Tips for First Time Disney Cruisers!
Disney Cruise Line is one of my favorite vacations and also one of my favorite vendors to work with as a travel professional. But planning a Disney Cruise can feel a little bit daunting at first. If you're dipping your toes into the Disney Cruise Line waters for the first time, here are some tips to help you through the process!
Tip 1: Book early!
The best pricing and availability for your cruise is typically found the further out you book. Waiting until the last minute to book a cruise can lead to scarce availability, high pricing, or both. When you book early you have the ability to get the prime stateroom location you want and you have plenty of time to save for your final payment and look into everything your ship and ports of call have to offer!
Tip 2: Check out the deck plans to choose the best stateroom location.
All stateroom locations are not created equal. For example, if you struggle with motion sickness, there are certain locations you might want to avoid. If you want to be conveniently located to the kids club you might need a room on a different deck than someone who wants to be located close to the pool. Knowing your ship's general layout can help you pick the perfect location to suit your individual preferences. And if you want pro tips about the best stateroom locations, skip ahead to tip number 10!
Tip 3: Apply for or renew your passports well in advance.
Although there are certain cruise itineraries that don't require US citizens to sail with a passport, I always recommend that all my clients sail with a passport because, without one, you would be unable to fly in the event of an emergency or missed connection. Passports can take a while to process and arrive, so be sure to allow plenty of time to apply for or renew your passports. For more information about obtaining a US passport, visit the State Department website.
Tip 4: Book a pre-cruise hotel stay.
I always recommend that my cruise clients arrive at least one day prior to their Disney Cruise to allow for travel delays. There are great options for booking a pre-cruise hotel stay as part of your Disney Cruise package, and you can even bundle in transfers as well. Pricing and hotel options vary by departure port and availability is limited, so this is another reason why booking early is so important!
Tip 5: Make a plan for gratuities.
Guest are given the option of pre-paying gratuities and I highly recommend doing so because it's one less thing to think about on your vacation. However, not all gratuities are included in what you pre-pay and some gratuities will need to be paid in cash, so it's helpful to plan accordingly. The cast members whose gratuities can be prepaid are your stateroom attendant and your dining team. Gratuities for bar and spa services are not included but can be charged to your onboard account. Gratuities for those helping with your luggage and those leading excursions can't be paid through your onboard account so you will want to bring cash for those gratuities. It's also customary to tip in cash if you order room service. You can pay all your gratuities in cash if you choose to by visiting Guest Services onboard.
Tip 6: Familiarize yourself with the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
The Disney Cruise Line app is essential to your Disney Cruise vacation. It is how you will book port adventures, onboard activities, and any adults-only dining reservations you're interested in. It's also how you will complete your online check-in prior to boarding and how you will view scheduled activities and communicate with your party while onboard. One of my favorite features of the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app is the vacation countdown! My kids love seeing what characters will be featured each day.
Tip 7: Keep track of your deadlines.
There are specific deadlines not only for making your final payment but also for when you can book port adventures, dining, and onboard activities as well as when you can complete your online check-in and choose your desired port arrival time. If you don't have a travel professional keeping track of those things for you, you will need to be sure to keep them written down in a highly visible place so you don't forget. For most booking deadlines the start time will be midnight EST so adjust accordingly for your time zone. For fee schedules for your specific sailing, refer to your cruise confirmation.
Tip 8: Pack light and invest in items to help with stateroom organization.
Although Disney Cruise Line has some of the largest standard staterooms in the cruise industry, staterooms are smaller than typical hotel rooms. That means that it's very important to pack light (and pack only items that are allowed onboard) and invest in some items that allow you to better organize your belongings. I am a huge fan of packing cubes because they maximize the space in my suitcase but are also really convenient for keeping clothes organized in the closet/drawer space in the stateroom. I also like bringing a hanging toiletries organizer to keep toiletries off the bathroom counters and magnetic hooks to stick to the stateroom's metal walls for extra hanging storage.
Tip 9: Protect your family and your investment with travel insurance.
No one likes to think about the things that could go wrong on their cruise, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes things do arise that can delay your trip, cut it short, or cancel it entirely. Also medical emergencies can emerge during travel and not all health insurance plans will cover treatment outside the US. That's where travel protection comes in. I recommend it to all my clients because the small premium invested can end up saving them thousands of dollars.
Tip 10: Get FREE planning assistance!
You don't have to sort through everything that goes into planning a Disney Cruise by yourself: you can get the assistance of a qualified travel professional for FREE! Disney builds the cost of a travel professional's commission into every cruise they sell even if you book it online yourself. When you think about it, if you book the cruise yourself you are paying for the services of a professional travel planner yet you are doing all the work. No one likes to pay for something and not see a return on that investment. As an agent with an diamond level Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agency, I have been extensively trained by Disney to be an expert in their vacation products and I help my clients with everything from choosing the perfect stateroom location to keeping track of deadlines to adding on extras like pre-cruise stays and transfers. I also monitor for any discounts that might become available and am in my client's corner if anything unforeseen emerges that requires them to change their vacation plans. In the past 3 years I have helped my cruise clients navigate canceled sailings, changing vaccination and testing requirements, and more. Time and again they have thanked me for being there to help them navigate rough waters (see what I did there?). So don't try to go it alone: book with a travel professional (hopefully me!) for the same price you'd pay to book on Disney's website and get free planning assistance! Want a quote on your first Disney Cruise? Request one here!
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