask.  If you want something from the kids menu, just ask.  If you want a cheese plate (or fruit plate) before dinner, just ask.  If you want two desserts, just ask.  It’s all yours for the asking.
  16. What to Pack for the Beach (and what not to):  If you can, pack your sand toys.  Besides Castaway Cay, you will probably visit a beach or two and buying sand toys at any of these places can be expensive.  Don’t pack beach towels.  Whether you are on a Port Adventure or not, Disney Cruise always provides towels to take with you when you leave the ship.
  17. BOYB:  Yes, you can bring your own beer (and wine) aboard the Disney Cruise on embarkation day and when coming back aboard from each port.  Each adult is allowed up to 2 bottles or wine or 6 beers.  They cannot, however, be packed in any of the “checked” luggage, but have to be carried on your person.
  18. Room Service Secret Menu:  There are items that can be ordered on the Room Service menu that are not directly listed on the Room Service menu.  Our favorites include the Mickey Bar (ice cream treat) and Uncrustables.
  19. Showering in the Spa:  Senses Spa offers a lot to passengers and one such freebie are the showers located in the locker rooms.  I find these showers to be larger and easier to maneuver in versus the bathtub / shower combos found in the staterooms.  And, if you are with a larger party, instead of lining up to use the shower, one of you can visit the spa to get ready!
  20. door_decorationsDoor Decorations:  While not necessarily a secret because almost everyone does it, one effect of decorating your door is that it makes it easier for your kids to find their way back to the stateroom, differentiating your door from everyone else’s.
  21. Stay on Board at Port:  While you may not want to listen to this advice in full because of some of the amazing places you will be visiting on the Disney Cruise, you may still want to attempt to portion off a small section of time while at port to spend back on the boat.  With the crowds dissipated, it can be much more enjoyable on the top deck enjoying the water play areas, especially the slides and pools.
  22. Join a Facebook Group:  For each upcoming sailing of the Disney Cruise, you can find a corresponding (unofficial) Facebook Group.  This is a great way to meet others who will be cruising with you, but also to find out what others are doing to prepare, get great tips and pose any questions you may have.
  23. pixie_dustThe Pixie Dust is Free:  Just stop by the Bippiti Boppidi Boutique any time that they are open and they will shower you with free Pixie Dust.  It is a great experience for the kids, especially if you don’t want to pay for the entire BBB experience.
  24. Book Excursions Directly:  To save time and money, it can be beneficial to book your excursions directly.  This will free up time to spend back on the ship while everyone else is still off on a tour.  Now, there are some good reasons to book with Port Adventures, especially if you are concerned about safety at the Port or just unsure of doing it on your own, but for those ports with which we are comfortable, we usually opt to book directly.
  25. Self Service Pin Trading:  While there are a few organized times for pin trading with the officers and other crew members, you can always trade with the Pin Board Books found in the shops (whenever they are open).
  26. after_5k_castaway_cayRun the 5K:  While the popularity and knowledge of the Castaway Cay 5K has greatly increased since when I first ran it in 2008, there are still a great many number of people who do not know this exists while cruising.  It is a ticketed event, though I don’t think they limit the numbers just yet, you just have to visit Guest Services to sign up.  Not only do you get to experience a race on Castaway Cay, you get a medal, which is another great, free keepsake.
  27. Mickey Bands:  The Youth Activities Areas use the Mickey bands to check in and out your children and they scan just like they do at the theme parks.  The technology is also pretty neat because it can track specifically where your kids are in the clubs when you go to pick them up so you are not looking everywhere for them.  However, on the last night, the crew begin to ask for the bands back and you are charged $13 for each one that is not returned.  These may be a good idea to hang on to as they cannot be purchased land side anywhere and make a unique keepsake.
  28. Clothes Planning:  Bring coordinating clothes for the family.  There are just so many picture taking opportunities (both planned and unplanned) that these pictures end up becoming those few that still get printed out.  Also, check to see what themed nights will be occurring on your cruise (Pirate Night, Star Wars Day at Sea, etc.) and buy those outfits ahead of time.  Amazon versus the on board Disney shops can save you big money.

6 thoughts on “Disney Cruise Hacks, Tricks and Tips

  1. what a great trip looks like all the kids had a blast as well keep up with more news letters as well as family pictures on your adventure


    1. Hello! I would suggest looking for higher decks, but to make sure you are not directly under any of the restaurants. I prefer cabins that are in the front of the ship as I think you don’t feel the waves as much.


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