I am so incredibly grateful to new mom, expert cruiser, and Have Baby Will Travel reader Melissa for sharing these fabulous cruise tips with us! We are T-minus 1.5 sleeps from our latest WDW adventure, so I may have left it a bit late to prepare. We are all very excited for our first cruise, and these tips I’m sure would transfer to any family-friendly cruise line. My favourite might just be tip #12. Bon Voyage!
I have traveled on a few cruises, including Disney and here are my tips! You will have a wonderful time.
1) Get to the ship early. Sure, the ship probably leaves late afternoon but boarding on some ships can take place early. Arriving around noon will make sure that you can get on board, eat and rest or do a little investigating before you need to do ‘the drill’. Checking in with Disney is even fun at the departure port so take your time, arrive early and enjoy.
2) Be prepared for the ‘muster drill’. Every voyage will require that you do a drill, remember fire drills in elementary school? It is like that but involves a life jacket, this is mandatory and it can interrupt your afternoon if you don’t remember it will be taking place. It is usually shortly before leaving your departure port. And remember to join the Sail Away Party afterwards!
3) Take a good hard look at the deck plans. Take note of where you’ll enter the ship and where you may want to go once on board. On my Disney cruise, we headed right to the table where one could reserve brunch at Palo. I baffled my husband when he realized that I knew exactly which corridor to take on which floor, this saved us time and lines later on. We did this before even going into our stateroom and we got the reservation we wanted although it hadn’t been available online in advance.
4) Go online in advance and reserve everything you can. Recent statistics put use of this service only at 30%. This means that 70% of the other passengers are going to be scrambling on board to make the same plans as you if you leave it ’til then.
5) Get your room organized! Ship staterooms can be small. This is one of those times that it is actually a good idea to take a moment and unpack your suitcases once you get them into the room. Store clothes in drawers, closets and provided space. Then leaving a open hole at one end of your suitcase using the zippers. Leave only one out at a time and store the others under the bed. Use this as a laundry hamper for the family. No need to put dirty clothes ‘away’… stuff them all in the ‘hamper’ and worry about the ‘mess’ after your vacation. When the suitcase fills, store it under the bed and set up another empty one for filling. Leave one or two smaller suitcases for souvenirs and toiletries.
Another good storage option is bringing along an ‘over the door shoe hanger’. Hang this over the bathroom door and use it to store room key cards, excursion tickets, sunscreen, sunglasses, luggage keys, and anything else that you want handy, that shouldn’t be just sitting around. This could make for a very messy room otherwise.
6) Take advantage of the information provided on board each day in the form of the ‘newsletter’ and plan your day accordingly. Bring a highlighter. If you have multiple family members with different interests, bring various highlighter colours. Highlight on the schedule in advance the classes, games, clubs, or activities that you don’t want to miss. Each family member can have their own colour and each persons’ need can be quickly identified at a glance the next day. You don’t want to miss a thing!
7) Get into the Disney spirit. Find out what ‘parties’ are going to be on board. If there is going to be a pirate party, pick up an eye patch and at your local party shop. Wear it. You’ll be glad you did! These little extras added so much to our trip and they make for great family photos.
8 ) Research your ports! You can save lots of time and money by deciding what you want to do at the port in advance, if anything at all. Some ports have lots to do immediately once you are off the ship and you may want to just wander. Others may be boring without a planned excursion. The ports are where you’ll find the most adventure. If you have already visited a destination, you may want to just enjoy a quiet day on board even while the boat is docked. Check out cruisecritic.com, and their ‘ports’ section for information on your port. Then, peruse message boards and blogs to see how others have had great excursions by planning something on their own. In some cases, if there is going to be a busy port itinerary or something specific you’d like to do, you may want to pay extra and book right through Disney Cruise Line (in advance on their website), the extra cost could save a lot of headaches. It is especially important to make sure you’ll be back to the ship in plenty of time before it leaves!
9) Budget for excursions and tips. These costs are always necessary and not included, so just be aware in advance that these will be part of your expenses. Your cabin crew will also be so amazing that you will want to tip extra. Also keep in mind that tips are generally ‘per person’ so those little ones (while not mandatory) are expected to ‘leave a tip’ as well.
10) Send yourself a postcard! If you get a chance to visit Disney’s private island – Castaway Cay, bring some cash and send yourself a postcard from this exclusive destination. Do this at the post office upon arriving to the island, as when you leave, the lines are likely to be longer.
11) Probably my most important tip has come from researching about traveling with my 7 month old. While I haven’t ever cruised with him, we have discovered that different cruise lines do have different policies about non-potty trained children going in their pools. While Disney is the most lenient, many of the other lines’ policies have discouraged us from traveling with him on a cruise quite yet – some of the policies are just too harsh.
12) They are not listed on the Room Service Menu, but Mickey Ice Cream Bars are always available. Just ask.