Family Disney Cruise Guide – Get The Most From Your Disney Cruise Experience

August 29, 2016 | By More
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Family Fun in the Sun:  Your Guide to the Ultimate Disney Cruise Experience

Disney Cruise
Image: Flickr by Joe Turco / CC BY 2.0

Family vacations are usually for the kids. But who says the adults can’t have a little vacation fun as well? If your family is up for some sun, sea, and adventure, a Disney cruise is the perfect vacation that offers the best of both worlds. When you’re spending your vacation at the happiest place at sea, you can be sure that your kids are going to have the most amazing time—and believe it or not, so will you!

Here’s what you need to know to help you get the most out of your magical Disney vacation:

DINING

First things first, let’s talk about the grub. When it comes to food, Disney does not disappoint. Many satisfied cruise goers have given rave reviews of the mouthwatering dishes and the overall dining experience aboard the Disney Cruise ships, so if there is anything for the adults to look forward to on this cruise, it’s definitely the food.

Disney Cruise Line uses a rotational dining system for meals, which means you get to dine at different themed restaurants every night. You will have to choose your preferred seating time upon booking your cruise (early dining at 5:45 PM and late dining at 8:15 PM).

Disney Cruise Ship Diningroom
Source:  Flickr Jose A. Perrez

Here’s a list of the restaurants included in the dining rotation system on each ship:

Disney Dream

⦁    Animator’s Palate
⦁    Enchanted Garden
⦁    Royal Palace

Disney Fantasy
⦁    Animator’s Palate
⦁    Enchanted Garden
⦁    Royal Court

Disney Magic
⦁    Animator’s Palate
⦁    Carioca’s
⦁    Lumiere’s

Disney Wonder
⦁    Animator’s Palate
⦁    Parrot Cay
⦁    Triton’s
All of these restaurants serve all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the exception of Animator’s Palate, which only serves dinner and comes with live shows that feature your favorite Disney characters.

Buffets are also an option. Each ship’s buffet restaurant is specially located and designed to give you a stunning view of the ocean while you dine on scrumptious meals. The Beach Blanket Buffet restaurant on the Disney Wonder and the Cabanas restaurant on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy both offer a free-flowing buffet experience for breakfast and lunch, and table-service dining for dinner.

If a sophisticated atmosphere is more your thing, the Disney Cruise Line’s fine dining restaurants, Palo and Remy, are a must-try.  Exclusive to adults, these restaurants require a reservation (which you can make online or aboard the ship) and an extra charge per head.  You will also need to adhere to a strict dress code, so don’t forget to bring some fancy clothes!

Palo

⦁    Italian cuisine
⦁    Available on all four ships
⦁    Serves brunch and dinner
⦁    $30 per person

Remy

⦁    French cuisine
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Dream Fantasy
⦁    Serves brunch and dinner
⦁    $85 per person

If you’re hankering for some snacks or if you just want some other options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, here are the casual eateries and snack stands available on Disney’s four ships:

Eye Scream Treats
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy
⦁    Serves soft-serve ice cream and a wide selection of toppings

Frozone Treats

⦁    Available on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy
⦁    Serves frozen fruit smoothies

Pinocchio’s Pizzeria

⦁    Available on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder
⦁    Serves different flavors of pizza

Preludes

⦁    Available on all ships
⦁    Serves movie snacks: candy, popcorn, cookies, cocktails, and more

Senses Juice Bar

⦁    Available on the Disney Dream
⦁    Serves healthy smoothies and juices

Vanellope’s Sweet Treats

⦁    Available on the Disney Dream
⦁    Serves decadent desserts like hand-scooped gelato, fresh waffle cones, baked goodies, and candy

Flo’s Cafe

⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy
⦁    Outdoor eatery with three food stations—Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s Grill, and Fillmore’s Favorites
⦁    Serves burgers, pizza, chicken, salads and sandwiches

Pete’s Boiler Bites

⦁    Available on the Disney Magic
⦁    Serves all kinds of burgers, chicken tenders, fries, and more
Daisy’s De-Lites

⦁    Available on the Disney Magic
⦁    Serves healthy food like salads, wraps, fruit, and more

Goofy’s Galley

⦁    Available on the Disney Wonder
⦁    Serves healthy food like salads, wraps, fruit, and other treats like chocolate chip cookies and ice cream
Pluto’s Dog House

⦁    Available on the Disney Wonder
⦁    Serves burgers, hotdogs, chicken tenders, tacos, and more

Other things to remember:

⦁    Room service is free (just remember to tip at least $1 per item) and includes snacks not found on the menu, such as cookies and milk, Mickey ice cream bars, and Uncrustables
⦁    You get free soda, coffee, tea, milk, and hot chocolate 24/7 (you can choose to bring your own insulated cup, as the provided cups are quite small)
⦁    Inform your personal wait staff beforehand if you do not plan on eating at the restaurant in your dining rotation.

ENTERTAINMENT
You’ve probably already heard (and it’s kind of obvious, anyway) that you get 24/7 access to all the Disney movies you could watch in the comfort of your own cabin. But who wants to spend the entire cruise watching TV? The Disney Cruise Line offers plenty of entertainment on deck for both kids and adults alike. There are character experiences, deck parties, live shows, and more!

Disney Cruise Ship Entertainment
Source:  Flickr – Jose A. Perrez

Does your family enjoy watching concerts, Broadway shows, or live musicals?
Here is a list of the available Disney Cruise Line shows you can check out:

Disney Dream

⦁    Disney’s Believe
⦁    The Golden Mickeys
⦁    Villains Tonight!

Disney Fantasy

⦁    Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular
⦁    Disney’s Believe
⦁    Disney Wishes

Disney Magic

⦁    Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic
⦁    Remember the Magic: A Final Farewell
⦁    Twice Charmed: An Original Twist in the Cinderella Story
⦁    Villains Tonight
⦁    Tangled: The Musical

Disney Wonder

⦁    Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic
⦁    The Golden Mickeys
⦁    Toy Story – The Musical

If you prefer movies, you can also watch Disney premieres, 3D features, the Disney classics, and other blockbusters at the Buena Vista Theatre, which is available on all four ships. Popcorn, candy, and other snacks are not free of charge, but you can bring your own food and drinks from the snack stands and other restaurants if you wish to save some money.

Deck parties are fun, open-air celebrations with music, dancing, character meet-and-greets, and more. These parties are great for adults and kids of any age, so if you’re looking for some good ol’ family fun, be sure to check them out.

Here are the deck parties to watch out for on your cruise:
Sail-Away Celebrations

⦁    Official start-of-the-cruise countdown party
⦁    Music, confetti, and a show featuring classic Disney characters (Mickey Mouse and the gang)
⦁    Available on all ships

Pirate Night

⦁    Everyone dresses like a pirate
⦁    Fun games, character meet-and-greets, pirate-themed dinner and live show, fireworks, and more
⦁    Available on all ships

Frozen Deck Party

⦁    Dinner, dancing, singing, games, and a meet-and-greet with “Frozen” characters
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder
⦁    Will run from May 1, 2016 through August 26, 2016 (Wonder) and May 15, 2016 through September 17, 2016 (Magic)

Star Wars Day at Sea

⦁    Music, dancing, fireworks, games, food and drinks, character experiences, and even a Jedi Training Academy with lightsaber training
⦁    Available on the Disney Fantasy
⦁    Will run from January through April 2017

Holiday-Themed Deck Parties
Halloween on the High Seas
Very Merrytime Cruises

RECREATION
There are plenty of activities for both you and your kids to do on a Disney cruise ship. You can swim, play basketball or mini golf, hang out at the arcade, and so much more.

Disney Cruise Ship

Image: Flickr by Scott Smith / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are many fun pools and water play areas on each ship. If you feel like going swimming or enjoying some water slide fun, here are your options:

Funnel Puddle

⦁    Shallow wading pool for little kids and families
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

AquaDuck

⦁    Features a “water coaster” water slide made up of 765 feet of transparent tubes running all over the ship with exhilarating twists, turns, and drops
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Quiet Cove Pool

⦁    Quiet, secluded pool with a nearby whirlpool spa
⦁    Adults only (18 years old and above)
⦁    Live music, cocktails, massages, and more
⦁    Available on all ships

AquaDunk

⦁    Features a high-speed water slide where you plummet 212 feet through a translucent tube that twists, turns, and ends in a giant splash
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic

Goofy’s Pool

⦁    Main family pool area and two whirlpool spas with a jumbo LCD screen where guests can watch movies, TV shows, sports events, and more
⦁    Deck parties, pool games, activities, and poolside snack stands
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder

AquaLab

⦁    Interactive pool for kids
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy

Mickey Pool

⦁    Shallow wading pool for kids with a winding water slide
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Wonder

Nemo’s Reef

⦁    Interactive play area with fountains, pop jets, and more
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Satellite Falls

⦁    Quiet, secluded wading pool with a relaxing rain fixture
⦁    Adults only (18 years old and above)
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Donald’s Pool

⦁    Main family pool area and two whirlpool spas with a jumbo LCD screen where guests can watch movies, TV shows, sports events, and more
⦁    Deck parties, pool games, activities, and poolside snack stands
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Meanwhile, kids, teens, and even adults who love to stay active and play sports can check out the Wide World of Sports (Disney Magic and Disney Wonder) or the Goofy’s Sports Deck (Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy). These open-air sports decks provide guests with a fun and dynamic environment where they can play sports like basketball, ping-pong, soccer, shuffleboard, and even miniature golf—all while enjoying a view of the ocean and the cool sea breeze.

Other family friendly recreation spots:
Midship Detective Agency
⦁    Use clues, technology, and your topnotch sleuthing skills to solve cases
⦁    Great for the entire family
⦁    Available on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Arr-Cade and Quarter Masters

⦁    Endless arcade games (new and retro)
⦁    Great for the entire family
⦁    Available on the Disney Wonder (Quarter Masters) and Disney Fantasy (Arr-Cade)

FOR KIDS

Remember—the kids don’t get to have all the fun! Parents with toddlers, young children, tweens, and even teens have the option to enjoy some kid-free time on their Disney cruise vacation thanks to the “youth clubs” offered on every ship.

It’s a Small World Nursery and Flounder’s Reef Nursery

These child care centers feature whimsical play areas with books, toys, games, and Disney movies. Children from six months to three years old are treated to movie time, story time, nap time, and arts and crafts under the care of highly trained counselors.

Extra fees apply and reservations are required to get a slot.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club

This multi-themed kids’ club is available on all four ships and open to children ages 3 to 12. With no parents allowed, the kids are treated to plenty of Disney fun with character-driven performances, special storytelling sessions, playgrounds, interactive activities, toys, games, arts and crafts, ongoing Disney movies, food and more.

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab

For inquisitive kids, the Oceaneer Lab is an interactive space where they can learn and play at the same time. Kids can play all sorts of games, perform crazy experiments, play in interactive environments, learn to draw, create their own music, play video games, and more.

Registration is required for both the Oceaneer Club and Lab. Parents can either pre-register online or register on Embarkation Day at the terminal or once they board the ship.

FOR TWEENS

Edge

Available on all Disney cruise ships, this tweens-only activity center offers endless entertainment with computers and video games, daily guided activities (scavenger hunts, role playing, etc.), flat screen TVs, and even karaoke machines.

FOR TEENS

Vibe

Most teenagers don’t want to hang out with their parents or their kid siblings while on vacation, right? Luckily, the Disney Cruise Line provides teens their own space to hangout on each ship. Vibe, which is strictly for teens ages 14 to 17, is a nightclub-slash-lounge where teens can dance, sing their hearts out on karaoke, play video games and board games, and enjoy delicious, non-alcoholic drinks.

FOR ADULTS

Just because it’s a Disney cruise, doesn’t mean single adults and parents can’t party and indulge in a little grownup fun. There are over 20 nightclubs and lounges on all four ships, offering delicious food, free-flowing alcohol, dancing, live music, shows, karaoke, and more.

OTHER AMENITIES & SERVICES
Senses Spa & Salon and Vista Spa and Salon
⦁    Luxurious spa treatments and salon services
⦁    Massage rooms, aromatherapy steam rooms, dry sauna, private luxury villas, comfortable shower and locker rooms, complimentary drinks, and more
⦁    Adults only (18 years old and above)
⦁    Vista Spa and Salon is available on the Disney Wonder
⦁    Senses Spa & Salon is available on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy
⦁    Additional fees apply and reservation is required
Chill Spa
⦁    Luxurious facials, massages, and other spa and beauty treatments
⦁    Teens only (14 to 17 years old)
⦁    Available on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy
⦁    Additional fees apply and reservation is required
Fitness Center
⦁    State-of-the-art gym and fitness club with a full range of exercise machines, personal training sessions, and a variety of fitness classes and seminars
⦁    Reservation is required for instructional classes, seminars, or one-on-one personal training sessions
⦁    Adults only (18 years old and above)
Shutters
⦁    Professional photography service
⦁    Purchase individual photos, photo books, photography packages, and more
⦁    Available on all ships

TIP: Having professional photos of your cruise may seem like a great way to immortalize your magical Disney vacation, but it can be quite expensive. The other option? Just bring your own camera (along with a selfie stick or a tripod) and take your own pictures. There are plenty of people on board who can take your picture if you ask them to. Also, if possible, purchase kid-friendly cameras for your children to use, since they won’t always be with you the entire time and you would probably want them to take pictures of their own adventures as well.

ONSHORE
As with any cruise, you will not be spending all of your time on the ship—there are plenty of onshore adventures to keep the fun going. Of course you and your family can choose to stay on the ship (it’s a lot less crowded, which means you’ll have the ship practically all to yourselves) once it docks, but you might miss out on some truly amazing and memorable experiences!

Castaway Cay

A private island reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests on the Caribbean and Bahamian cruises, Castaway Cay is a lush paradise designed specifically to provide families with plenty of rest, relaxation, fun, and adventure. Enjoy open-air BBQ dining, souvenir shops, walking paths and biking trails, character greetings, dance parties, massages and yoga classes, water slides, fun play areas for kids, adventurous water sports, and various beaches for adults, teens, and kids.

Disney Castaway Cay

Image Source: Flickr by Matt

Port Adventures

On port days, you have two options to choose from. You can use Disney Port Adventures for all of your port excursions, and they will take care of everything for you. These adventures could be anything from jungle ziplining and snorkeling in the Caribbean to dog sledding in Alaska. This option is certainly not cheap, but it does have its advantages. For one, Port Adventures are always coordinated with your ship’s arrival time, and if the ship is late and you miss your scheduled time, they will adjust if for you. If your excursion runs late, the ship will wait for you or provide you with complimentary transportation to the next port. You will also get a full refund in the event that you miss the excursion due to a change in the ship’s itinerary.

For a more budget-friendly option, you can choose to do your own exploring and book everything yourself. However, you need to make sure to use trusted agencies, as there are many vendors and small companies out there that do not follow proper safety protocols. Some issues that you may encounter with these vendors are inadequate insurance, poorly maintained equipment, or a lack of proper safety certifications.

There is a secret (or not so secret) third option, which is to simply stay on the ship. As previously mentioned, there are certain advantages to doing this. Most of the other passengers will most likely debark to partake of the port excursions, so you and your family can enjoy the facilities and amenities without having to deal with crowds and long lines.

BEFORE YOU EMBARK ON YOUR ADVENTURE:

⦁    Packing for a cruise (especially a Disney cruise) is a bit different from regular vacation packing, so do your research and search for tips and tricks online (or ask other people who have cruised with DCL) before you create your packing list.
⦁    Take note of the ship’s  prohibited items.
⦁    Educate yourself on Disney’s tipping system.
⦁    Download the Disney Navigator App (available on Android and iOS) to help you navigate the ship, plan your itinerary and keep track of all the ship’s events and activities, and communicate with your companions when you get separated (there is little to no cell service on the ship and Wi-Fi access is expensive).
Oh, and there was one more thing… be prepared to have lots of unforgettable fun and adventure!

Do you have any other tips, tricks, or hacks on saving money and making the most out of a Disney cruise?

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About The Author:  Joan Kissler is a budding photographer, travel enthusiast, and aspiring blogger. In 2014, she quit her job as a paralegal to pursue her dream of traveling the world and creating beautiful pictures for a living, and she hasn’t looked back since. Apart from traveling and photography, Joan’s hobbies include reading mystery novels, hunting for vintage vinyl records, and watching obscure foreign language films.
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Category: Cruises, Featured

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